Marriage and Fatherhood Cause Men to Gain Weight, New Study Says

Marriage has a big impact on men’s weight. (Photo: Getty Images)
Marriage has a big impact on men’s weight. (Photo: Getty Images)

A man’s marital status may be linked to his pants size. According to a new study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, married men have a higher body mass index (BMI) compared to single men, with the average husband weighing three pounds more than the typical bachelor. And a guy who’s living in wedding bliss may gain even more belly fat during the early stages of fatherhood.

However, if divorce is in a man’s future, his love handles are likely to disappear.

After examining the data of heterosexual couples in the United States over a 14-year period, investigators from the United Kingdom say their findings confirm a couple of theories:

  1. Unattached adults who are looking for a partner make more of an effort to stay fit and trim.

  2. Marriage leads to more regular meals and social outings for men, which usually involves more fattening foods.

“It’s useful for individuals to understand which social factors may influence weight gain, especially common ones such as marriage and parenthood, so that they can make informed decisions about their health and well-being,” study author Dr. Joanna Syrda from University of Bath’s School of Management stated in a press release.

Katherine Brooking, MS, RD, co-founder of Appetite for Health, agrees with the researcher and believes this trend may be the result of lack of time due to modern day domestic demands.

“Expectations for dads to be involved with household chores and childcare are much higher now than for men in previous generations,” she states. “Just like for women, it becomes hard to ‘do it all’ — balancing family, work, and fitness.”

Brooking also gave a shout-out to her “extremely disciplined” husband — an involved father of three who sometimes begins his day at 4am in order to hit to the gym. “But getting up that early or finding the time and energy to go after work is very hard and not manageable for everyone,” she says. “I’m not sure I could do it!!”

And while it’s interesting to note that the investigators only focused on the expanding waistlines of married men, Brooking doesn’t suspect that an overweight husband is either more or less likely to have an overweight spouse. “I believe it’s more of an individual issue, although certainly marriage partners can influence each other’s fitness and diet habits in some instances and play a role in weight gain or loss,” she adds.

In fact, she mentions a previous study published in The New England Journal of Medicine which found that “contagious weight gain has much more to do with social norms — whom we look to when considering appropriate social behavior,” continues Brooking.

As for advice on how a loving spouse can approach a husband about his bulkier size, she recommends treading lightly — and with care.

“I think it’s best to frame weight concerns as a health issue as opposed to an aesthetic one,” concludes Brooking. “You can be supportive of your spouse by taking the lead on meals and fitness. For example, go food shopping together, find recipes that are healthy and portion controlled, and suggest doing activities together, like hiking, swimming, and tennis. And also, cut down on screen time.”

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