A happy relationship is like a luxurious sofa. It makes you feel secure, warm and comfy, but spend too long wrapped up in it and you could end up feeling a bit… padded.
Not even glossy Hollywood A-listers are immune from marital love handles. Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria cheerfully admitted that she’d put on a few pounds since meeting hubby Tony Parker, telling reporters: “I’m in love and I don’t need to try anymore.”
Is it inevitable that we’ll gain weight when we settle down with a life partner, or can you avoid the loved-up fat trap? Here are a few tips to help you stay in shape.
What to do
DO vary your date plans
If your nights out together always involve restaurants, it’s no surprise that your waistline is looking a little less waistlike than it used to. Then there are the breakfasts in bed, snacks at the cinema, picnics in the park, bottles of gin with a DVD… It’s all enjoyable and great for your relationship, but try to mix up your nights out (and in). Do the things that you enjoyed when you met – dancing, seeing friends, visiting new places. Togetherness doesn’t have to revolve around food.
DO be honest about the food you eat
Don’t let your partner dismiss your eating habits or weight concerns as daft. If they care about you enough to spend years with you, they should respect your desire not to turn into a garage-sized marshmallow.
DO watch your portion sizes
This is particularly relevant to women in long-term relationships. Couples who eat together often tuck into similar portion sizes, and that could spell trouble for a woman’s efforts to maintain a healthy weight. Dr Frankie Phillips of the British Dietetic Association says: “Men require more calories than women, so equal portion sizes could mean that women are eating too much.”
DO cook together
Couples may go to restaurants more than single people, but they do fewer other social activities, which means more time vegging together in front of the telly. That means less exercise – and closer proximity to the fridge. The answer is to get into the habit of rustling up basic healthy meals together. Sharing kitchen space is fun (if there’s room); doesn’t matter if one of you is making salad and the other is making pasta.
DO exercise together
Go for Sunday afternoon walks, buy a pair of bikes, take up a martial art together or go to dance classes. Your sex life will benefit from your fitness, and the time together will strengthen your relationship.
DO put some thought into gifts
True romance is not about giving presents that everyone else gives, so forget about those calorie-laden chocolates (yawn) and give gifts that involve time, creativity and personal meaning. Your partner and the bathroom scales will both be grateful.
What not to do
DON’T rely on Dutch courage when you’re pulling
It’s not only comfy togetherness that plays havoc with your poundage. Avoid throwing bottles of wine down your throat when you’re trying to snare a new lover, or your success may shrink as your belly grows. Besides, booze-breath is anti-pulling gas.
DON’T stop trying to look your best
The instinct to “not try any more” isn’t unique to Eva Longoria. Isn’t it a bit presumptuous to think that your partner doesn’t want to see you looking sexy and attractive? If you take care of your appearance, weight included, it shows your partner that you care about what they think of you. Once you start thinking that you can eat whatever you like, and slob around in tracky bottoms because “he/she loves me for the person I am inside,” you’re on a downward spiral. A few months later you may have no self-esteem, sex life or waist left.
DON’T change what you eat to fit your partner
Newcastle University dieticians found that married women gain weight because they eat more fat, sugar and junk, just like their men. Another study found that women gain weight after getting married, but lose it after getting divorced – because they’re no longer influenced by the eating habits of the men in their lives. If you’re a woman and you’ve always paid close attention to what you eat, don’t abandon those attitudes to suit your partner. Unless your habits are destructive, your partner should respect that they’re a part of you.
DON’T use food as a comfort blanket
Arguments with your loved one, and the everyday stress of making the relationship work, may send you running for the comfort of the fridge. If you’ve argued, try to resolve the issue rather than running off and shoving your weeping face into the biscuit tin.
DON’T beat yourself up at the first sign of weight gain
All these tips may help you stay slim, but don’t get carried away. If you’re happy in your relationship, that’s ultimately more important. Don’t be too furious if a summer of ice-cream and pub gardens has made you gain a few pounds – it’s your long-term health and happiness that matters.