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It hardly seems fair. You finally have what you’ve always wanted, a loving partner who appreciates you for all of your qualities, good and bad. You settle into a satisfying relationship, content with your partner and your life.

One day you realize that you have gained a considerable amount of weight. What’s wrong with this picture? What is it about being in a satisfying relationship that causes you to pack on the pounds?

A Study of Weight Gain

A study that appeared in the New York Times earlier this year included 6,000 Australian women who were followed for a period of 10 years. Researchers wanted to study patterns of weight gain among women who were single and women in relationships to discover which of the women gained weight and to try to determine the reasons for any weight gained. The results were somewhat surprising: women with partners who had children gained an average of 20 pounds, while women in a relationship who didn’t have children gained an average of 15 pounds. Single women in the study gained an average of only 11 pounds, considerably less than their counterparts who were in relationships.

Of course, having children can be partially to blame for the weight gained by some of the women in the study, but what of the women in relationships who did not give birth during the timeframe of the study? There may be several factors at play in women who are in relationships and gain weight.

An Active Social Life

One of the study researchers suggested that a more active social life may be partially to blame for weight gained by the women who were in a relationship. This theory may hold water. Women who are in a relationship may be more likely to dine out socially. They may go to the movies, out for lunch or dinner or to more parties than their single counterparts. Many social activities revolve around eating, and it’s so much fun to eat with someone else! In addition, if you live with your significant other, you may cook more often than you would normally- after all, it’s so much better to cook for someone who enjoys a good meal. And you may as well enjoy the fruits of your labour...

Having Children

The women in the study who had children with their partner gained the most weight. Weight gained during pregnancy can be hard to lose, and may be even more difficult with each successive pregnancy. Many women have difficulty shedding their pregnancy pounds. Having children also makes it more difficult to find time to exercise, which may contribute to weight gain. Also, having to cook for a family makes dieting difficult. Some mothers never return to outside employment, and if their previous job was a physical one, they lose another source of activity that may have helped them keep their weight in check before they had children.

Enjoy Your Relationship Without Gaining Weight

Now that we’ve established that some women in relationships gain weight and the reasons for it, let’s look at some simple ways to avoid gaining weight while in a relationship:

Cook Healthy Meals Together

The way to a man’s heart is not necessarily through his stomach. Your partner will appreciate the care that goes into planning and preparing healthy meals. If you are concerned about your weight, enlist your partner’s help in keeping it off. You’ll both be healthier and happier in the long run.

Hit the Gym Together

Need to exercise more often? Exercising can be an enjoyable way to spend time together. Join a gym together, join a sports team or go for long walks. Find an activity that you both enjoy and make the time to do it together. A little healthy competition can be fun as well- challenge each other in order to keep each other motivated. Don’t forget to reward yourselves when goals are met!

Have a Healthy Pregnancy Together

It takes two to tango- you didn’t get pregnant without your husband’s help, so enlisting his help to keep pregnancy weight gain in check is only fair. Many men like to be very involved in the pregnancy, and one way they can assist is by helping you to eat a healthy diet during pregnancy. Eating a balanced diet and exercising (within limits) during pregnancy can help you keep your weight gain within the recommended limits. Your partner should follow the same diet- it’s no fair if you eat a salad while he enjoys a cheeseburger.

After the baby arrives, your partner can help you lose the baby weight by spending some quality bonding time with the baby while you get some much-needed exercise. He can also help by preparing healthy meals for both of you, which will be even more important if you are breastfeeding. Let your partner know that your body will return to normal much more quickly with his help- that should be motivation enough for him.

Raise Healthy Children Together

Eating properly and getting regular exercise is just as important for children, so make cooking and exercising a family affair. Teach your children healthy habits while they are young and the lesson will stick for the rest of their lives. Avoid the fast food pitfall that many busy parents fall into. Your children will follow your lead, so teach them how to eat a healthy diet, as well as how important regular exercise is to maintaining a healthy body and a healthy weight.

Weight Gain Is Not Inevitable

Although evidence shows that many women gain weight when they are in a relationship, especially once they have children, weight gain does not have to be inevitable. Weight gain can be avoided when both partners in a relationship are committed to living a healthy lifestyle. Although a certain amount of weight gain following pregnancy is normal, weight can be lost when a healthy diet and an exercise program are incorporated into your life. It takes both partners working together to ensure success, but the rewards are endless- a happy and healthy family.