Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In Fatness and In Health

My husband and I once had what seemed like a light-hearted conversation. I was getting dressed to go out and asked that totally loaded question “does this look good?” To which my husband intelligently answered “honey, everything looks good, I love it.” And out of my mouth came “so what if I gained 100 pounds would you still think I looked good?” Without pause my husband said “no.” I was shocked at his honesty but dug deeper and asked “so if I gained 100 pounds you wouldn’t be attracted to me?” My husband, not the least bit ashamed of his stance, said “being fit is part of who you are, it’s what I signed up for.” We talked a little further, he ended up acknowledging that if a medical condition led to weight gain it would be a little different but still.

I was reminded of this conversation this past Sunday. I was scanning the Weddings/Celebrations in the NYT. There was a time when it was fun to pick out the couples we knew or read about weddings of our colleagues or clients. Lately it seems as though most of the brides are a good 10 years younger than I am which is a little depressing but makes sense since, as of Sunday, I have been married 12 years. As I glanced at the child brides I saw an article entitled “For Better, for Worse, for B.M. I.”

The article focuses on the trend to gain weight after getting married. I started reading “call them happy pounds, love chub or the marriage 15. No matter what gaining weight during marriage is about as common as holding your breath under water.” With my research-minded head firmly on my shoulders, my first question was, says who? No sooner did I ask than a research study was quoted. My next assumption was that this must be some miniscule study done on 5 people. Maybe it’s just age that puts weight on us not necessarily our marital status. Turns out the study included 12,000 people (not so small). What’s more, the weight gain accounted for age. B.M.I (body mass index)  for married couples increased above and beyond what it would normally as couples aged.

It’s not just cohabitating that leads to weight gain. Cohabitating without marrying resulted in some weight gain but not as much as after saying “I do.” “If you’re married, the thinking goes, you’re somewhat settled. You don’t have to prove yourself; your spouse will ostensibly love you, muffin top not-withstanding.” I get the settled/not proving yourself part. My lingerie collection may as well have stayed on our honeymoon. As for my husband, he played tennis last night and crawled in bed when he got home. “Did you shower” I asked him. “No, I probably should, I guess.” As I mentioned above though, my husband admitted he’s not a "for muffin top, for cellulite” kind of groom. I now had 2 questions. First, what does it say about husband and I that we don’t have “happy pounds”? And second, is it superficial that, unlike Mr. Deans in the article, my husband may not love me “no matter what?”

As these questions sprinted around my brain, I kept reading, in search of some answers. I got an answer, from a professor (no PhD mentioned!) at UNC. With regard to the Slaytons status quo weight, “the less stable the relationship the less likely you’ll gain weight because the chance that you’ll be out there, back on the market is greater and thus, the need to be attractive once again is heightened.” Whoa now Penny Gordon-Larsen. Why does the need to be attractive not apply to your spouse or yourself? And what does the weight gain do to feelings of self esteem? Is weight gain really being used as an indicator of relationship stability?

More questions. I cannot argue with the results of the study. I will share them as a cautionary tale for my Bridal Foodtraining clients. All married people can become complacent and that’s never a good thing no matter how it manifests itself. As for me and my husband, “in fatness and in health” doesn’t work. Though it stung a little when he first said it, I wouldn’t be as attracted to him if he gained a huge amount of weight. We see eye to eye on this which is really what’s important for any couple.
Are you married? What has happened to your weight or your spouses’ weight? Would you have avoided marriage if it meant adding 15 pounds to your frame (remember cohabitating may only mean 5 pounds)? Do you think it’s superficial to be anti-muffin top when it comes to a mate?


  1. My parents have been married for 40 years and my Mom says it's because they have worked really hard to "never take each other for granted"--I think that covers everything. You obviously know what your partner's values are and he knows what yours are, you BOTH work hard to live up to those values, thus, you don't take each other for granted. Congrats! I think it's work, but you are both slim, fit and happy!

  2. Read the article in the NYT that day and being recenlty engaged I thought it was a very interesting article. Some great observations here and questions I am not sure I really know the answers to. But I tend to agree with your husband and his initial response of "what I signed up for". How would you answer that same question?

  3. i always joke that i am going to have pre-nup written specifically for this reason. Being healthy, staying in shape is about respect for yourself AND for your significant other. And I do understand that sometimes, the realities of life can make that difficult (and let's face it, unless you are Madonna or Demi Moore, the body is going to change a bit regardless of what we do).

    Of course, we also need to understand that there are certain situations that make this difficult - I can't imagine a mom working two jobs to make ends meet because her husband lost is job has fitness on the top of her priority list, but there might be ways to work in something based on "family time" - a walk together, an hour in the park, something to keep moving until life stablizes.

  4. When I met my husband I weighed around 150-160 pounds. When we got married I weighed 190 pounds. During our marriage I have weighed everything from 132 to 210, and I have been through two long-term weight loss efforts and one eating disorder/depression experience. I am very happy to know that he loves me no matter what I weigh.