8 Ways Your Love Life Affects Your Weight

Whether you're single or hooked up, research shows that your relationship status could show up on the scale.

February 10, 2015
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If you've heard of (or experienced) the "love layer" -- extra pounds that can only be blamed on comfort-food feasts with the object of your affection -- then you know that your love life can tip the scale in the wrong direction. But how else can your relationship status influence your size? We talked to the pros and consulted the research to find out.

Whether you're single and dating, just moved in together, or in the “it’s complicated” phase, here's how your jeans size can reflect your romance status (and what to do about it):

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Early Morning Workouts Are a Thing of the Past
Getting out of bed in the morning for that 6 a.m. cardio HIIT class was hard enough before you starting living with your partner. Now, staying in bed, curled up watching Netflix sounds a lot cozier than a cold walk to hot yoga. 

More: 50 Thoughts Every Woman Has When She Wakes Up Early to Work Out

So how do you stay true to the exercise schedule that made you feel strong and confident in your single days? Plan ahead. "If you’re having sleepovers, always, always, bring workout clothes," says Melissa Paris, NASM personal trainer and ACE group fitness coach. "If you already have your sneaks packed, that makes exercise a no-brainer." Another smart move? Check if your gym has another location that's closer to your lover's place. Pretty soon you’ll have your “away game” routine down pat.

You Have a Date Four Different Nights This Week
With dating apps like Tinder and Hinge, your “dance card” can get pretty full, fast. Not only does that mean less time to hit the gym, but since most dates center around dinner or drinks, all that eating out can add up to some when-did-those-get-there pounds. 

Your move: Avoid overeating and score some, um, brownie points with your date by offering to cook at home. This may not be the right choice for a first date, but if you’re getting to know someone, cooking together is not only romantic, but also helps you control what you eat. 

"Cooking instead of going out to eat gives you a lot of flexibility as far as what you add and don’t add," says registered dietician Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It. "Make it a total-experience date -- go shopping and pick out different foods, then come home, open a bottle of wine, and create something delicious together."

Your Fitness Priorities Have Shifted
You run three to four days a week. He runs three or four days a month. Hey, no judgment, but if you’ve been missing out on your favorite kick boxing class for weeks to hang out with him, you may want to consider if this is the partner for you. 

"There’s lot of research that shows couples who are similar to one another are more successful, happier, and have longer-lasting relationships," says Andrea Meltzer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University. "There’s no evidence to support that opposites attract." To avoid conflict and better maintain a healthy lifestyle, Meltzer says it’s important that couples have shared values regarding their eating and exercise habits. 

Not on the same fitness page? Don’t give up just yet. Maybe your significant other just needs a little nudge, and who better to encourage him than the girl he wants to impress? See if he’s game to join kick boxing next time -- it could turn into your favorite thing to do together. Bonus: A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that your date may even find you more attractive while working up a joint sweat.

More: 10 Simple Gym Hacks for a Better Workout 

You Have an On-Call Workout Buddy
Working out with a partner has been known to increase accountability, motivation, and success. So take advantage of being paired up, and schedule sweat sessions together. Think outside the (CrossFit) box, and try new things like taking tennis lessons, riding bikes, hiking, or skiing -- a favorite of Paris and her husband. “We have some of the best memories riding the lifts and getting stuck in the trees together,” she says. “It’s been one of the most bonding times in our relationship.”

Studies have found that couples feel closer after exercising alongside their partners, particularly when they've completed the same workout. So pair up for some partner-required exercises -- your workout just got a little less monotonous.   

Their Eating Habits Are Now Yours
Single you always chose kale salad over French fries, and water over soda, but if you’ve been spending lots of time with a new beau, those healthy habits may be harder to maintain. He orders the loaded nachos, and you end up sharing them. He wants steak and potatoes for dinner, and you don’t want to make two different meals. 

Meltzer says it’s natural for one partner’s behavior to affect the others, so it’s no shock that some extra weight can sneak up on you after a while -- particularly if you’ve recently taken a step in your commitment. One study published in the journal Obesity found that couples who went from dating to living together were at a greater risk for gaining weight in comparison to couples who were living separately. 

So what do you do? Taub-Dix suggests that you keep snacks out of sight and out of mind. “Put them in bins, the back of the fridge, drawers -- you don’t want to have the temptation to pick,” she says. And you also want to make one meal you can both enjoy. Taub-Dix says this is where modification comes in. Make a homemade pizza with healthy toppings. Let him eat four slices if he wants, while you stick with one and prepare a yummy salad to go with it.

You’re Sharing More Than Just Germs
Some good news for your, um, love handles: Turns out that contagious nature of weight gain can also be true of weight loss. In a study published last month, researchers found that partners who are both committed to a healthy lifestyle change are more likely to see success than couples with only one partner participating. So whether it’s just cutting out the junk food in the house, or pursuing a larger weight-loss goal, you can increase your chances of success by making the commitment together. 

Better yet, up the ante and see what a little healthy competition can do. Who worked out more days this week? They get out of doing the dishes. Taub-Dix says incentives like this can act as motivators that allow partners to compete in positive ways. 

More: Look forward to Your Workout With These Expert Tips 

You Learn From Each Other
If your partner is already in great shape or seems to shed weight faster than you can say congrats, don’t worry: This is actually to your advantage. One 2012 study found that women paired with a superior workout partner exercised significantly longer than those who worked out alone or alongside a partner of equal physical fitness. 

This type of contagious motivation can also help you lose weight. In another recent study published in the journal Obesity, researchers found that a team-based weight-loss competition encouraged a positive "ripple effect" among teammates. The authors suggest clustered weight loss among groups was due to the influence, accountability, encouragement, and support the members provided for each other. “People sometimes just need a little guidance, but I don't know anyone that wouldn't want to feel like their optimal self!” says Paris.

You’re Off (or Back On) the Market
In a happy, satisfying relationship? Great for you! Potentially bad for your waistline. In a 2013 study led by Meltzer, she found that spouses in satisfying relationships relax their efforts to maintain their weight because they are no longer motivated to attract a mate. It sounds like the age-old “letting yourself go” theory might hold some, uh, weight after all.  

Meltzer says that singles are more aware of their appearance, and they tend to consume fewer calories than those who are coupled up. Whereas those in happy relationships -- happy being the key, she notes -- tend to focus less on their looks, as they’re not interested in finding another partner. 

Your best best to avoid love-struck weight gain? Look at your lifestyle choices in terms of health, rather than appearance, she suggests.

"Bottom line is, don’t detach from yourself when you attach to someone else," says Taub-Dix. It’s important to make your own health a priority no matter what your relationship status might be. "If you don’t make time now, it will never become a habit," says Paris. "Life just gets busier with career changes, marriages, or children. Make the habits now, and they'll stick through thick and thin."