‘Well done! You’ve lost weight this year’. She smiled enthusiastically — my nurse who measures my weight and blood pressure while on the pill. I casually tell her I’ve increased my exercise. Not that there’s anything casual about consistently working out to lose weight. But as the Barbie film says, ‘You can never say you want to be thin.’
When I met my partner, we both exercised and ate healthy. My lockdown diet consisted of leaves, sweet potato and smoothie bowls. He had lost a stone and was eager to return to his pre-Covid physique — I was happy with my figure. But within a few months, I gained two stone and went up three dress sizes – depending on the store.
People said I looked ‘healthy’. A family member remarked that I must ‘be happy’. While healthy and happy are two words we aspire to, it didn’t feel rewarding. Mostly, it felt like a polite way to recognise my larger size.
Research shows couples often weigh more than single people. Even with factors such as stress and children out of the equation, couples who move in together can quickly put on weight. It’s assumed that when in love, you no longer feel as motivated to impress your partner as you would a date.
Some studies suggest newlyweds gain weight because they’re happy while dissatisfied couples lose weight. This ties to the idea that if you’re unhappy, you might be thinking about looking your best to attract a new partner.
I don’t want to vilify weight gain or imply it’s automatically negative. People may enter a relationship and change their priorities or free themselves from relentless dieting. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t gut-wrenching to step on the scales and see my number increase.
I was adamant it was a temporary issue — I tried to wear old clothes, sometimes telling myself that my jeans were nicer without a belt. My partner didn’t make my size an issue and some friends didn’t notice. I still spent last year cutting back on ‘unhealthy’ food.
Gaining weight in a relationship: Why it happens
Weight gain in relationships is due to various factors – perhaps non-conclusive evidence. Some argue that couples spend more time socialising, dining out and watching TV. Which is funny because dining out and watching TV are somewhat opposite. What on earth are single people doing? Exercising relentlessly for hours before meditation?
When I was single, I tried to come across as easy going. I’m cool enough to sip cocktails and devour chocolate cake because only boring people say no. I watched TV and dined a lot with friends —afternoon teas, bottomless brunches, random street food at London markets. So, I wouldn’t necessarily say couples dine out more.
Some suggest we naturally mimic the people we’re with. Behaviour is contagious — and nothing screams I want cookies than seeing someone munch them in front of you.
I’m convinced weight gain is due to the mentality of ‘we’. What should we eat today, what should we do today? What drinks are we going to order? You know how it goes — you order a dessert because your partner wants one. You weren’t going to have a drink, but you might as well because they’re having one.
With my boyfriend and I, we have different behavioural patterns. On the weekends, boundaries are out the window. I fantasise about walking into a bakery where the smell of fresh bread cuddles your nose as you spot the airy croissants and the nostalgic gingerbread men. He can easily forego treats on the weekend unless it’s an evening out with friends. After I convince him to indulge on a relaxed Sunday, we choose different treats — leading to a large amount.
Besides factoring in another person, relationships encourage the idea of constant fun. You’ve fallen in love and there’s a new person to spend time with. Why stay at home when you can head out for pizza together or watch a film with popcorn? Exercising doesn’t sound as romantic as eating pancakes or cuddling up on the sofa.
In some ways, refocusing on my health is a sign I’m more comfortable with my partner. We can separate ourselves from being a we who must continually indulge and present this effortless attitude. I’m not someone who can eat whatever they want and stay the same size — it’s nice to be more open about what it takes to get in shape.
If you want to lose weight and you’re in a relationship, it helps to create a lifestyle separation. You don’t have to eat leftovers or say yes to extras if you’re not in the mood. Equally, it helps if your partner can incorporate exercise or activity dates with you. We’ve started going to the gym together on weekends. I’m also willing to swap my Sunday dessert for a low-sugar one — but I’m still enjoying my croissants.
Join me on Instagram @thestyleoflaurajane for more dating and relationship updates. Have you dealt with gaining weight in a relationship before?