Family life

Does marriage make you fat?

Find out why your physical health has something to say about the state of your relationship

By Liza Finlay
Does marriage make you fat?

Did you know that marriage can make you fat?
It’s true. Your waistline can tell you something about how happy you are in your relationship.
A recent study of more than 10,000 people, who were followed for more than two decades, revealed that in a given two-year period married women were 46 percent more likely to gain weight than unmarried women.
And the men? They were 63 percent more likely to gain weight after divorce versus those who stayed married.
But why?
Seeing your physical health — your weight, mainly — as a barometer of marital bliss is a smart move. But a word of caution: reading between the lines on the scale takes some savvy. (And some restraint — you don’t want to read too much into those numbers.)
While the researchers weren’t able to offer any insights into the reasons for the connection between weight creep and being married, I have a few theories. Allow me to weigh in…

They don’t call these the busy years for nothing. Raising a family, holding down a job and conducting a relationship is treadmill enough. The time crunch bites into your abdominal crunches. But let me ask you this: if your health is suffering for lack of time, is your marriage equally neglected? How about killing two birds with one stone and going for a weekly walk or bike ride with your mate? Want other ideas? Check out these fab fitness date nights.

Chronic stress — including any strain in your marriage — can lead to high blood pressure, high blood sugars and, yup, higher weight. But there’s stress and then there’s distress. Learn to know the difference. Stress is a healthy, fight-or-flight protective instinct. It sends a surge of hormones through our system allowing us to effectively deal with a stressor and then move on. Distress occurs when we don’t move on. We dwell in a soup of stress hormones. Not good. So, ask yourself, are you mildly stressed or are you distressed — and how much of that distress is due to your relationship? 

If it's distress you're feeling you may want to talk to a professional. In Ontario, see, or for a referral to a qualified therapist. The Registry of Marriage and Family Therapists has a nation-wide referral service at

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Don’t ignore the possibility that an increase in weight may be due to increased life satisfaction.
Childbirth lends many moms a doughy trophy that’s tough to budge. So, that extra padding could very well be the sign of a fertile marriage.

Similarly, many women report that the unconditional love of a spouse frees them from self-consciousness and that increased self-acceptance sometimes shows up in what I call “happy pounds.” It stands to reason; there is abundant data to suggest that stable, committed relationships are good for mental health. Higher self-esteem, for some, leads to higher weight.
The bottom line: It’s not a bad idea to periodically take the pulse of your relationship. So, go ahead, play doctor, but remember that weight is just one of the tools in your kit.
What is your weight saying about your relationship? Get into the conversation. Add a comment or email Liza at

This article was originally published on Dec 19, 2011

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