Diet therapy

10 tips to prevent weight gain in marriage


IMG_8663If health is one of our greatest assets then shouldn’t it be discussed when drawing up a pre-nupt for marriage or when considering cohabitation?

Research shows that when couples decide to move in together they set in motion changes to their long-term health.

While there are many health benefits of being together managing weight isn’t one of them. In fact any resolve to lose weight to look good on their “big day”, can be seriously challenged by the stag and hen’s parties, the wedding breakfast and honeymoon that follows.

What are the health benefits of living together, and how can couples manage their weight so they have more energy to put into their life together?

The health benefits of living together

Married and cohabitation couples

Happily married people (particularly men) are healthier, live longer and experience less cardiovascular disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension than their singles peers 1
cohabitating couples also share most of these health benefits although they consume more alcohol and experience higher rates of depression than married couples. 2

Same sex unions

Living together is also healthier for same-sex couples than single gay and lesbians. While research studies have been limited the recent recognition of same-sex marriage is tipped to reduce anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide experienced by single gays and lesbians. It may also offer more stability to relationships, better health care and improved mental wellbeing. 3


Unhappily married, separated, divorced and recently widowed people (particularly men) fare worse than “never married singles” . They suffer more stress, have a greater risk of high blood pressure, depression, acute myocardial infarction and unintentional weight loss.
While people in unhappy relationships have more time to prepare for life on their own and mutually agree to it, the death of a spouse is often a sudden, unwelcome event beyond anyone’s control and the impact on the surviving spouses health can be severe. 4

Why are married people healthier?

Greater sense of unity

One theory is the “Marriage Protection Hypothesis” which proposes that living together promotes a sense of family and unity thereby reducing a partners engagement in risky behaviours that might endanger health (smoking, binge drinking, fast driving). 5

Better health care

Married men also have lower rates of suicide and are more likely to follow reminders by their wives to get regular medical checkups than their single peers. Following treatment for illnesses such as cancer those who are happily married at the time of diagnosis are more likely to recover more quickly with improved survival rates than those who are living alone. 1

Stronger social networks

Married women have a stronger social network than men with one New England study reporting that 66% of men rely on their wives for social support. This not only assists the couple when they are married but also helps to explain why women fare better socially, suffering less depression and loneliness when they are widowed, than men. 6


Living with another person also reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as couples are forced to interact, discuss, share knowledge and challenge one another’s version of daily events. 7

Why then do people living together gain weight?

Married and cohabitating couples are three times more likely to be obese than singles. Understanding the dynamics that promote weight gain when people live together is important if the known health benefits listed above are to be sustainable into old age. 8

Shared meals

Studies of people eating in communal settings have found that when people eat together they tend to talk more, take longer over their meals, eat and drink more than when eating alone. This could be partly because they aim to please those who they are with or don’t want to seem impolite by refusing food that has been cooked by others.

This is something couples should be mindful of when sharing a meal in other people’s homes, when dining out or meeting socially. It’s can be very easy to eat more than you need if “eating out” on a regular basis  9

Left over calories

Having second helpings, eating plate waste left by children, eating young children’s food in order to encourage them to eat more, can add  an extra day of calories to a mothers weekly intake. 10

Men eat more than women

New Zealand research in 2008 found that men ate more foods that contain fat, salt and sugar than women and also drank more of their calories in the form of alcohol and carbonated drinks. 11
As many men have this higher preference for foods rich in fat and sugar there is the risk that if they are preparing snacks or cooking family meals these meals may be larger and contain higher kilocalories than meals produced by their wives or needed by their family.

Being aware of these issues is halfway towards finding a healthier life together.

10 tips to prevent weight gain in marriage

Family rituals

When couples move in together they also share their personal dietary needs, beliefs, traditions, fads, nutritional knowledge and concepts of “treating”. This chemistry subtly changes not only “the mix” in the health of each other but also “sets the scene”for the nutritional well-being of any children that may join them. While it is important to respect what each other values some habits may need assessment particularly if they are leading to ill-health.

Cook with care

If couples can plan menus together, buy or grow fresh foods and prepare them with less fat and sugar they not only control their weight and health but also food waste. This aids the environment and saves food $$’s

Be mindful of fluid intakes

New Zealand studies have pin pointed alcohol and carbonated drinks as a key contributor to weight gain. Drinking more milk and water however has been found to speed up weight loss.

Exercise regularly

This assists mental and physical health, weight management, reduces stress and strengthens muscles and bones. Couples need to encourage and support one another to do this particularly when they have young children and may need to share childcare in order to go to the gym or out for a run.

Starting a family requires team work

If planning to start a family couples need to aim for a healthy body weight first as this improves sperm count and fertility and ensures better health of mother and child.
It takes a lot of energy to breast feed a baby but with encouragement and support from a partner it helps a new mother to recover her pre-pregnant weight more quickly, is cheaper and more convenient than bottle feeding and helps the physical and cognitive development of the infant

Build supportive social networks

Having reliable friends to share good times and bad takes work but can help couples by reducing stress in times of need. Providing healthy food which is low in fat, salt and sugar when entertaining also helps to build a healthier support network.

Nurture talent in order to relieve stress

All of us are born with creative talent. Having a hobby, taking up art, building a model, taking up pottery or a course of study all help to build confidence and self-esteem. It can also enables the brain to focus on one activity and become more mindful of the “now”. Recent research has found a link between mind wandering (attention state) and shortened telomere length** which may increase the risk of stress and depression. 12

Communicate and share goals

Having shared goals helps to provide a reason to stay healthy together. Whether that goal is an overseas trip, home ownership, starting your own business or completing a course of study. Tying a weight goal to the completion of a task can also achieve two goals in one.


Sleep deprivation is one of the quickest ways to gain weight as it sets in motion the hormones that regulate appetite and satiety. Adults need at least 7-8 hours sleep each night and this can be quite a challenge when starting a young family.

Find energy for life

Nothing kills passion faster than tiredness! Apart from love, energy comes from the food we eat. Just as an athlete needs to recover properly from a bout of exercise in order to compete the next day, so too our bodies need sufficient nutrition to bounce back from the work we do.
Learning how to do this not only aids weight management but also provides the energy for more fulfilling relationships and better health.

If you are a “single” wanting to gain some of the health benefits of married people then changes in diet and lifestyle can help you too. Contact us today for a nutritional assessment and more information.


** Telomeres are DNA based caps that protect the ends of chromosomes preventing them from deteriorating or fusing with neighbouring chromosomes. Telomeres typically shorten with age, physiological and psychological stressors. Telomere shortness reduces immunity and predicts early disease and mortality.

For more information on this topic read Lea’s articles:

Special congratulations to Andrés Bruno and Luz Sabelli, family friends who recently married in Argentina and agreed to share this beautiful photo of their special day.


  1. Harvard Health Publication July 1, 2010. Marriage and mens health
  2. Brown S, Bulanda R, Lee G. The significance of non marital cohabitation normal status and mental health benefits among middle-aged and older adults. 2004 Journal of Gerontology Series B, 60(1) 521-529.
  3. King M,Bartlett A. What same-sex civil partnerships may mean for health. J Epidemiology community health 2006 Nov, 60 (3) 188-191.
  4. Cornelis M, Chiuve S, Glymour M, Chang S, Tahetgen E, Laing L, Koenen K, Rimm E, Kawachi I, Kubzandsky L. Bachelors,Divorcees and widowers. Does marriage protect men from Type 2 diabetes? Plos one 9 (9) 2014 e106720.
  5. Averett S, Sikora A, Argys L. For better or for worse: relationships status and body mass index. Econ Hum Biol 2008 Dec 6 (3) 330-349.
  6. Umberson D,Montex J. Social relationships and health. A flash point for health policy J Health Soc Beh 2010 51 (suppl) S54-S66
  7. Lifestyle factors contribute to lowering and raising risk of Alzheimer’s disease. July 30, 2008
  8. TheN, Gordon-Larsen P 2009 Entry into romantic partnership in association with obesity. Obesity 17 (7) 1441-1447.
  9. Locker J, Robinson C, Roth D. Ritchie C, Burgio K. The effect of the presence of others on caloric intake in homebound older adults. J Gerontology A. Biol Sci Med Sc 2005 Nov 60(11) 1475-1478.
  10. Beeke L British mothers can gain around 20 pounds in body weight in a year by pinching her kid’s food.
  11. MOH NZ National Nutrition Survey 2011/12
  12. Epel E, Daubesmeir J, Moskowitz J, Folkman S, Blackburn D. Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness and telomeres . Ann NY Acad Sci 2009 Aug 1172:34-53.
  13. Beeke L British mothers can gain around 20 pounds in body weight in a year by pinching her kid’s food.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


Leave a Reply

Also in Diet Therapy View all »

  • Vitamin D for growth and immunity

    Recent research has highlighted the importance of vitamin D to respiratory health with those who are deficient being 5 times more likely to contract Covid-19. It is important for children, athletes and the elderly. Find out why? Read more »

  • Dietary Guidelines are constantly changing:...

    Although science is constantly evolving, generating new recommendations to improve our health, for many people their eating habits are based on things other than their longevity so are guidelines still relevant today? Read more »

  • Break free from Fad Diets

    New diets pop up every day. Who should we believe? NZ Broadcasting student Louise Trenouth, on assignment, puts questions to Lea in an effort to understand Fad Dieting. Read more »

  • How to make the most of a plant-based diet

    The plant-based diet is widening the range of foods on our supermarket shelves. How do they compare with standard meat and dairy products for nutrition value? Find out.. Read more »

  • Healthy At Every Size (HAES): the debate

    The Healthy at Every Size (HAES) paradigm, focusing on body acceptance and healthy lifestyle changes, is gaining a lot of media attention as a possible way of curbing our escalating obesity stats. Find out more. Read more »

  • Are you afraid of the scales?

    Everyday we measure things such as the time, money, distance, our cholesterol, petrol etc yet many people fear measuring themselves Read more »

  • Stay in ‘the loop’ for a brighter...

    Loneliness and social isolation are being increasingly seen as risk factors to good physical and mental health. Learn how to stay connected with others and improve your sense of well being in 5 easy steps. Read more »

  • Unlock your potential with food

    The power of food can change your life and Dietitians can help you unlock your potential through food. Read more »

  • 10 Tips for better food choices this Christmas

    Weight control is the key to better health but this can be hard when Christmas often leads to overconsumption. Find out where to start. Read more »

  • Dietitians and Nutritionists what’s the...

    Dietitians are the most credible source of nutrition and food knowledge when you need to apply it to health and disease in NZ. Read more »

  • Wise up to Discretionary Foods for better health

    If you are struggling to lose weight or lower your cholesterol then taking a closer look at your intake of discretionary foods can improve your results. Read more »

  • How to put ‘real’ flavour into...

    It can be so easy to snip the top off a packet of flavouring when cooking. But if we really want to reduce the salt, fat and sugar in our diet natural flavours are best. Find out how. Read more »

  • Dietary help for women with PCOS

    Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common cause of infertility in 6-20% of women of reproductive age causing a range of hormonal and metabolic effects that can impact on a women's physical and mental health. Read more »

  • Garnishes galore and all those “little...

    Is garnishing getting out of hand? Find out how much energy those "add ons" really do add. Read more »

  • 7 Myths about weight loss

    Lea Stening shares 7 common myths about weight loss and concludes that "you actually need to eat quite a lot of food in order to lose weight". Read more »

  • Time your eating for better performance?

    If playing sport or exercising, understanding the GI can help you to select foods that will provide optimal energy at key stages of activity for better performance. Read more »

  • Tips to help you ‘shake off’ the...

    In a bid to reduce the intake of processed foods many food manufacturers are modifying their products to meet new food guidelines particularly regarding salt. Find out if you are still getting too much? Read more »

  • Is going “Gluten Free” a healthy...

    As the popularity of gluten- free diets grow we need to question whether in fact it is a healthy option for any of us and if not how can we make it so? Read more »

  • Does your diet tick all the boxes?

    Is dieting still fun if it ages you? Find out if your diet ticks all the boxes for your better health and performance. Read more »

  • Don’t let energy deficiency ruin your health

    Energy deficiency is not just a problem of third world countries. It can be found in our hospitals, schools and kindergartens, rest homes and on our sports fields. It can affect over and underweight people. Read more »

  • Sports supplements should be taken with care

    While some supplements are well recognised as being useful to performance others can lead to positive drug testing and disqualification as well as endanger long-term health. Read more »

  • Changing our “weight talk” may...

    A child can build their confidence and self esteem if monitoring their growth rate is accompanied by positive health messages about weight, fitness and energy to achieve in life. Read more »

  • Don’t let stress fractures slow your...

    Stress fractures are not just a problem for athletes who overtrain. They can affect anybody as they also relate to lifestyle and nutrition choices. Find out if you at risk. Read more »

  • Nutrition for distance runners and “fun runs”

    Distance running and “fun runs” (and walks) of varying length and degree of difficulty are becoming popular, attracting family and community groups; recreational and elite participants. Paying attention to sports nutrition can improve an athletes performance and enjoyment of these events Read more »

  • Juice diets – are they as healthy as...

    For busy people, who might rather drink than chew their fruits and vegetables, the juicing trend sounds like a "gods send". What possible disadvantages could there be to health? Find out the pros and cons of this new diet craze. Read more »

  • Driving for a living? 10 tips to help your...

    Spending hours behind the wheel is a huge recipe for weight gain and increased risks to our health. Driving is something that affects us all. Read more »

  • Feeling full is the secret to weight loss

    Gaining an understanding of the many factors contributing to a sense of fullness can provide some very powerful tools for those seeking to lose or control body weight and find more energy for life! Read more »

  • Can coconut improve our health?

    Coconut oil was once associated with tanning. Something young people coated themselves with before lying out in the sun “to bake”. Today coconut products are being heralded by many as the new “wonder food" that can cure many ailments. We take a look at some of these claims. Read more »

  • Dietary help for depressed athletes

    Although athletes may benefit from an exhilarating endorphin rush on exertion that elevates their mood and suppresses feelings of pain it will not stop them from experiencing, at times, anxiety and bouts of depression just like the rest of us. Nutrition is one treatment option that can speed recovery. Read more »

  • Sugar control is essential for better health

    After years of encouraging a low fat diet with some success (a decline in heart disease and some forms of cancer) attention is now focusing on sugar as a possible reason for our weight and diabetic problems. Read more »

  • Boosting fibre intake offers health benefits

    Research shows that a diet high in fibre can reduce the risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, bowel and breast cancer, gallstones, diverticular disease and weight gain. It also seems that some fibres are better than others. Read more »

  • Diet can offer protection when cold conditions...

    Cold injuries and illness occur in a wide range of physical activities. An understanding of the importance of sports nutrition and planning appropriate meals and snacks can offer some protection and may also improve overall performance Read more »

  • Healthy diet aids menopause management

    Menopause is a natural biological process women pass through and just like puberty it is not a medical illness. A woman's experience of Menopause is very individual and so there is no one "cure" for the range of symptoms that may be experienced. Read more »

  • Could the French Diet reduce obesity in New...

    The French diet is relatively high in saturated fat and yet in 2012 the French have a low incidence of obesity (11% compared to 28% in New Zealand). Why is this? Read more »

  • How to increase the ‘Good’ fats...

    If you are thinking of cutting fat out of your diet stop right now. Fat is important for nerve and cellular function but choosing the right “type” of fat is what matters most to our long term health. Read more »

  • Can a high fat diet improve sports performance?

    Fat carries more energy than other macro nutrients (9kcals/37kJ/g compared to 7kcal/29kJ/g for alcohol and 4kcal/17kJ/g for protein and carbohydrate respectively). So with so much energy to offer does eating more improve performance? Read more »

  • Healthy ideas for family takeaway meals

    Did you know that in 2012 around 21% of New Zealander’s weekly food expenditure was spent on eating out and takeaways? Read more »

  • Are you a “sneaky snacker”?

    Some people find it hard to control snacking and are continuously thinking about food. They may find themselves constantly picking, stock piling foods in drawers and cupboards at home and work. Read more »

  • Vegetarians face extra hurdles

    Despite the apparently healthier lifestyle vegetarian athletes (like anybody) can still become overweight, hungry, bloated and suffering from multiple nutrient deficiencies. Read more »

  • The gut-brain axis is important to sporting...

    Do you ever suffer from” runners diarrhoea”, bouts of anxiety , fatigue, abdominal pain or gas when facing competition? Read more »

  • Swim for your life

    Whether you are swimming for fun or competition this sport has many health benefits that can be enhanced with good nutrition. Knowing what to eat and when can also greatly improve your enjoyment of the sport as well as your level of performance. Read more »

  • Eat your way to healthier nails

    The quality, appearance and growth of our nails often reflect the state of our general health and the adequacy of some essential nutrients in our diet. Read more »

  • Skin care for active people

    The stress of competition, the sun and wind, sweat, chaffing and high sugar levels are just some of the things that can aggravate the skin conditions of athletes and very active people. Read more »

  • Care for “the carers” during family...

    When family members are sick or hospitalised it can be very challenging to find the time to exercise and maintain a healthy diet for yourself. Particularly if you are working, caring for children, or trying to complete a course of study. Read more »

  • Don’t let disordered eating ruin your...

    An eating disorder can affect anyone at any age, any sport, any background and any gender. The symptoms may build slowly well before the illness becomes evident. Often it is an athletes support team such as parents, friends, team mates and coaches that pick up on the symptoms and can prevent the disorder from ruining the athletes sporting career. Read more »

  • Could your weight be disabling you?

    The human body is hugely resilient, constantly strengthening muscles and remodeling bones and joints to take up new loads. However as we age and weight is gained and lost, metabolic changes can take place that alter this remodeling process and can set us on a path to failing mobility and independence. Read more »

  • Obesity problems may start in the womb

    Overweight and obese women are a greater risk of developing complications endangering their own health during pregnancy and are also more likely to bare children who are overweight themselves Read more »

  • Put Sports Nutrition to work

    Many workers use enough energy and essential nutrients each day to power a marathon. If not replaced then a lack of these key nutrients can lead to fatigue, accidents and injury that can affect their long-term health and mobility. Read more »

  • Athletes protect your winning smile

    Athletes protect your smile and your wallet as painful tooth erosion is not only expensive it can also rob your training time and performance. Read more »

  • 8+ Tips for managing teething troubles

    Few children escape teething without some discomfort. Rosy flushed cheeks, a runny nose, irritable behavior, disturbed sleep and bowel function are all hallmarks of tooth eruption Read more »

  • Facing the down times without weight gain

    Nothing can be more infuriating for an athlete than after months of intense training an injury sees you ‘sidelined’. Read more »

  • Sports nutrition for women

    Women who push the boundaries of their lives to take on new challenges and sporting events are usually also trying to juggle their work, home and training existence. With good sports nutrition advice It is possible to find renewed energy. Read more »

  • Who controls feeding – the mother or the...

    Studies of toddlers aged 20 months to 6 years, that examined baby-led weaning versus traditional spoon feeding methods have found that feeding method can influence food preferences and health related outcomes in later life. We look at the pros and cons. Read more »

  • Sports nutrition for cycling

    Cycling tests an athlete’s strength and endurance capabilities as well as their anaerobic energy systems during breakaways, hill climbs and sprints to the finish.While some athletes rely heavily on dietary supplements, these will not replace a healthy training diet that is high in carbohydrate, with moderate protein and low in fat. Read more »

  • The protein needs of young athletes

    At a time when they are also growing, young athletes may need as much as 50% more protein than their more sedentary peers. Read more »

  • Food to Fuel the Speights Coast to Coast

    Whether you are a novice or seasoned triathlete your nutrition plan could make or break your race. All those competing should read the excellent nutrition tips on the official Speight’s Coast to Coast website and seek professional help if they have any concerns. In addition here is a check list of things you should also consider. Read more »

  • Children’s bone growth and gut health...

    Every parent wants their children to grow. But the height that they finally reach is dependent on factors such as growth hormone, genetics and nutrient availability. While we can’t change genetics after their arrival or growth hormones easily, nutrient availability can make the difference and is something parents can influence and need to be more … Read more »

  • Nutrition for tendons and ligaments

    The recent Rugby World Cup has placed the spot light on sports injuries and so we thought it might be interesting to look more closely at the protective role of sports nutrition and in particularly the nutrients important to tendon and ligament health. Read more »

  • Brace yourself for the brassicas

    With Winter now upon us its time to eat more Brassica vegetables. What are they? Broccoli – 7th most popular vegetable in New Zealand Cauliflower – 13th most popular Cabbage (all types) – 12th most popular Brussel Sprouts Broccolini – consumption rocketing! Swedes Turnips Why are they so good? Brassicas contain: Antioxidants, from the following … Read more »

  • Infant nutrition influences blood pressure...

    Scientific evidence suggests that environmental factors acting early in life may affect blood pressure in adult life. A study in Britain in 2004 supported earlier studies on infant nutrition and blood pressure that show a small reduction in systolic blood pressure in children breast-fed compared to those who were bottle-fed. Other advantages of breastfeeding Breast … Read more »

Would you like to subscribe to our fantastic FREE monthly newsletter?

Each month we'll keep you up-to-date with the latest nutritional articles and healthy recipes from You are free to opt out at any time, but we think you'll enjoy what we've got in-store for you.

Plus as a bonus offer — subscribe today and receive FREE weight loss tips for two weeks! Learn how a number of foods, many one would consider 'healthy', may in fact be slowing your progress.


Yes please, it sounds great! (and it's FREE after all).



No thanks, I'm not interested (or I'm already a subscriber and really enjoying these fantastic newsletters!).