The Marriage Diet

Corey Fields
Corey Fields
Getting married may lead to weight gain—and not just because of that extra piece of wedding cake.

Newlyweds’ body mass index (BMI) increases after marriage, according to economists Susan Averett, Asia Sikora, and Laura Argys (Economics and Human Biology, 2008). Married men have a higher BMI than unmarried men, and married women are more likely to be overweight or obese.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that marriage offers new social occasions involving food and eating, compelling couples to eat more—and more often—than they otherwise would. But another possible explanation is the marriage market hypothesis: maintaining a healthy weight becomes less important after one has found a marital partner.

In a study published in Appetite in 2011, sociologists Caron Bove and Jeffery Sobal found that while weight was a salient issue when couples were dating, it became less relevant once they settled into romantic relationships.

And scholars Debra Umberson, Hui Liu, and Daniel Powers, writing in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in 2009, found the transition out of marriage, either through divorce or widowhood, is an even more important determinant of weight trajectories than getting married.

Perhaps the solution is to just live together: cohabiting men and women have lower BMIs than their married counterparts, according to sociologists Jeffrey Sobal and Karla Hanson, in a study published in the Marriage and Family Review in 2009.

What this suggests is that declining marriage rates may lead to slimmer national waistlines in the coming years.