It has often been the joke at parties, “I’ve put on weight since being married”, but is there any science behind this? Swiss researchers compared the body mass index (the ratio between your height and weight) between married couples and single people in nine different European countries, to include over 10,000 people.
They found that married couples generally eat better than single people, but they also weigh a lot more and do a lot less physical activity. This was true for both men and women, but why? Couples tend to buy more regional produce, less processed foods and less convenience food than singles. Married men are more likely to buy organic and ethically-sourced food than single men – marriage therefore brings a stronger ethic into food choices, and thus more healthily. However, married people are less inclined to engage in sport, which may account for their weight as they do not burn off the calories they consume.
I suspect that most married couples are going to be older and more likely to socialise with other married couples. We also generally become more sedentary as we get older and forget to consume less calories to compensate. Food is so freely available now, that our waistlines have become wider as food production has become cheaper. As our children grow up and start their own lives, our surplus income also grows, and therefore we have more to spend on the “pleasures of life”. Starting an active hobby such as golf or walking can help, but better still, picking up a racquet and doing more with our friends that gets us out of breath will help keep us fit well into our elderly years. Eating healthily doesn’t mean you are healthy, particularly if you consume more calories than you expend.
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat.