Jack and Diane, just two American kids growing up in the heartland, have been together for 6 years. Both are overweight from suckin' on too many chili dogs outside the Tastee Freez. But Diane decides to do something about it. She gets her butt into the gym and changes her diet. In a few months, she's lost a lot of weight.
Now, what do you think will happen to Jack and Diane's relationship? Does it...
- A. Get better because Diane is healthier, happier, and more confident.
- B. Get worse because Diane decides she can do much better than Jack, who never actually became a football star.
- C. Get better because Jack, inspired by Diane, loses weight too.
- D. Get worse because Jack is a jealous, insecure prick.
According to some new studies, ALL of these are possibilities.
The first study out of Sweden looked at the relationship status of 2000 people who had bariatric surgery. The conclusions:
- After losing weight, they had a slightly higher chance of separating or getting divorced from their partner compared to married people who didn't lose weight.
- If they were single, they had a higher chance of getting married. The more fat they lost, the better their chances of getting hitched.
What's Going on Here?
The part about single people seems pretty obvious. While the researchers said it was because they were more socially active after weight loss (increasing their odds of meeting that special someone) I think we all know what really happened: they looked more attractive. That always helps. Ask an ugly person.
But what about those higher divorce rates among the already-married folks? The researchers had a few guesses.
First, they assumed the person who lost weight adopted a very different lifestyle (food, activity, daily habits etc.) than he or she had before, leading to marital stress. Second, they noted that in some cases the weight loss was empowering, helping the person to leave an already-bad relationship.
It didn't happen to every couple of course, but the odds of strife were a bit higher when one partner had lost weight.
A second American study looking at 21 couples sheds some more light on this. In this study, some had lost weight via surgical interventions, and others had just joined a gym and improved their diets. The average weight loss was 60 pounds.
The Americans did a little better here, with most couples reporting better communication and more good times. Many of the spouses were inspired to lose weight too when their wives or husbands shaped up. Increased emotional and physical intimacy was reported. The cushin', it would seem, is not always better for the pushin'. #Science
But not all the couples were so lucky. Sometimes the partner who had lost weight became a nag – they annoyed their spouse to lose weight too. And sometimes the spouse who didn't lose weight became threatened and insecure. A few even tried to sabotage their newly slim partner with junk food.
What To Do With This Info
It's strange that a very healthy decision to lose fat can often lead to unhealthier relationships and conflict. It comes down to communication, and much depends on the health of the marriage before any fat loss occurs.
In short, some people are dicks. Sometimes the spouse who loses the weight is a dick. Sometimes it's the partner of the person who loses the weight.
The researchers stressed that you should be aware of the pros and the possible cons of weight loss. Also, don't be a dick.
- Gustaf Bruze, Tobias E. Holmin, Markku Peltonen, Johan Ottosson, Kajsa Sjöholm, Ingmar Näslund, Martin Neovius, Lena M. S. Carlsson, Per-Arne Svensson. Associations of Bariatric Surgery With Changes in Interpersonal Relationship Status. JAMA Surgery, 2018; DOI: 10.1001/jamasurg.2018.0215
- Lynsey Kluever Romo, René M. Dailey. Weighty Dynamics: Exploring Couples' Perceptions of Post-Weight-Loss Interaction. Health Communication, 2013; 1 DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2012.736467