In the first few weeks of a relationship, it's common to drop a few pounds--appetite-suppressing adrenaline is pumping, your willpower is in overdrive (gotta look good for your new man!), and constant sex burns plenty of extra calories.
But months into the romance, you often gain back the weight ... and then some. In fact, a study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently found that, over the course of five years, coupled-up women in their late teens and early 20s put on more weight on average than single girls do. And the stronger the bond, the greater the bulge factor: Chicks who live with their guy see the scale climb three additional pounds, and those who get married pack on an extra nine.
Why the Scale Climbs
When you're in the blissful throes of love, you spend lots of time staring at each other across the dinner table. "You 'also consume 35 percent more food when you eat with someone you like," says Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating. "If you're into a guy, you end up ordering the creme brulee to make the date last longer."
Also, your desire to grow closer by sharing experiences with him accounts for why you agree to order food that you'd usually pass on ("Fried calamari? Sure, why not?") and split endless bottles of wine. "Unfortunately, the booze adds calories, lowers your willpower, and makes you more prone to diet-wrecking late-night eating," says NYC nutritionist Martha McKittrick, who writes citygirlbites.com.
On top of that, skipping your 7 a.m. Spin class when there's a cute guy next to you in bed seems reasonable. And what better way to relax after a long day than by snuggling up on the couch with your man ... and a bag of chips? You indulge because it's there and because your brain plays a sneaky trick. "After you've been in love for six months or so, the bonding hormone oxytocin takes over," says psychologist Belisa Vranich, PsyD. "It triggers cravings for comfort foods, so 'guy snacks' you don't even like seem appealing."
Before long, innocent slips pile on pounds ... and trouble for your budding relationship. "You think, I can pack on a few because he loves me for who I am," says Vranich. "But your guy's worrying that if he stays with you, you'll balloon even more." (He's picturing your mom!) To make matters worse, as you gain, you may feel self-conscious about your body and be less provocative in bed.
How to Snap Out of It
First, learn the difference between your caloric needs and your man's. "Men require 25 to 40 percent more calories than women do, so take a third less than his portion," advises McKittrick. Adds Wansink: "Studies show that the more attention a woman pays to how much she consumes on a date, the less she'll eat." The good news is that you can have drinks, mozzarella sticks, or dessert in addition to your entree when you eat out.
"Just choose only one of the three extras," says registered dietician Elisabetta Politi, nutrition director at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center.
Next, heat things up at home. "Couples eat better when they cook because they're more aware of portion size and ingredients," says Politi. But you may need to take the reins, as dudes "tend to be heavy-handed with butter," warns McKittrick. Sneak in recipe substitutions, like nonfat sour cream instead of the full-fat version, egg whites in lieu of whole eggs, and milk when the recipe calls for cream.
At snack time, stick to guy-friendly options that still have plenty of flavor but fewer calories, like light ice cream, baked tortilla chips and salsa, and pretzels, advises McKittrick. Other tricks: Buy small containers--you eat 20-percent less than you do from king-size packages--and ask your guy to keep his sinful treats at work or urge him to get them in flavors you don't like.
And not only should you stick with your favorite kickboxing class, but also suggest active dates with your man, like ice-skating, running, or biking. The tag-team effort will pay off: Couples who resolve to improve their eating and exercise habits together are shown to lose weight and maintain that healthy lifestyle 16 months later.
Serve your food on smaller-than-usual dishes, and play slow music. You'll savor your meal and eat less.
SOURCE: BRIAN WANSINK, PHD
"Harmless" Bites That Wreck Your Bod
Adding them to your diet without logging more gym time piles on a shocking number of pounds.
Splitting his large order of fries. You may think forgoing a burger for a salad allows you to splurge. But noshing half an order of fries once a week packs on (4 lbs./yr)
Sharing mozzarella sticks as an appetizer. Four with marinara equal 440 calories. Once weekly at dinner, that's an extra (6.5 lbs./yr)
Splitting a bottle of red wine with a meal. A half bottle contains 2.5 5-oz. glasses and about 315 calories. All that booze on your Saturday date nights adds on (5 lbs./yr)
Ordering a large popcorn. Even without butter, your half is 600-plus calories. Have it on Friday movie nights, and that's (9.5 lbs./yr)
Eating a small scoop of ice cream from his bowl. It may appear to be a tiny amount, but if you eat it once weekly, you'll gain (2 lbs./yr)
Getting chips and guac. It's hard not to cave in every week or so. But eventually, it adds up to 2 lbs./yr)
ANNUAL TOTAL 29 pounds!
Eagleson, Holly. "What love does to your diet: your ass should not grow in direct proportion to your affection for your guy. Follow our tips for keeping couples' bad eating habits in check so you both stay looking as hot as you did the day you met." Cosmopolitan Feb. 2009: 148+. General OneFile. Web. 12 Nov. 2009.
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