The 1 Really Undesirable Side Effect of Falling in Love

woman on scaleLove is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Or it better not be proud, because apparently love gives you love handles. It gives your belly a bit of jiggle. Verily, it thickens the ankles. Love made me gain weight.


Here's what happened: A year and a half ago I was in prime Super Divorced Mom™ Action Hero form. I'd been managing my stress with cardio, burning it up in spin class and Zumba. Plus, I was living on quinoa, seaweed, and kale. Gwyneth Paltrow was calling me for advice. Ha! Not really. But I was one lean-ass mama.

So skinny, disciplined me meets this handsome, sweet, emotionally available fellow and we're crazy about each other. We start spending more and more time together. Little by little we weave our lives into a beautiful tapestry. And about 18 months into the relationship, I just happen to weigh myself at the gym on a whim. It's something I rarely do.

The scale said I'd gained eight pounds.

Now. I wasn't shocked that I'd gained weight because my clothes were starting to fit a little tighter. But eight pounds?!? On my frame, that seems like quite a lot. I quickly did some math and factored out three pounds on account of heavy athletic footwear and scale error because obviously (right?). Five-ish pounds (probably eight). Not the end of the world, but also NOT OKAY.

How on Earth did this happen?!? I was still working out, still eating healthy ... mostly. I was happy in love. Since when do happy-in-love people gain weight?

Since always, apparently.

I did a little research and found out that love weight gain is a common phenomenon.

A 2013 study of 160 married couples showed that not only were the married couples more likely to gain weight than their single counterparts, happily married couples gained the most. Why? One of the authors of the study, Dr. Andrea Meltzer, says, "On average, spouses who were more satisfied with their marriage were less likely to consider leaving their marriage, and they gained more weight. In contrast, couples who were less satisfied in their relationship tended to gain less weight over time."

In other words, if you think you might get back on the market soon, you're going to work harder to stay slim.

Makes sense, but it's a little cynical, don't you think? It does seem like I gained those few pounds at about the same time I dropped the (hopefully) last of my baggage from my previous marriage and was feeling most secure in my relationship. But this explanation seems a little too simplistic to me. And anyway, we're not married or even engaged.

Another study, this time of couples in long-term relationships, shows that lovers and spouses pick up on each other's bad habits. Among straight couples, it's almost always the man who exerts a "bad" influence on his girlfriend or wife. That or the couple syncs up their bad habits, or it turns out you're so loving and accepting of your partner, you don't try to change their bad habits.

Hmm, that one seemed pretty likely. Come to think of it, I had made some lifestyle changes in my new relationship:

1. I've been eating more restaurant food because of date nights and delivery.

2. I've been cooking less because I am very busy with the one activity I enjoy more than cooking.

3. Speaking of which, did you know sex doesn't really burn as many calories as you'd think it does?

More from The Stir: Having Sex for the Exercise Means You're Doing It Wrong

4. I've been eating ice cream five nights a week before bed because that's what my boyfriend does, and he prefers to share his ice cream. He's nice that way.

5. We've also been eating a lot of chocolate croissants for breakfast, come to think of it.

6. I transitioned to less cardio and more strength training this fall, which makes me ravenous. I've probably been eating more.

7. I went on birth control. It's the Mirena IUD, which has a lower dose of hormones, but my doctor told me there was a chance of some water weight gain.

8. On the one day a week when my son is at his father's, I spend the entire day with my boyfriend, in horizontal position, staring lovingly into his eyes for hours on end, which causes our heartbeats to sync up but which probably also slows down my metabolism. Also we sleep in.

So there you go: Five to eight extra pounds of water, ice cream, love, and security. I call the new softness around my belly button and on my hips my "happy fat." It's a luxury, I know -- to be happy, to be healthy enough in the first place that gaining a little isn't a problem. I really don't deserve to complain. But I do want to make sure I don't keep gaining weight as the years go by.

So we're limiting ice cream to the weekends, I'm trying to cook more, and we have vague plans to be more active on our heart-syncing day.

Meanwhile my boyfriend has actually lost weight this past year because, he says, I've inspired him to work out five days a week. I guess it all evens out.

Has this happened to you? Have you ever lost weight after a breakup or gained weight while happily paired-up?


Image via Tunderfold/Shutterstock

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