How to Lose Marital Fat

If you have been married for 10-15 years, chances are you do not look the same as you did when you were still single. I'm not talking about looking older because, hey, we all have to age. I'm talking about your weight and size. If you are similar to many married people, you will have put on about 19 lbs if you are a man and about 24 lbs if you are a woman.

Several studies have confirmed that marriage can make you fat. As one author put it, "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby carriage and a pot belly."

There are several reasons married couples gain weight, but the most basic of all is that there is no longer any motivation to look as attractive as they did when they were still on the prowl for a partner.

So if you are about to get married and you don't want to be part of the marital weight gain statistics years later, be conscious of how destructive this attitude can be and make every effort to remain as attractive as you can for each other.

Psychologist Barbara Stuart Jacobson told Jim Kershner of The Spokesman Review, "In studies where men and women rank what is most important in a mate, physical appearance is always in the top three."

Looking good is not the only reason you should try to stay the same size. Gaining weight is usually the result of unhealthy lifestyle habits, like not getting regular exercise and eating food high in fat and sugar, which in turn increases your risk of getting heart disease, type-2 diabetes and hypertension.

So not only do you have a romantic obligation to each other to stay looking attractive, but your kids deserve to have healthy parents who will be around to watch them grow into adulthood. You should also set a good example and be a role model for your children. If you have healthy habits, they will, too. If you don't, then you are teaching them to do the same even if you preach a message of health. Kids do what you do, not what you say.

Okay, you may be thinking this is good advice for young people who are just on the verge of starting their families, but what if the damage has already been done and you are overweight and out-of-shape after having let yourself go all these years? Is there still hope for you? Of course, there is. It's never too late to get back into the groove of a healthy lifestyle. I am not saying it's going to be easy because it's difficult to change habits that have become ingrained after many years, but if you have an honest desire to get fit, all things are possible.

Losing weight as a single person is hard enough; losing weight as a married person has its own set of problems that need to be addressed for weight loss success. The greatest obstacle is intentional or unintentional sabotage from your partner.

When only half of the overweight pair tries to lose weight, jealousy can rear its ugly head. In his research, sociologist Jeffrey Sobal observed that spouses can feel threatened because they believe their husband or wife is now more attractive to the opposite sex.

In a 1997 interview with Cornel University Nutrition Newsletter, Sobal said some studies have found that weight loss of a spouse can lead to divorce, while other studies have discovered sabotage attempts on the part of the spouse who wants to maintain the status quo.

Other researchers have observed that even if there is no jealousy involved, spouses can want to keep their partners overweight because they don't want to do anything about their own weight problem.

If the spouse is not overweight but has other unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking, there may have previously been an unspoken contract of "I won't bug you about your weight; don't bother me about my smoking." And now that the overweight partner wants to do something about his/her condition, the other partner feels threatened that they will have to do something about their own bad habits.

Sabotage can take many forms. A husband may constantly bring home chocolates and other sweets, or a wife may cook fattening favorites. There can also be subtle and not-so-subtle complaints about how you are spending time away from the family because of your exercise.

I have seen husbands accuse their wives of neglecting their children because they go to the gym every day. This strategy works very well, by the way, because Filipina women are very sensitive about being called "bad" mothers.

Sabotage is a major issue that has to be dealt with because the support of your spouse is crucial to your success. Here's what you can do about it.

First, recognize the sabotage attempts as your partner's misguided desire to keep your relationship the same way it used to be. Gently but firmly tell your partner how much it means to you to lose weight and how much you need his/her support.

If you suspect your spouse is feeling insecure and is the jealous type, then I suggest you use the "health" approach. Do not talk about how you want to lose weight to fit into your old clothes. Talk about how you need to lose weight for health reasons. Go see your doctor and get your blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar tested. Trust me, if you are middle-aged and you are 10-20 lbs overweight, you will usually find something that needs to be improved. These are the "numbers" you should discuss with your spouse about your weight loss progress, not your vital statistics, like how many inches you have lost in your waistline. Keep those numbers to yourself and gloat in private.

If your spouse keeps bringing home "fattening" gifts, thank him/her for the thought behind the gift, but let him/her know you'll rather receive something else, like a good book or an invitation to the movies.

If they complain you are spending time away from the family to exercise, encourage them to join you so you can "bond" with each other in a healthy way. Talk about how important it is for both of you to keep fit for your kids.

If they say you aren't fun anymore because you don't want to go to restaurants that serve fattening food, compromise and agree to go once a week. You have several options: Choose the least fattening meal that you can from the menu. If there really is nothing to choose from, eat smaller portions. You can also consider that day your "cheat" day and choose something you really like and enjoy yourself without guilt.

If you are in charge of the shopping and cooking, you have a distinct advantage because you can cook separate meals for yourself that are not so fattening, or you can "manipulate" the menu to include healthier versions. If you are a good cook, you can even modify the recipes without your spouse realizing what's going on. You can get away with this if you don't announce what you are doing and you make minor modifications slowly so the taste of the recipe does not change drastically.

The ideal situation is when couples decide to get healthy and lose weight together. Everything becomes much easier. Half the battle is won when the food environment at home is cleaned up. However, it can be a very frustrating experience for the wife because her husband will usually lose more weight at a faster pace. This isn't because she is not as diligent as he is about her diet or exercise program, but simply because he burns more calories because of his greater muscle mass.

Being the competitive creatures that they are, men sometimes brag about their success and tease their wives about their "failure." Guys, if you know what's good for you, don't do this. Not only will it discourage your wife but if you push it far enough, you'll find yourself in the doghouse. Ladies, life really is unfair and men really do have a faster metabolism courtesy of all those manly muscles. So stop comparing your progress and be patient.

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