In the six years of my relationship, I’ve put on what my friends call “happy fat.” Happy fat is the extra weight that a person gains during a relationship. Do you have any tips for reversing this trend or am I doomed to be happy fat forever?
The idea of being “fat and happy” during a relationship is quite popular, but there’s a few points we need to clarify:
- You don’t need a partner to be happy
- Having a partner doesn’t need to result in fat gain
- Having a partner doesn’t necessarily make you happy
Having said all of that, research does show that married individuals have a higher body mass index (BMI) than single people. All other variables held constant, a recent study found that the increased BMI for married men and women translates to about 4.5 pounds of extra fat. Another poll found that 62% of respondents reported gaining 14 pounds or more after starting a relationship.
We can certainly speculate at the causes. For one, the aforementioned study found that married individuals are less likely to engage in sport; decreased physical activity, especially as other family commitments increase, can certainly be a factor. In other instances, being “off the market” might decrease superficial motivations for staying trim.
Whatever the cause, the “happy fat” narrative doesn’t need to be your story. In fact, staying in shape as a couple can become a great bonding experience. During our current stay in Austin, for example, my boyfriend and I spend a half hour at a nearby playground doing a bodyweight workout each afternoon. For us, it’s a great way to connect while prioritizing our fitness goals.
To that end, here are a few tips to turn “happy fat” into “happy healthy”:
- Create opportunities for shared physical activity. Even if it’s small, commit to consistent physical activity. A few calories burned, when repeated over and over again, can result in transformative changes. Some ideas include going on a walk with your partner, doing yoga together, take a hike or have an outdoors bodyweight workout.
- Cook healthy food together. While exercise helps increase calories out, it’s important to be mindful of the calories going into your body. With your partner, go on a culinary adventure and explore healthy foods and recipes that you can enjoy together. Go to the market and get excited about fueling your body with the nutrients it needs.
- Take responsibility for your health. Your partner can not make you gain weight without your permission. You control what goes into your mouth. You control the amount of physical activity in which you engage. Having a partner isn’t a reason for gaining weight; it’s an excuse. At the end of the day, it all comes down to choices. If you’ve made choices that have resulted in fat gain, you can make choices that result it in coming off.
Having said all of that, it’s worth noting that BMI and body fat aren’t the only measures of health; overall, despite the fat gain, married individuals tend to enjoy better health when compared to their single counterparts. Indeed, married people live longer, eat better and drink less. So let’s keep it all in perspective.
P.S. If you’re looking for a fun bodyweight workout that you can do with a friend or partner, try Davey Wavey’s Bootcamp Workout. As a free gift, you’ll also receive my Insanely Easy Guide to Eating Smarter. Both programs are great tools for getting on track!