People often joke that couples “let themselves go” after a few years of marriage, allowing a few extra pounds to pile on. But a new study suggests that there may be some truth to this theory.
It also shows that divorced men, due to stress, may shed a few of those extra pounds before and after their split.
The study looked at weight fluctuations in men and life events that appear to effect BMI (body mass index) over time.
Men Gain Weight During Marriage, Lost Weight Just after Divorce
Joanna Syrda of University of Bath authored the study, which looked at data from more than 8,700 men who participated in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). PSID had men fill out questionnaires every few years on a variety of things, from body characteristics to income.
Throughout the course of the study, 39% of the men became fathers, 24% got married and 12% got divorced. These events allowed researchers to make correlations between BMI and life events.
After analyzing the data, researchers concluded that men gained, on average, three pounds more than single men. Men did not gain weight when their wives were pregnant, but did pack on a few extra pounds after in the years just after their child was born.
Men who were going through a divorce lost weight just before and after the divorce. The author of the study suggests that the weight loss had more to do more with stress than the move into life as a single man.
The results of the study support a few psychological theories. It suggests that single men have more of an incentive to stay trim and fit, as they are still searching for a spouse.
The data also supports the theory that married couples gain weight due to the social obligations that come along with marriage, such as dinners and parties with friends.
“It’s useful for individuals to understand which social factors may influence weight gain, especially common ones such as marriage and parenthood, so that they can make informed decisions about their health and well-being,” said Syrda in a statement. “For married men who want to avoid BMI increases that will mean being mindful of their own changing motivation, behavior and eating habits.”
Men Gain Weight Post-Divorce in the Long-Term
When it comes to divorce, data from the study shows that men lose some weight before and just after the split, but a 2016 study published in Social Science and Medicine contradicts these findings.
The study, which included data from 11,577 participants, showed that men lowered their daily intake of fruits and vegetables by 24% after divorce, and their diets became less varied. Women’s diets, on the other hand, did not change significantly.
This study echoes another from 2011, which found that men gained weight after divorce and women gained weight after marriage.
The results of these studies should be concerning for men going through or thinking about divorce. Stress, changes in living situations and lifestyle transitions can affect diet and exercise habits, which can often upend daily routines and make life chaotic.
Men, like women, may also gain weight due to emotional eating habits. Many divorced men experience depression, anger and a host of other emotions that can make it difficult to maintain a balanced, healthy diet.
Gaining weight can put men at greater risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Some forms of cancer
- Gallbladder disease
- Respiratory problems
A 2016 study by the European Association for the Study of Obesity, which involved 150,000 men, found that a higher waist circumference and BMI was linked to an increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
For each 5kg/m2 increase in BMI, men had a 10% greater risk of developed an aggressive form of the cancer. Every 10cm added to the waist circumference increased the risk by 13%.
Understanding the risks of weight gain can help divorced men stay on the right track throughout and after the divorce.
Tips for Staying Fit after Divorce
- Create meal plans to stay on top of calories and vary your diet.
- Establish and stick to a practical exercise routine. Choose activities that you enjoy, whether outdoors or in the gym.
- Plan outdoor activities with the kids, like hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking or any other activity that the family enjoys.
- Learn how to cook basics meals to avoid getting overwhelmed and kick temptation to the curb. Learning to cook will be beneficial for the kids as well.
- Keep track of your exercise progress and diet to stay motivated.
If men remain cautious of their fitness and weight after divorce, they’ll be better prepared to make the necessary life changes needed to stay fit.