I wrote this post for the Huffington Post recently. Enjoy!
Oh the irony! I was working out yesterday morning, sweating profusely over the elliptical machine, and counting down until I could say I conquered 30 minutes, when CNN reported on a new story about love, marriage, divorce and your waistline.
Apparently, this “latest” research study looked at the impact that getting married, and getting divorced, had on your weight. Do we really need an in-depth research study to determine what makes someone fat or skinny? It seems to me there are so many other really important things we could be researching and studying…but that’s not for this post. And yet, researchers at the Ohio State University analyzed data on more than 10,000 people surveyed over a 22-year period. (Actually, as a true blue University of Michigan fan, there is a smart a** joke just waiting to be told in here about the academic research that Ohio State is pursuing).
We know as a nation we are obsessed with our weight–we are too fat, we are too skinny, we are trying to exercise, trying to diet, trying a new fad diet, and then another, sitting on the couch eating potato chips and watching “The Biggest Loser” or “Extreme Makeover – Weight Loss Edition,” reading People magazine to see who is battling yet another eating disorder. It’s really all-consuming!
Not surprisingly, researchers found women put on the most weight immediately after their wedding. Anecdotally, this makes sense. We’re happy. We’re in love. We’re cooking meals instead of eating salads and noshing. I agree with this. Both times that I have married, I have put on weight right after the wedding as I have gone from snacking all day to actually preparing a “real” meal…and eating later at night doesn’t seem to help either!
When it comes to divorce, the study found that both both men and women gained weight in the two years following divorce (watch out men, you tended to gain more with an average gain of 20 whopping pounds post-divorce). My experience has actually been the opposite, but perhaps the distinction is that the study focused on two years post-divorce. In my experience–both personally and from watching so many friends go through divorce–there is a period of extreme weight-loss, not gain. In fact, I’ve been known to go up to an acquaintance who appears to be shrinking before my eyes, and ask if her marriage is okay, only to hear that there are some major problems going on. I lost ten pounds when going through my divorce. The stress and anxiety of it all just made my appetite disappear completely. Not a healthy way to lose weight at all–physically or mentally.
Apparently, these research findings were presented to the American Sociological Association because of potential implications for private medical insurance, as overweight people are more likely to develop a number of chronic illnesses than their healthier counterparts. Hmm…this may be great research after all! Insurance companies and employers can now encourage people to either not get married, or–if married–to not get divorced! That sounds far too complicated, and frankly like an invasion of privacy.
The net/net of the research is that both marriage and divorce can lead people to gain weight. I completely understand the causal relationship between getting married or getting divorced and gaining weight, but at the end of the day, it’s not saying “I do” or “It’s over” that leads to weight gain. I didn’t gain ten pounds because I got married. I gained ten pounds because I started eating a whole lot more calories than I was burning. Doesn’t that old adage about “calories in/calories out” work as a rudimentary weight management program–regardless of marital status? I don’t know…perhaps that is simplifying things too much.