Health: Why tying the knot sees us pile on pounds

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A Leeds study has linked marriage with weight gain. Grant Woodward reports.

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Now researchers in Leeds have shown there’s more than a grain of truth in the old adage.

A team at Leeds Metropolitan University have found that getting married can change men’s eating habits, with knock-on effects for their waistlines.

The study, commissioned by the Men’s Health Forum, appears to confirm the stereotype that married men are fatter than their single counterparts.

This could be because they develop a sweet tooth – with married men treating themselves to more buns, cakes, pastries and fruit pies than single men.

And it may not come as a surprise to married men that the study found those who have tied the knot are also likely to drink ‘significantly’ more wine.

Scientists were not sure why marriage made such a difference to men’s attitudes to their weight, but one suggestion was that they felt they could relax after their wedding day because they were no longer trying to attract a partner.

Another theory was that more men work full time and are more likely to be working and eating away from home.

The research showed men in work are more likely to be overweight than men out of work.

It was also suggested that men who marry a good cook might find they are eating richer food than in the past.

Cakes, buns and other treats could also be in easy reach if they have a wife with a sweet tooth doing the shopping.

Or could it even be that some wives deliberately overfeed their husbands with the aim of making them less attractive to other women?

Tam Fry, an obesity expert who has been married for almost 50 years, said: “The problem is that men have done all the hard work.

“They’ve taken the woman out to dinner and made a fuss of her and all that stuff and now it’s payback time.

“The woman looks after her husband and the man just sits back and gets fat.”

Mr Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, added: “I have to think of my own circumstances. My wife cooks for a small army and I have to be very careful how much I eat. The woman wants to please the man.

“You can get to a man through his stomach – but it’s really up to the man to work out whether he wants to be a slob.”

Post-nuptial weight gain is not limited to husbands.

Last year, research from the Southern Methodist University in Texas found that ‘young newlyweds who are satisfied with their marriage gain weight in the early years after they exchange vows’.

The 2013 study suggested that happier couples gain weight because they are ‘less motivated to attract an alternative mate’.

It wasn’t all bad news. The Leeds researchers discovered that married men ate more fruit and wholemeal bread than single ones.

And, unsurprisingly, those who have left their single days behind them got through fewer fatty kebabs and burgers.

The results will now be used by the Men’s Health Forum to come up with tips to help men lose weight.

A spokesman said: “This research shows that, on average, men eat differently and have a different diet from women – and that there is some difference in the foods that are associated with extra weight between men and women.

“The response needs to be different too. We will shortly be publishing a good practice guide which will show that many of the steps that need to be taken to help men lose weight need to be different from those used with women.”

It added that research shows that active support from a spouse can help men lose weight and that where spouses or partners participate in weight loss programmes together, both achieve better results.

Middleton Park, Leeds.

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