Weight gain after the wedding is extremely common among newlyweds, mainly because the stress of the wedding is over. There is no more motivation to fit into that dress. Once you've secured your partner, many people feel there is no longer a reason to work towards obtaining an “ideal” body.
Another reason people fall out of healthy habits is because they want to spend more time with their new spouse. While there may be good intentions of going to the gym after work, a spouse greeting you with a glass of wine can be hard to turn down. And once children enter the picture, the attention falls on them and less time is spent giving attention to your own health.
There is also significant research linking quality of a marriage to weight gain. Those who are in happy marriages tend to gain more weight because they are more lax about maintaining their physical appearance. Therefore, spouses should put more of an emphasis on health, rather than physical appearance, when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle together.
The Key to Healthy Eating: Plan, Plan, Plan
Planning really is the key to success when it comes to a healthy lifestyle in a marriage. One of the most important things to decide is who is going to handle the food shopping and the meal prep. Sit down and plan out your meals for the week together. This becomes your shopping list to help make smart decisions at the grocery store. Put your meal plan on the fridge where you both can see, so there’s no confusion about what you’re eating that week.
Try to make food shopping a couples adventure rather than feeling like one person is “stuck” with the chore. You can discuss meals, items to keep around the house, and perhaps sample some new items together.
I am a huge advocate of bringing lunch to work. Not only does eating lunch out daily add up for the wallet, but so do the excess calories you’re consuming. Buy healthy items that travel well, such as sandwiches, yogurts, and fruit, and pack in a cooler bag to keep food fresh and cold. Take turns packing each other lunch and include a cute note to one another.
How to Get Moving
The general recommendation is 30 minutes of exercise most days. However, for most people, a realistic goal is three to four days per week of vigorous exercise. It should never feel like a struggle to exercise. It should be something you genuinely look forward to doing. And while I do enjoy couples who come to work out together at the gyms and studios I teach at, I also appreciate couples who have separate interests in their physical activity. I’m a huge yoga practitioner, while my husband is more into strength training and cardio. We started making our workout attendance a friendly competition. Each day after a workout, we’d mark down what workout we did on our hanging kitchen calendar. This made us not only accountable to ourselves, but to each other. And perhaps you can award a prize to the person who worked out the most that month.
Sneak in some exercise throughout the day. Take a walk after dinner. Use the stairs rather than an elevator/escalator. We also love renting Citi bikes when we go on vacation to explore new cities and save money on taxis.
Your Restaurant Rules
Overall, avoid meals that are unbalanced. I try to enforce a rule that if multiple items on your plate can exist as their own meal, then there’s probably no reason to order it, or eat the whole thing (for example, an omelette sandwich between two pancakes or chicken parmesan served with a side of stuffed shells). If you’re eating a meal that is breaded and fried and comes with a side of potatoes or veggies that are also breaded and fried, then where’s the balance? Order meals that have lean sources of protein prepared in healthy manners (grilled, broiled, and roasted are all key words to look for on the menu), and include a side of veggies and whole grains or healthy starches (yes, there is room in our lives for potatoes). Keep this in mind: a medium plain baked potato has 160 calories and nutrients like vitamin C, while a medium serving of french fries has 365 calories and no nutritional value.
Condiments can be a silent enemy in the battle of watching your weight. Frequent offenders include salad dressings, butter, sour cream, and cheese toppings. Smarter options include vinegar-based dressings, salsa, and olive oil.
Eating out together is a great time to share meals. Even sharing an appetizer or dessert is okay to do occasionally, but not on a daily basis.
The Best Mealtime Environment
I cannot stress how important it is to eat meals in a quiet environment such as the kitchen or dining room table. Eating meals together at a table promotes an opportunity to bond with each other and keep lines of communication open. And eating as many meals together as possible is equally important for strengthening the marriage bonds.
I have a strict rule in my house: No technology at the table. Cell phones, tablets, and laptops all must exit the kitchen during mealtime. Don’t install a TV in your kitchen, and don’t eat on the couch in front of the TV. This causes mindless eating – the distractions surrounding us take our attention away from what and how much we’re eating, which can often lead to overeating and ignoring our body when it tells us it’s full.
The Top 6 Healthy Habits
1. Have “go-to” items that are always in your house for quick meals and snacks. Limit the presence of unhealthy snacks like chips and cookies.
2. Many people complain that they don’t like buying fresh fruit or veggies because they go bad before having a chance to use them. While planning out your weekly meals can help limit this, another smart option is buying frozen fruits and veggies. These are picked and frozen at their peak to maintain nutrients, and they can often have a higher nutritional value than those found in the produce section of the market. Frozen items can last longer and be used as needed. Just avoid buying those items that are frozen along with sauces or heavy syrups.
3. Eat breakfast. This isn’t new information, but research has shown on multiple occasions that people who eat breakfast have healthier weights than those who don’t. Skipping breakfast can lead to overeating at other meals or grazing throughout the day for people who feel the need to “catch up.”
4. Aim to eat every three to four hours, alternating meals with snacks (which are just small meals) to help maintain healthy energy levels and metabolism. This also prevents overeating at meals or causing metabolism to slow down.
5. Plate your meals first, rather than putting the whole serving platter on the table. Additional servings can tempt us if we see them, so simply take them away from your line of sight. Fill your plate with 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 healthy grain or starch, and 1/2 fruit or veggies. And if you make it a goal to have a small salad each night before your main meal, not only are you guaranteeing that you have adequate veggies that day, but you’re filling up on healthy veggies, which can limit intake of some higher-calorie foods during the actual meal.
6. Stop eating off your spouse's plate. Those little bites here and there add up over time without you even realizing it’s happening. Allow a little to be left behind as a reminder that you don’t have to clean your plate at every meal.
Mandy Unanski Enright, MS, RD, RYT, is a registered dietitian nutritionist based on the Jersey Shore. She is the founder of NutritionNuptials.com.
Opening photo by Images by Berit, Inc.