Over a decade ago, I promised myself I’d never ask my husband anything that resembles the loaded question, “do these pants make my butt look big?” Although I believe that women are subjected to impossible standards of beauty that could lead any reasonable woman to feel insecure about her appearance, I did not want to reveal myself as insecure about my weight. I knew I was not “fat,” and did not want to find myself behaving like a stereotypical weight-obsessed woman. However, most of all, I made a conscious choice – as a woman who studies body image and eating behaviors – to try my best to be confident about my weight. I believed then, and still believe today, that I don’t have the professional luxury of questioning my body or my weight if I am going to tell other people that they should eat healthy foods and not “worry” about their weight.
Entries in weight (9)
We’ve all been known to pack on a few extra pounds over the holidays. Not surprisingly, our weight, as well as our partners’ weights, can influence our romantic relationships. For example, when relationship partners’ weight levels start to diverge and become different from one another, leading to what researchers refer to as mixed-weight couples (think Peter and Lois Griffin from Family Guy or Oprah & Stedman), there can be problems. In fact, recent research1 and a recent article in the Wall Street Journal ("Put a Stop to ‘Do I Look Fat?'") investigate what happens in relationships where one partner, particularly the female, is less fit than the other. According to research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, relationships that pair an overweight female and a healthy weight male experience more conflict.
There is a lot of pressure to impress your romantic partner with a fabulous Valentine’s Day date (I should know – Valentine’s Day is also my wife’s birthday!). If you decide to go to a fancy restaurant, how do you know which cuisine to choose? Should you go with spicy Thai or cold sushi? If you’re going to buy your partner a gift, do you choose something practical and imminently useful but unromantic (the Science of Relationships book?) or should you instead go with something useless but romantic (a stuffed teddy bear holding a satin pillow shaped like a heart with “Valentine’s Without You Would be Un-Bear-able” written on it?). Or, if you’re going to get your sweetie something, well, sweet, should you choose the heart-shaped box of chocolates that is the candy equivalent of Russian Roulette or should you buy some specialty hot cocoa?
To determine how partners’ relative body weights affect their relationships, researchers collected data from couples of varying girth profiles (e.g., both healthy weight, both overweight, or mismatched weights). Couples responded about their daily conflict and the frequency with which they ate meals (and, presumably, Cheetos) together. Couples with an overweight woman and healthy-weight man experienced the greatest level of conflict; overweight male - healthy female couples had the lowest levels of conflict. Importantly, mismatched-weight couples who ate together more frequently reported more conflict, regardless of which partner was overweight (apparently, it’s a lot easier to be critical if you see what your partner eats).
Burke, T. J., Randall, A. K., Corkery, S. A., Young, V. J., & Butler, E. A. (in press, 2012). “You’re going to eat that?” Relationship processes and conflict among mixed-weight couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. doi: 10.1177/0265407512451199
Online dating has become incredibly common since the mid-1990s. For example, a recent nationally representative survey conducted in the United States revealed that 17% of heterosexual couples and 41% of same-sex couples met over the internet. However, as anyone who has ever dated online can tell you, internet dating is a tricky business. People have a tendency to lie and misrepresent themselves in an attempt to maximize their appeal to potential partners. But just how common and serious are these lies, and what effect do they have on someone’s likelihood of getting a date?
Marriage and divorce alter our lives in a number of ways, and recent research suggests that our waistlines are among the first things to change in response to these events.1 However, men and women appear to respond differently to these relationship transitions, especially when it comes to experiencing a significant weight increase. Specifically, women are more likely to pack it on after marriage, while men are more likely to do so after divorce.
Recently, a fellow SofR contributor wrote about a new study showing that living with a partner is associated with weight gain. Our research has found that understanding romantic partners’ weight status may require understanding how partners feel about their weight. Your weight may actually be affected by whether or not your partner is trying to lose weight.
Ever notice how TV-couple wives are thinner than their husbands? It’s no accident. Researchers followed 169 newlywed couples’ body mass indexes (BMI) for four years. Happier marriages were those in which wives were thinner than husbands, regardless of income, education, and partners’ absolute BMI. Thus, it’s not about being skinny, per se. It is the relative difference in BMI that predicts satisfaction. Maybe the way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach.
Meltzer, A. L., McNulty, J. K., Novak, S. A., Butler E. A., & Karney, B. R. (2011). Social Psychological and Personality Science. doi: 10.1177/1948550610395781
A recent study suggests there is a connection between how long couples live together and the incidence of obesity and obesity-related behaviors. Specifically, women’s chances of becoming obese increase significantly after the first year of cohabitation; men’s chances are highest between the first and second year of shacking up. Possible contributing factors: increased socializing (e.g., lots of food), decrease desire to maintain weight (i.e., why bother?), and extra snuggle time (i.e., decreased physical activity).