According to a recent study led by Andrea L. Meltzer of the Department of Psychology at Southern Methodist University, newlyweds who are unsupportive of each other’s weight loss goals can actually contribute to their partners’ weight gain. Obesity is quickly becoming a national dilemma and is known to lead to significant health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. In recent years, experts have suggested that even small amounts of excess weight can be problematic. In addition to the physical health problems, individuals who are overweight tend to have a poor self-image and low self-esteem.
Marriage has been demonstrated to have positive emotional effects. But according to this most recent study, when marriages are unsupportive, they can actually lead to weight gain. Meltzer chose to follow 169 newlywed couples over 4 years to determine how their behaviors, motivations, and attitudes towards each other and their own individual weight loss goals would affect their weight. She hypothesized that the couples with the most marital support and the least amount of opposition would gain the least amount of weight.
Meltzer discovered that both wives and husbands gained weight when they actively behaved in negative ways. Specifically, choosing to avoid engaging in healthy behaviors, complaining, or being unmotivated to seek support resulted in weight gain. However, men gained fewer pounds when their wives responded with rejection and opposition while providing support. This finding was persistent even when Meltzer accounted for other conditions such as marital happiness, income, and symptoms of depression. Overall, the results highlight the importance of a respectful and reciprocating relationship of support between spouses when it comes to achieving weight loss goals. Meltzer added, “These findings demonstrate the importance of spouses’ supportive behaviors for goal achievement, illuminate the dyadic nature of weight gain, and demonstrate the benefits of negativity in some contexts.”
Meltzer, A. L., McNulty, J. K., Karney, B. R. (2012). Social support and weight maintenance in marriage: the interactive effects of support seeking, support provision, and gender. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029364
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