Is your partner making you fat?

Recent research found that long-term relationships are the number one reason for weight gain in women.
Aoibhlinn Hester-Wyne and Hisham Wyne on their wedding day. Courtesy Zoe Campbell
Aoibhlinn Hester-Wyne and Hisham Wyne on their wedding day. Courtesy Zoe Campbell

Forget bottomless ice-cream tubs, all-inclusive holidays and gym phobia. The real culprit in the battle against the bulge is sitting right next to you. From sharing nachos in front of the television to romantic dinners out, couplehood is a fast track to piling on the pounds.

A survey by the UK company Diet Chef found that 62 per cent of people gained at least 6kg after starting a relationship. When both parties feel comfortable, standards slide. A major source of pleasure is found in sharing food together and before you know it, the scales are pointing to numbers never reached before.

“I think the research is absolutely true, unfortunately,” says Aoibhlinn Hester-Wyne, a television producer who lives in Dubai and hails from Ireland. She is married to Hisham Wyne, a copywriter from Pakistan who blogs at

“I got married in April and by the end of June, I was struggling to fit into my favourite clothes and by mid-July it was clear that I was starting to look positively plump. One day, a work colleague looked at me in shock and said: ‘You have put on a lot of weight.’”

Why did it happen? “When you’re married, you stay in more because the person you like being with most in the world is right beside you, so why would you bother going anywhere else? So there’s no burning off calories dancing the night away, or joining fitness clubs or sports teams to meet new people,” explains Hester-Wyne.

“In addition to this, I started to eat more because my husband and I cook a big, proper dinner every evening. When I lived on my own, I would cook every three days and eat the leftovers for a couple of days. Now, there’s a huge pleasure in cooking and eating together.

“And I realised that I was unconsciously matching my portion sizes with my husband’s. Hisham hasn’t put on much weight at all, but I’ve really expanded.”

Hester-Wyne’s experience isn’t unusual. The survey found that wives matching their husband’s portion sizes is a major problem, with 56 per cent of women eating far larger portions when they were with their partner. “I used to eat small portions, but since I got married a year ago, I’ve started eating more,” admits Gail Monique Limcumpao-Mallo, a social media specialist from the Philippines living in Abu Dhabi (

“Whenever my husband and I watch movies at home, he wants something to snack on. He’s also a dessert person and when he indulges, I join him. It doesn’t help that we are foodies and we like cooking at home, as well as eating out. I’ve gained a few kilos since my wedding day.”

It seems no culture is unaffected. “There’s no doubt people tend to gain weight when they’re in a new, happy relationship,” agrees Neetha Denis Arackal, a professional from India living in Sharjah. “When I was a teenager, my friends and I used to call this phenomenon ‘The Happiness Effect’. This may be due to the fact that in our culture, for one or two months after the marriage, we have to visit our relatives and succumb to their pressure to dine and eat as a token of love. My husband and I have gained weight like this.”

The clinical psychologist Dr Roghy McCarthy, who runs a counselling clinic in Dubai (, isn’t surprised by the survey’s findings.

“In healthy relationships, partners should take care of each other’s well-being. In the clinic, we see men who want women to gain weight and women who go along with it, gaining a kilo a month sometimes. These men deliberately make their wives put on weight because they don’t want them to be desirable to other men. If their wife is overweight, she won’t be big-headed, her self-confidence will have been taken away.”

Hester-Wyne, however, has found her husband to be a great help when it comes to slimming down. “When you’re trying to lose weight, there’s nothing like a supportive husband to motivate you to get your runners on and get moving. For the last four weeks, we’ve been pounding the pavements together, exercising for at least 45 minutes almost every day, getting fitter and healthier – even in the warm Dubai nights. I’m not quite at my goal of fitting comfortably in my old clothes yet, but I’m getting there.”

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Published: August 25, 2013 04:00 AM


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