Football Sunday breakfasts, the convenience of ordering out, or maybe you’re both just bad cooks. Whatever the relationship, no matter how perfect it is, aren’t always the healthiest of them all. Here, we share the four stages of relationship weight gain—and how to take control wherever you are in yours
“Relationships and weight gain often go hand in hand,” says Florida-based registered dietitian Jaime Mass, R.D., who frequently works with couples to get them on a healthy trajectory. “The sooner you can set healthy habits together, the better. But wherever you are in your relationship, it isn’t too late to start.”
The Dating Phase
You suddenly aren’t saying no to dessert, because now you’re sharing it. And you’re going out for drinks more than usual.
How to avoid it: “What you do at the beginning of a relationship sets the stage and the tone for the long-haul,” Mass says. Try to branch off from the usual dinner and drinks type of date. Take a cooking class together, or perhaps look up the menu ahead of time to find the healthiest option.
The Getting Serious Phase
You’re meeting each other’s families at barbeques, swapping life stories on the couch over a bottle of wine, and getting into the swing of things so you might not be going out as much. You might not always have time to cook or hit the gym.
How to avoid it: “Pay attention to any of your former priorities taking a backseat,” she says. “Being passionate about your hobbies, dedicated and committed to different causes, motivated to hit the gym, full of life and energy—these things are part of who you are! So, don’t give them up so easily!”
The Moving-In Phase
Suddenly filled with all the treats and snacks your mom would never get for you – for good reason.
How to avoid it: “Who you spend your time with overflows into all parts of who you are and eating behaviors are no different. ‘You are the company you keep’ is a rule I live by; and interestingly enough the research supports this notion when it comes to eating habits as well,” Mass says.
“If you know that you can’t control yourself with chips in the house, then make it clear that chips are not allowed in your home when you move in together,” she says. “There may be some foods that he loves that he feels that way about as well, so those foods can be kept out of the home or only purchased in single servings and enjoyed individually or together.”
Apart from trigger foods, it pays to take a look at any other unhealthy practices that could easily become regular habits, such as watching TV during meals, eating dessert in bed, or celebrating with food. Decide together what’s off limits or needs to be kept to a minimum, she says.
The Family Phase
You’re busy beyond belief. “Let’s just order in” becomes a common sentence, and you can’t remember the last time you tried to exercise without having a crying baby to interrupt your downward dog.
How to avoid it: “Sit down and have a conversation with your partner about how you want each of your habits to play out in the long-term for you and your family,” Mass suggests. How do you want to feel physically and emotionally—and is your current routine helping you get there? What example do you want to set for your children?
“Have an honest conversation together and remember that it isn’t about being on a “diet” together, it’s about making an effort instead to create healthy habits as a family,” she says. Simple ideas to take steps in that direction include taking post-dinner family walks, getting started with meal prep or meal-delivery services to make healthy cooking less time-consuming and teaching your kids to like “grown-up” foods, rather than serving breaded chicken tenders and fries whenever they ask.