In a Relationship? Beware of ‘Love Chub’ Weight Gain

Falling in love can make you feel all soft and gooey inside. Unfortunately, it can have the same effect on your outside. Skip a workout here, order some greasy takeout there, and before you know it, you have more than just butterflies in your stomach — you’ve got a full-on jelly roll hanging over your waistband.

Or as Lauren Conrad, former star of The Hills, put it: You’ve acquired the dreaded “boyfriend layer.”

“When we get comfortable in a relationship, we establish new habits together that aren’t always the best for our weight,” says Amy Gorin, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut.

Women’s Health has identified five of the behaviors that can lead to a serious case of love chub. But don’t worry—we’ve also included easy fixes.

1. You Eat Out…All the Time
When you’re single, you tend to prepare healthy foods at home. But once you’re in a relationship, it’s decadent dinner dates followed by caloric brunches.

“Couples bond over food, and enjoying it becomes a special ritual in their relationship,” says nutritionist Christine Avanti, author of Skinny Chicks Don’t Eat Salads. That’s bad news for your waistline: A Men’s Health analysis of 24 national chains revealed that the average entree at a sit-down restaurant contains 867 calories. And that doesn’t include apps, sides and dessert.

The fix: Eat in. “Cooking together can be intimate,” says Elizabeth Ward, a nutritionist in Boston. “Food is very sensual, especially when you take turns tasting it.” Plus, of course, you can control the fat and calories by using healthy recipes and ingredients that are low in fat. When you do dine out, eat a healthy snack that contains protein and fiber a few hours before your meal.

“Women often skimp all day when they’re going out at night,” Ward says. “But that leaves them so hungry that they end up overdoing it.” Nonfat yogurt and a piece of fruit or a small bowl of cereal with low-fat milk are smart choices.

2. You’re Always in Bed
Or on the couch. Or anywhere but the gym. A study last year in the journal Obesity found that couples who live together for two or more years are less likely to be physically active, and the women are more likely to become obese. “As positive as relationships can be, they also change your routine,” says Martin Binks, director of Binks Behavioral Health. “You schedule more couple’s events and have less time to yourself.” Drinks with your new guy … or a date with the old treadmill? It’s not exactly a tough choice.

The fix: Get him involved. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who exercised with a partner lost more weight than those who sweated solo. “When people do something together, they’re more likely to stick with it,” explains Karen Miller-Kovach, R.D., author of He Loses, She Loses. So sign up together for a 5-K, go for a bike ride instead of watching a movie, or join the same gym. When you don’t feel like going, he’ll drag you there, and you’ll do the same for him.

3. You Match Him Bite for Bite
It’s tough to stick to petite portions when your dining companion downs 500 to 1,500 more calories a day than you do.

“Women develop ‘portion distortion,'” Ward says. “You don’t recognize a normal-size serving anymore because you’re always eating with a guy who consumes huge platefuls of food.” He might be able to get away with it (guys have more muscle mass, so they require more calories), but shoveling in all those extra forkfuls will eventually catch up with you.

The fix: Serve yourself less. Eat about three-quarters of what he’s eating. Sorry, but women burn 26 percent fewer calories than men do, so at that rate you’ll just about break even, says clinical psychologist Susan Albers, author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food…

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