Marriage Contributes to Weight Gain in Teens and Young Adults
> 10/23/2007 11:29:57 AM

We tend to gain weight during our teen and early adult years (an average of 15-30 pounds), but new research has shown that those who marry young are more likely than their single peers to gain weight. On average, teens and young adults who are married gain 6-9 pounds more than those who are not married.

The study, led by Penny Gordon-Larsen of the the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, included almost 8,000 teens young adults, aged 12 through 28, and lasted five years. Of those who dated but did not marry or live with a partner, women gained an average of 15 pounds while men gained an average of 24 pounds. Women who married gained an average of 24 pounds, while newly-married men gained an average of 30 pounds. Of couples who lived together but did not marry, women gained an average of 18 pounds, while men gained an average of 24 pounds, the same weight gain experienced by single men.

The researchers provide some possible reasons to explain why marriage is associated with weight gain in teens and young adults. Dating provides strong motivation for teens and young adults to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet in order to appear more attractive, and single young adults tend to be more physically active. Couples who are married or living together, on the other hand, may cook bigger meals and eat out more often. Not surprisingly, these couples are also more likely to have children, which causes sleepless nights and stressful days for both parents and leaves women with pounds to shed and very little personal time. A previous study also demonstrated a connection between the people we love and what we weigh; when our friends, family, and spouses are overweight, we tend to gain weight too.

Losing weight may seem like a impossible task for some, especially those with busy schedules and little time for the gym, and need to do more to educate those most prone to weight gain and obesity. The Ad Council and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have recently produced a group of public service announcements addressing obesity, but this attempt at attacking the problem has met with considerable criticism. Many feel that the ads, which provide tips on healthier living, including eating healthy snacks and taking stairs instead of elevators, are a weak and ineffective attempt to grab the public's attention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, younger people pay more attention to ads that elicit strong reactions in them, which explains why public service announcements dealing with smoking, drugs, and alcohol present graphic images of the damage these substances cause to the body. Although the current obesity ads offer achievable goals for those struggling to lose weight, future ads may need to be more compelling if we wish to see better results.

As the media continues to report on America's growing weight problem, we need to continue helping those who struggle to lose weight see that their goals are not impossible. Teens and young adults who marry are more prone to weight gain and obesity, but they also have a partner. Couples can aid each other in their attempts to shed pounds, as those who have the support of their loved ones are often more successful at maintaining a healthy lifestyle. While we gain more information about which factors contribute to obesity and how best to combat the rising numbers of overweight Americans, we can help our friends and loved ones lose weight simply by supporting their efforts.

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