The experience of married life seems to have significant influence on the health behaviors of both men and women, but the pattern is mixed — marriage is associated with healthier behaviors in some cases and less healthy behaviors in others. After the “I dos” have been said, some claim that a similar phenomenon to the “freshman 15” may occur as you settle into a new routine. As Natalie Kilgore of The Learning Channel puts it, “When you and your husband begin a new life together, you may be shocked to find that he still wants to live off a bachelor’s diet of pizza, wings and beer. In addition, you’ve got an arsenal of culinary wedding gifts that are constantly tempting you to make homemade waffles, ice cream and bread.”
On the other hand, contemporary research has shown marriage to have protective health benefits. In the Journal of Social Health and Behavior, Debra Umberson states, “A spouse may play an important role in monitoring and encouraging healthy behaviors (such as good eating habits and regular exercise), as well as in discouraging unhealthy ones (such as smoking or heavy drinking). In addition, a research study called The Effects of Marriage on Health reports that “marriage may also provide an emotionally fulfilling, intimate relationship, satisfying the need for social connection, which could have implications for both physical and mental health.” Conversely, a stressful marriage has the opposite effect and can actually be as bad for the heart as a regular smoking habit.
Whether or not marriage provides direct health benefits or not, taking the initiative to incorporate healthy habits into your married life will absolutely increase its health quotient. That’s what a few newlyweds in Chester County have done.
As a swimming instructor, Marie McDevitt of West Chester has always followed a fit lifestyle and that has carried over into her married life. Marie says, “Getting engaged forced us to eat in more so that we could save for the wedding and a new house, and we eat healthier when we aren’t eating out.” She works out the same amount she did before she was married but now she and her husband exercise together more by walking the dog and heading to the gym together.
Soon-to-be-married Jamie McRae of Chester Springs is approaching her wedding date with precaution. She’s hoping to avoid weight gain by continuing her exercise routine and by monitoring her portions. With all the pre-wedding parties and celebrations, she’s carefully watching her alcohol intake and focusing on the healthful, whole foods she normally consumes. She says, “Right now, I am trying to fit into my wedding dress so I am working out a lot.” After walking down the aisle, Jamie plans to incorporate healthy portion size and food choices when she starts cooking for two.
Sarah Butz of Coatesville says she and her husband did add a few pounds after the big day. She explains, “It probably started on our honeymoon when we had dessert every. single. day!” However, being fitness-minded types, they faced a reality check when they found themselves indulging and veering away from their exercise routines. She says, “Having my husband on the same page as me when it comes to health habits definitely motivates me to keep it up.” Sarah and her husband go for runs together and when their exercise schedules don’t match up, they make a point to hop on the Wii a couple nights a week. She says, “In addition to having a resident workout partner, the commitment of marriage is satisfying and goes a long way for my emotional and spiritual health. For countless reasons, my husband makes me feel safe and knowing I can depend on him relieves a lot of day to day stress.”