The divorce diet

By Felix Salmon
June 14, 2010
Abby Ellin finds some interesting body-weight literature:

" data-share-img="" data-share="twitter,facebook,linkedin,reddit,google" data-share-count="true">

Abby Ellin finds some interesting body-weight literature:

A 2008 study in the Journal of Economics and Human Biology examined data from 12,000 men and women ages 18 to mid-40s. Compared with when they were single, the body mass index (or B.M.I., a height-to-weight ratio) of married men increased by 1.5 percent above and beyond what they would normally gain as they aged, and that of women shot up 2 percent…

The B.M.I. of couples who lived together without making it legal increased by only about 1 percent…

If the relationship disintegrates people tend to lose weight. According to Professor Argys, divorced men usually revert to their pre-marriage B.M.I., and divorced womens’ B.M.I.’s are actually 2.5 percent lower than when they married.

The abstract is here; an ungated version of the paper is here. One big question, of course, is how come obesity has been rising even as fewer people have been getting married. Of course you want a pretty chart:


I’m surprised that women are so much heavier on their wedding day than they were one year earlier. That doesn’t conform with what I’ve seen.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Could the “heavier” data be explained by, erm, shotgun weddings?

Posted by john_b78 | Report as abusive

The answer to your obesity question is in the qualifier from the first sentence of your quote: “beyond what they would normally gain”

If a man would normally gain enough to be overweight, a married man would gain enough to be obese.

Posted by drewbie | Report as abusive

The following is of course speculative, but all of the scenarios are feasible, and so should be a part of any study.

* Being in love changes the hormones in most people. Changes in hormone changes the balance and can have a huge an effect on weight

* Happy hormones and the need to keep the hormones flowing may have partners reaching for ice cream and cake… and for sure chocolate!

* Some may be in the “I have my partner, no need to spend hours at the gym” mentality.

* In that same vein, some partners may now do less exercise or follow the other’s regime, which is not enough.

* We already know the metabolism slows as we age so it is a given unless you focus on that you will gain weight. Individuals do this, couples less so.

*It is possible that the meals now being made in bulk to feed more then one are miscalculated in caloric content. If one was more conscious, the less conscious may have won. Food is also not a typical battle ground so other battles won out.

* In an effort to be seen as domesticated, the female may overdo the calories and make too much food and too many choices

*Meals with a loved one are more pleasant, so more sit down meals, more courses, more talking , less thought for each mouthful

*There may be an actual hormonal response once ensconced in a relationship that prepares a woman’s body for pregnancy and weight gain.

* once in a relationship, men may actually encourage weight gain to ensure they keep the woman of their dreams.

* Sharing a home is not always blissful and stress reactions include reaching for fatty and comfort foods.

* Meals and planning while buying groceries, are more likely after marriage, so there is more in the house to munch on and more stocking of cupboards. This goes up exponentially as children are also introduced.

* The actual budget for meals will likely be increased as there are now 2 incomes, so there will be more food and perhaps richer foods as well as expensive and calorie laden treats.

*Both people may be totally different body types, so may well have been aware consciously or subconsciously and bought groceries that suited their body type. Having other foods which they cannot metabolize as well in the house would tempt them to change their diet

* In attempts to be like their parents, they may be adapting their family’s recipes and the other may not be able to metabolize as well not having eaten that type of food regularly. (For example the lard based sandwich one Italian mother said I had to learn how to make for her son! lol)

* amalgamated goals are tougher. In order to appease the other, one partner may “give up” a goal rather then work out ways to keep their own intact.

I guess the answer is,it happens (who cares why) so we need to keep our goals and trimmer figures for health sake, even when we are married. I suppose now we will have studies to see how many were forced onto the divorce diet because they didn’t keep their figures?

Posted by hsvkitty | Report as abusive

My name is Melony, i had a problem with my husband sometimes ago but never knew what the problem was,i tried to asked him but he refused to tell me what it was as time goes on i discovered he was having an affair with a friend of mine that happens to be my best friend,i was so sad that i never knew what to do next,during my search for a way out i met a friend of mine who had similar problem and introduced me to a man who helped her with his situation,on getting to the man i discovered he was a spell caster i was shocked because i have not had anything to do with a spell caster in my entire life so i tried to give this man a chance cos i never believed in spell casting as i thought it will not work for me but to my surprise i got positive results and i was able to get my husband back from her even after the spell caster did all. i discovered my husband fell much more in love with me on like before so i was so happy that i never know what to do for him so i am using this opportunity to tell anyone on this blog havin similar problem visit and your problems shall be solved…

Posted by melony | Report as abusive