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How to have a mate and not put on weight

By Tracy Anderson, Special to CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Trainer Tracy Anderson not surprised study says women with partners gain weight
  • When people partner, she says, they get lax in eating, fitness habits
  • Sticking to rational diet, exercise plan and including mate key to staying slim, she says
  • Anderson: Moving in together? Start fitness program now
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Editor's note: Tracy Anderson is a fitness trainer and designer of The Tracy Anderson Method fitness system, with studios in Los Angeles, California, and New York. She trains celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Shakira; her fitness videos "The Perfect Design Series I-III," "Beginner Dance Cardio," "Dance Cardio II," and a new Web site, www.tracyandersonmethod.com, will be available in the coming weeks.

London, England (CNN) -- I didn't need to read the findings of a recent Australian research study to know that most women who live with their mates have more body fat than those who don't.

For 10 years, researchers studied nearly 6,500 women, age 18 to 23, and found, according to one of the study's authors, Dr. Wendy J. Brown, that "Women with no partner and no baby averaged 11 pounds over 10 years. With a partner and no baby they gained about 15 pounds, and if they had a partner and a baby they gained 20 pounds." (The findings appear in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.)

Researchers can speculate on the reasons for this, but it's not news to me.

Of the thousands of women I've met who are desperately seeking to reshape their bodies, almost all are living with -- or just moved away from -- a partner.

While I have heard many voices, their story is the same: They lust, then love. With lust comes starvation; with love, over-consumption and under-exercise. Their love transforms from the physical to the emotional, and this usually happens after they decide to live together.

But once they lift their heads above the fog of love, they look down to find that their butts are sagging, bellies are bulging and thighs have taken on interesting new shapes!

Come to think of it, many of the men who knock on my door looking for their abdominal muscles also deteriorated soon after moving in with their mates.

Think about your man. Does he have the same waistline measurement as when you first signed the lease or mortgage papers? Probably not. In fact, it probably got even worse for both of you after your first child, didn't it? (The new Australian research references an earlier study that showed an increase in obesity in men once they'd had children.)

Like the smokers I know, the overwhelming majority of whom hate to smoke, many women develop unhealthy patterns (like snacking on junk food at home) that lead to unhealthy bodies, which lead to a seriously unhealthy lack of self-esteem. We become "less desirable," a phrase I hear far too often. Once we arrive at this place, the frantic search begins.

Many of us will do anything to recover what was once our youthful body. Sadly, many waste time and money on fad diets, pills and potions. They end up doing the yo-yo thing, torturing their bodies through obsessive experimentation with an endless list of exercise programs, almost all of which fail them, because the will to really change behavior is not yet there.

So, what can we do?

First, we must think about the quality and standards of our everyday behavior more than the end result. If we can just focus on gradual improvement of our diet and our exercise programs, we will likely regain our healthier, slimmer form. But more important, we will also build our self-respect.

So, taking intelligent steps (i.e., coming up with a rational workout plan or shopping for fresher and healthier foods and eating them, not impulse snacks), carrying the steps out consistently -- more frequently and for a longer duration -- will have a huge net benefit on our bottoms and our bottom line: love.

Next, we should include our mates in our process. In my experience, for example, couples who work out together have greater success in achieving their health and weight loss goals. They also seem to get along much better and stay together longer. Transform your personal physical development time into "date time," doing something as simple as taking regular after-dinner walks together.

Finally, cut back, but don't cut out the fun stuff. When we are consistent with our diet and exercise programs, there is no need for maniacal starvation. We don't need to sit at the dinner table with a radish on our plate, while our children and mates enjoy full meals. A healthy diet should not be some kind of intruder in our relationships, it should be a natural part of our lives. Besides, fun foods are what make our love lives more interesting and memorable.

So eat! But only if you do the work on the other side of those calories.

Having a healthy, fit and feminine physique and a deeply loving emotional relationship are not mutually exclusive. You can have both; and it can be done in a fun and positive way.

For those of you about to move in, heed this advice: Start your program now, before your belly and your mate's interest start to sag! I promise: if you don't quit, you'll have a body that won't quit!

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tracy Anderson.