“I, take thee, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part”. Says the popular wedding vow. It seems that in sickness and in the quest for health couples tend follow the same curve when it comes to obesity.
A study published in Obesity, looked at the the weight loss progress of 130 spouses over a six-month period. The study found that spouses lost weight in an inter dependent manner. If one spouse was enrolled in a weight loss program and lost weight the partner tended to mirror the weight loss curve.
In this study of 130 couples’ half of them were randomly assigned to Weight watchers structured weight loss program. The other half were in a self-guided weight loss program but received a handout that had tips on a low calorie low fat diet and other weight loss materials. Only one person of the couple was enrolled in either.
At the end of 6 months it was shown that at least 1/3 of untreated spouses lost more than 3% of their weight. It did not matter whether they were in the WW group or the self-guided group. The spouses invariably lost weight along with their enrolled partners.
The study is limited by the fact that the spouses who were not enrolled were overwhelmingly Caucasian males. The inter dependent weight loss may also be related to the dynamics of the relationship and on who is preparing and shopping for meals. If the primary chef at home goes on a self-imposed diet, the rest of the family members may be forced to follow along. This may also contribute to the ripple effect seen in this study. Further studies over a longer period of time are necessary to determine how and why the ripple effect happens, and whether this happens because of active vs passive involvement of the partner.
Involving spouses in weight loss treatment will improve the effect of weight loss management programs. Eat well and stay healthy together!