Maybe you've heard (or made) a joke or two about “relationship gut” or noticed a the pounds mysteriously pile on after you've gotten serious with a significant other. Surprisingly, this aggravating phenomenon may be more common than you thought!

According to a recent poll conducted by diet company Jenny Craig, nearly 80 percent of people reported gaining weight since entering their current relationship. The average amount was a whopping 36 pounds, and seventeen of these pounds appeared in the first year of the relationship alone!

Another recent study suggests that, over a five year period, daters tended to gain an average of 15 pounds and cohabiters to gain 18. Couples who got married gained a whopping 24!

There are lot of reasons that this weight gain may occur, but the good news is that they're not all sinister ones. Some people, once they've started settling into a relationship, simply feel less pressure to look as good as they did when they were "on the prowl."

This is evidenced by the fact that relationship weight gain tended to be higher for happier couples; those in less blissful unions may be staying in shape because they're wondering how they're going to attract their next partner if things blow up!

If you're still looking and feeling healthy, this weight gain may not be something to worry about at all, but it could be a little more ominous if your "love pounds" put you at an overweight or obese BMI.

After all, married people are more likely to be obese in general, and if one partner becomes obese, the other is 37 percent more likely to follow suit. Another study showed that coupled folks had, on average, higher BMIs than singletons despite the fact that the couples had healthier alcohol, smoking, and fast food habits.

Of course, you'll hopefully find your significant other attractive regardless of how much they weigh, but a union that is complacent in the face of an unhealthy lifestyle could eventually lead to some serious health problems for you both.

Interestingly, break-ups tend to have the opposite effect, with the end of a relationship predicting a lower BMI. While we aren't suggesting ditching your sweetheart if you're trying to ditch a few pounds, you could look at the freedom to revamp your lifestyle as a silver lining if your relationship does come to an untimely end.

Another huge factor in "relationship weight gain" is changes in eating habits. While some singles can subsist on low-effort dinners that happen to be low-calorie, like a bowl of cereal or a can of soup, someone in a relationship is more likely to cook a lavish meal to share or go out to a swanky restaurant for a date night.

New daters may also unthinkingly adopt their partner's unhealthy habits, which seems to be especially true of women who move in with men. Most men need more calories per day to maintain their weight than most women do, so a woman could gain quite a bit of weight if she starts to eat more like her boyfriend does!

Some couples also enjoy drinking together, which could easily lead to eating more both on the drunken night in question and to combat hangovers the morning after.

Unfortunately, these factors tend to coincide with other changes in routine. For instance, new lovers are likely to start trading time spent exercising or meal-prepping for time spent relaxing together with some takeout.

The obvious solution is to these dilemmas is to make an effort to cook and exercise as a pair. That doesn't necessarily mean joining your local cross-fit crew either; romantic activities like leisurely bike rides to the park or a fun-filled ballroom dancing class are much better than not exercising at all!

Additionally, cooking more meals at home is not only associated with a healthier diet but is a great opportunity to bond with your partner in a visceral and sensual way. After all, some healthy foods can be pretty sexy!

Another way to avoid too much snacking during you and your partner's lazy nights in is to keep a junk food free home and isolate your indulgences to the occasional meal out instead of mindlessly munching on whatever's in your cabinet.

Then, when you do go out to eat, there are plenty of resources out there that can help you make better menu choices, including our handy dandy guide. If you find yourself in the mood for something more indulgent, it's a far better idea to take half your food home or split a meal with your significant other than to eat an entire entree yourself.

You could also start spending more date nights in tea and coffee shops as opposed to bars and restaurants if you want the change in atmosphere without the extra calories. As a bonus, you'll probably save some money as well!

So what if it's your partner who's packing on the pounds? It's definitely not your place to judge them for their appearance or food choices, but you can gently suggest a few healthier habits or, better yet, lead by example.

Fortunately, good habits can be as contagious as bad ones! A united effort to lead a healthier lifestyle has a far better chance of succeeding than a lone crusade, a fact that the many husband-and-wife pairs that have succeed together on the 123Diet can attest to. Other, less obvious factors that could contribute to relationship weight gain are stress associated with relationship-related life events like buying a home, planning a wedding, or starting a family, or changes in sleeping habits that can come when you start sleeping next to someone else.

Then again, other aspects of a shared bedroom may actually work in your weight-loss favor. Maintaining an active sex life may help you stay more in touch with and aware of your body, which could translate to more mindful eating—plus, getting intimate can actually be pretty decent exercise!

In a 25 minute session of lovemaking, men burnt an average of 100 calories and women burnt an appropriate average of 69. You don't have to go all the way to get a mini-workout in either; you can also burn 68 calories an hour kissing, 280 calories in a half-hour of making out, and 80 calories an hour giving your partner a massage!

So, don't hesitate to take things up a notch with your Valentine because you're afraid of packing on the pounds. As long as you and your special someone stay smart, active, and aware, there's no reason you can't have a long, healthy and slim life together!

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