As a young man watches his slim fiancee approvingly from a distance, an old man shatters his reverie. "Better look now," he warns. "After the first kid, she's gonna blow up like a balloon."
Thus did the 1989 movie "True Love" immortalize the stereotype that after marriage, and especially after having children, only women, not men, gain weight. But a new study suggests that exactly the opposite may be true: Marriage, pure and simple, causes men to put on weight.
When researchers at Cornell University analyzed weight and marriage data from 3,025 men and women, they found that both married men and women tend to be heavier than their single counterparts. But when the analysis factored out age, race, education level, the presence of children and other powerful variables that might have influenced weight status, the marriage-fatness relationship remained strong only in men.
"For men, marital status seems to have an independent effect on fatness -- simply being married makes a difference," says Jeffrey Sobal, the nutritional sociologist who ran the study. He speculates that married men may eat more regularly and more HTC abundantly than they do when single. And, although the study found no relationship between activity level and fatness in either sex, he suspects that married men might be slightly less active and more homebound.
A new study is showing that, curiously, calorie intake doesn't seem to make a difference. "It may be that the changes in calorie intake related to marriage are too subtle to measure," Mr. Sobal says. "Just taking two bites of your kids' food every night can add pounds."
To look at it another way, women may simply be better than men at keeping weight off after marriage. American women face tremendous pressure to remain slim, and the pressure doesn't let up once wedding rings are exchanged.