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Why having a healthy relationship with a long-term S.O. could stave off midlife obesity


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Photo: Stocksy/Thais Ramos Varela

Embarking on a new relationship is the best. Everything is bright and shiny and flirty. Every glass of (natural) wine tastes extra crisp. Every dinner out feels celebratory. And every time your self-care desires line up (like canceling big plans to stay in for some quality Netflix time), it feels like a sign that you’re the most compatible pair ever.

Of course, there’s a certain side effect that tends to accompany new relationships that most of us would rather do without. Some call it “love chub,” others refer to it as their “happy pounds.” However you reference it, research agrees that relationships are sometimes correlated with weight gain. (Newlyweds, in particular, have a strong connection between marital satisfaction and an uptick on the scale.)

But if you make it past those fun first dates and find yourself in a stable long-term situation, you may actually be headed toward a healthy sweet spot (as in, living longer). A new study published in the journal Health Psychology found that the better and more supportive a person’s marriage or marriage-like relationship is, the less likely they are to gain weight and become obese in middle age.

“This study suggests a supportive marital relationship is associated with healthier body weight in midlife. It adds to the evidence that a positive social relationship is a health asset.” —Dr. Ying Chen, study co-author

“This study suggests a supportive marital relationship is associated with healthier body weight in midlife,” study co-author Ying Chen, ScD, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Time. “It adds to the evidence that a positive social relationship is a health asset.”

People in satisfying long-term relationships are more likely to encourage healthy behaviors in each other. According to researchers, unmarried couples in committed relationships saw the same weight benefits as married couples.

The key, the study indicates, is that support matters, and people in satisfying long-term relationships are more likely to encourage healthy behaviors in each other. But you don’t have to be married to reap the benefits. According to researchers, unmarried couples in committed relationships saw the same weight benefits as married couples. “Our study adds to the growing evidence that positive social relationships—not just marital relationship, but greater social integration and social support in general—may be related to a number of better health and well-being outcomes,” Dr. Chen added.

So, even if you’re single and loving it, you can still reap some health-boosting benefits by prioritizing the closest members of your squad. Considering quality friendships offer a host of other life-improving goodies, like living longer, it’s probably time to organize your next women’s circle gathering.

Here are Kristen Bell’s best tips for a happy, healthy relationship. And this is what researchers say is the most important thing in a great relationship. 

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