Avoiding Newlywed Weight Gain: MilSpouse Edition


Wedding Season: the prevalence of weddings occurring in late Spring and Summer, defined by those who have the luxury of not dealing with unpredictable military orders.  By that conventional standard, “wedding season” is pretty much over now that it’s September. And now the fun begins.

Did you recently get hitched? Congrats!  Also, heads up: an article from Time Magazine Health describes a recent study suggesting that newly married young adults are at a higher risk for obesity compared to unmarried couples.

Why does this happen?  How can you maintain a healthy body while navigating the uncharted territories of military spousedom? And even if you aren’t a newlywed, take a look and see if you can relate to any of the following considerations.  As always, feel free to add more from your personal experiences.  Also keep in mind that these issues could also apply to those experiencing reintegration after a long absence -- not exactly "newlywed" but certainly newly reunited.

Issue: You’re STARVING!!! Planning a wedding is stressful; therefore it can potentially cause weight loss (not to mention hair loss, money loss, sanity loss, etc).  In addition, to prepare for your bridal moment, maybe you’ve been trading the Ben & Jerry’s for spin classes on post or base.  You looked great on the big day but perhaps you’ve started … well … overcompensating for all those months of low-carbing.

How to deal: It’s OK to relax a little now that the pressure is off. Just make sure the free-to-eat-whatever mentality doesn’t last past the honeymoon (or post-deployment vacation).  If you’ve picked up some healthy eating habits, why not keep them?  Same goes for your exercise routine!

Bottom line:  Make healthy habits a way of life instead of saving them for special occasions.

Issue: Your spouse is set in his/her ways. Before you married and moved in together, your now-spouse might have been on a steady diet of DFAC food, cereal, and easy-mac. Maybe they’ll be a little resistant to change their diet once you move in.  To this day, my husband refers to the Chinese food place down the street as his “pre-Chrissy bachelor food” with a hint of longing in his voice.

How to deal: Compromise and work together.  You should both enjoy your favorite foods, but make sure to include healthier, home-made options most days.  For example, try saving treats or eating out for only one or two days per week.  Just recently, we celebrated my husband’s return from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. with his favorite Chinese “bachelor food." Another idea is to go ahead and make your favorite dishes, but in a healthier way; try some of these recipe modification ideas from Mayo Clinic.

Bottom line:  Developing healthy habits alongside your spouse will ensure you have even longer, healthier, happier lives to spend together.

Issue: Service members work up an appetite. And you play along. Think about it: generally, they PT daily, keep up a grueling work schedule, and lead very active, demanding lives. Your spouse needs adequate fuel for their military line of work, not to mention their body composition. When I got married and starting cooking most meals for my husband, I think I was starving him.  I was used to cooking for only myself, and I am a lightly active female.  Once I realized that my six-foot-three, male, very active husband needed bigger portions (sorry honey!), I began getting a little heavy handed all around … inadvertently giving myself bigger portions too.  Oops!

How to deal: Be mindful. Try plating the food before you get to the table.  Eat slowly, enjoy your food, and pay attention to how you feel as you eat (i.e. not in front of the TV!).  Then, stop eating when you feel comfortably full - not stuffed, and not necessarily after you’ve cleaned your plate.  Keep in mind, your spouse may require different amounts of food than you.

Bottom line: In order to nourish your body without overeating, listen to what it’s telling you!

Issue: You’re stressed. Marrying into the military often means you’ve packed up and left everything you’ve ever known behind.  Adjusting to a new place, a new routine, and your spouse’s daily lifestyle habits can be tough.  Maybe your spouse is working extra-long hours, the promotion didn’t work out, or you’re having trouble dealing with deployment or reintegration.  Getting used to being in a marriage is hard enough, much less dealing with whatever curve ball the military decides to throw at you.  Personally, when I joined my husband at our first duty station, I was lonely, homesick, stressfully unemployed, bored, and stuck in our apartment all day … with easy access to the fridge.  Sound familiar?

How to deal: Sometimes, ice cream therapy or a nice glass of wine is just … necessary.  Continually turning to calories as comfort, however, has consequences.  Why not try a new hobby?  Volunteer, join a club, or attend functions to meet other spouses. A hobby that gets you active (meeting up for walks or attending exercise classes) will not only help you maintain a healthy weight, but also generate feel-good exercise endorphins, help you meet people, and get you out of the house.

Bottom line: A happy, healthy mind will help you achieve a healthier body as well.

These are just a few issues I’ve come across personally and while talking with fellow military spouses. What kind of health-related struggles did you face after you married your service member?  How did you overcome those challenges?  Please share in the comments section below!

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