Scholarly articles abound on the topic of partner weight gain, but news networks seem more interested in the overall topic of obesity now as opposed to focusing in on the different circumstances involved in getting that way. You eat too much and you get fat, right? Everybody’s doing it.

In 2007 USA Today published an article on the phenomenon of weight gain and partnership. Here are two important facts:

1. Most people in their late teens/early 20s naturally gain 15 to 30 pounds from their high school weight. Get married or shack up during this period however, and you’re likely to gain 6-9 pounds more than the average. Now we’re talking 20-40 pounds. Yikes!

2. Couples tend to gain or lose weight together depending on who is moving the quickest in either direction (or slowest, depending). Really thin but now married to an overweight man and you both like to sit and watch tv all the time? Get ready to pack on the pounds. Slightly overweight but now living with your boyfriend who works out all the time? You’re probably more likely to either maintain your weight or even lose weight.

Time magazine also published similar findings in 2009, reiterating that if you live with your partner or get married you are more likely to become obese than single or dating individuals. Time also adds that women run the greater risk of becoming obese due to cohabitation or marriage, while men run a significantly low risk as a result of either situation. And the longer a woman lives with their partner, the more likely she will continue to put on weight over time. They also state that having a close relationship with an overweight or obese person puts one at a higher risk of being obese or overweight themselves.

All of these facts are great to know and understand, but what can you do about it? Have you ever tried to get your husband off the couch to play tennis or go for a walk? Have you ever tried to motivate your wife to go for a run after she’s had a long day at work? Because in the heat of the moment you’re basically saying “Get off your fat ass and exercise” or “Let’s get our fat asses moving” and either way the invitation to exercise is like a veiled insult, especially to people who are already sensitive and painfully aware of their weight issues. The websites I found that offered solutions were all like “Set time aside to work out as a couple!” and “Don’t center your together times around meals!” Sure, thanks people who get paid to write stuff for and have a private trainer at home. I’m so dumb I didn’t even think of those things. I’m just a fatty in a fatty relationship. Condescending douchebags.

I am completely convinced that it takes one of the two individuals saying “I’m doing this, you’re either doing it with me or you aren’t” and then they just go for it. Usually the other will join in eventually once they see the benefits, and once they see you are committed they will want to participate with you. It is infinitely harder for someone to take up the mantle of leader in this scenario, but for the good of both parties someone has to go the lonely road for a bit so that both can lead healthy, fulfilling lives together as long as possible.

Understand the facts and then do with them what you will. Weight loss is hard and emotionally and physically draining. It takes time. But know this: if your partner is overweight and you are not then you are in danger. If both you and your partner are overweight and your partner is making efforts to reverse the situation, do what you can to make it easier and make an effort too. Choose a healthier life, understand your limits, and be realistic, but do it together. It’s easier, I promise.

Go forth, bring joy to others, and I’ll see you next time.