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Pounds of Love : Couples Tend to Slip on the Weight After They Slip on the Ring

March 13, 1992|KATHLEEN DOHENY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Their eyes met over chicken dripping in marinade.

She was grilling it at a singles barbecue in a Brentwood park.

He-- sensing an irresistible opening line--said her chicken entree looked much tastier than his steak.

The line apparently worked: First came love, then came the marriage of Regan and David Kendle. Then came cooking, evening meals together and blueberry cobbler for dessert. ("And then you have to have ice cream to go on top," reasons David.)

Now--seven years of marriage and thousands of meals later--this Santa Monica couple have come to realize what an estimated 75% of married couples already know: Marriage can be fattening.

He has gained 10 pounds; she, 15.

"It sneaks up on you," says Paul Laca of Laguna Hills, who felt his belt shrinking soon after he said "I do" in 1988. "You are enjoying yourself, and then all of a sudden your pants don't fit."

Weight gain after marriage isn't a topic generally mentioned by wedding consultants. But long before the wedding album gathers dust, the waist gathers calories.

Peggy Bradley, a weight-loss counselor who works at FHP Health Care Medical Centers in Laguna Hills and Fountain Valley, has seen it. Of her clients--most of whom are women--at least half cite marriage as a contributing factor to weight gain.

So too has Dr. Jerry Sutkamp, an internist and national medical director of the Physicians Weight Loss Centers. He says about 75% of marrieds gain weight after the wedding day, with Year One being the biggest danger zone.

Laca and his wife, Michele, agree. In their first year, Michele, a 25-year-old customer service representative who is 5 feet, 3 inches tall, put on nearly 60 pounds. Of course her pregnancy after three months of marriage played a big part in her dramatic rise from 143 to 200 pounds.

But what of Paul, a 27-year-old engineering technician who--at 5 feet, 7 inches--went from 170 to 202?

According to the pros, people have less reason to stay slender once they're married and "out of circulation."

"Many people work especially hard to keep themselves physically attractive to make themselves desirable partners," says Kelly Brownell, a Yale University psychologist who specializes in weight-control research.

"Once the mate has been selected, there is still pressure to look good, but it's not nearly as intense as when you are out there trying to find a partner. Some people let down their guard," Brownell says.

There are also the romantic trappings of being newly married.

"Couples don't just eat, they dine," says Sutkamp.

Those five-course, candlelight feasts can easily add up to 1,500 calories--the recommended daily total for many women who just to maintain their desirable weight.

Many couples also see dinner time as quality time, a relaxing period to catch up with each other's lives. And that can mean lingering too long over a table of temptations.

"It is a special time to exchange what went on that day," Sutkamp says. "It's very intimate."

During their newlywed period, the Lacas wanted to "be home and together," Michele remembers. She would often whip up homemade brownies. Or she would cook family recipes, old-fashioned Polish dishes like pirogi--ravioli-like pieces stuffed with potatoes and cheese, fried in butter and topped with sour cream.

"You are just living heartburn the next day," she says, "but it tastes wonderful. I fattened him right up."

With the addition of a spouse, life becomes more complicated, Brownell points out.

Mealtime routines are among the first to fall. For instance, one spouse might accommodate the other's work schedule by eating earlier than usual. In the process, time previously allotted for exercise is abandoned.

Children could mean an even more hectic schedule, with fast food often taking the place of a more nutritious meal.

"It is so easy for single people with no kids to stay thin," says Vonetta McGee, a Santa Monica actress, wife and mother who stays slim nevertheless. "Just look in their refrigerators. There is often nothing in them."

Married people, on the other hand--especially those with children--usually have full and beckoning larders.

"The more people there are living in one place, the harder it is to control your weight," says Barbara Jacobson, a University of Washington therapist who has researched weight gain.

And then there are those who defy the notion that wedding bands and bulges go together.

Consider Coralie and David Whitcomb of Glendale, who have been married more than 25 years.

Coralie, who works as an educator, lecturer and sometime caterer, weighs exactly the same--"maybe a pound less"--as on her wedding day. David, an aerospace engineer, is often asked by friends why he's not paunchy.

Except for a temporary weight gain while pregnant with their daughter, who is now 23, Coralie has stayed slim at 5 feet, 5 inches and 118 pounds. David has gained five pounds.

The secret?

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