— Women, do you want to stay married? Then you better not get fat.
At least, that's if you believe a recent poll that questioned 70,000 men about what they would do if their partners gained weight. Almost half the men said they would leave their partners if they gained too much weight, compared to only 20 percent of the women who responded to this poll.
Is it time to modernize our vows to include, “For thinner or for fatter?”
As a clinician, I can honestly say I have not seen these poll findings play out with the couples I treat in my private practice. Most of the women I encounter are far harder on themselves about their weight and looks than the men in their lives. Having said that, various studies seem to suggest men are more focused on appearance, and place far greater emphasis on a woman’s looks and body type, than women do.
It’s no secret women are objectified more often than men are: Women’s bodies are more often looked at, evaluated and sexualized. There is an undeniable weight bias and obsession in our culture, too. Whenever a famous singer or actor gains a few extra pounds, it becomes instant headline news. The media is on top of these stories almost as soon as these celebrities get off the scale.
According to the Journal of Obesity, weight discrimination, especially targeting women, is increasing in the US. In fact, the statistics show that discrimination based on weight has increased 66 percent in the past decade. And in a survey of 400 female Marie Claire readers, 77 percent acknowledged having the thought, “How did she get him?” when seeing an obese woman walk by with an average-weight partner.
But this still doesn’t explain why a man would leave his partner if she gets fat. What does “getting fat” mean to this type of man?
Perhaps some men care what their partner looks like because a partner becomes an extension of themselves, and how they want to be seen by the world. An obese partner could send the message that he’s a man who has a poor self-esteem or is not successful. A study conducted at the University of Liverpool found a man photographed with a heavy-set woman was rated 22 percent more negatively than that same man with a thin woman.
Some men want women to be in sync with them when it comes to health and fitness. If they care about how they look, they want their partner to feel the same. Perhaps it’s about feeling sexually attracted: When a person gains a lot of weight, sometimes they don’t look as healthy, feel as confident and can loose a sense of pride in themselves, which influences how sexy they look and feel.
Now after stating all of the above, whatever happened to couples working together to keep each other on track emotionally and physically? Shouldn’t couples help each other to be and look their very best? What about communicating one’s wishes and preferences in a relationship, instead of jumping ship and acting out, as soon as they become disappointed? If weight and looks are important to a man (or a woman, for that matter), fine! Then help your partner figure out how they can be healthy and look good for you. Seems like a far better way to go, especially since this poll also found that men say the ultimate status symbol to be their families.