The Two Mainstream Diet Plans That Actually Work, According to Science

Diets really do work. Well, some popular weight loss programs actually live up to their promise, and help people drop a modest amount of weight—and keep it off for at least a year—according to a just-published review in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The researchers, led by Johns Hopkins University, looked at 45 studies that examined 11 commercial weight-loss programs. The most effective plans: Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers.

“Out of all the programs we examined, only Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig achieved a significant weight loss that was sustained for 12 months in multiple studies,” says study author Kimberly Gudzune, MD, MPH, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. (The study was funded by government grants, not by makers of the diet plans.)

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After a year, people on Weight Watchers had lost 2.6% more body weight compared to a control group that received counseling, while those following Jenny Craig dropped 4.9% more than the control group. “Because your starting weight can affect the amount of pounds you lose, the medical community focuses on percentage of weight lost to even the playing field,” Dr. Gudzune says. “In the studies, this translated to an average weight loss at 12 months of at least 8 pounds for Weight Watchers participants and at least 15 pounds for Jenny Craig participants. Keep in mind that your expected weight loss with these programs may be higher or lower depending on your starting weight.”

The researchers weren’t surprised that the two programs were effective. Both include social support (like coaching), structure, and frequent contact and counseling sessions, which have long been known to help people lose weight, Dr. Gudzune says. (Jenny Craig also includes prepared meals.)

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Nutrisystem also showed promise—it helped dieters lose 3.8% more weight at 3 months compared to controls—but Dr. Gudzune and her colleagues want to see how dieters are doing at the one-year mark. “Our goal is for people to lose weight and keep it off to help control blood pressure, prevent the development of diabetes, and improve cholesterol,” she says.

Meanwhile, the Atkins Diet showed mixed results. People had lost 6.8% more weight than the control group at the 6-month mark, but ultimately achieved just 0.1% to 2.9% greater weight loss at 12 months. Health Management Resources, OPTIFAST, and SlimFast—very-low-calorie meal replacement plans—showed swift weight loss in the first three months, but more research is needed to determine whether dieters can keep that weight off in the long run. And self-directed, internet-based programs like the Biggest Loser Club, eDiets, and LoseIt! were found to be no more effective than the control group.

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Though Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig were clearly more successful than the other nine diets studied, they both have a potential drawback: Cost. Jenny Craig costs $570 a month, while Weight Watchers is $43 a month. The other programs studied aren’t cheap, either: they ranged in price from free to $682 a month.

Before you’re shocked, consider what’s included in the cost, says Dr.Gudzune. While Weight Watchers gives you the online platform and group sessions, you have to purchase your own food. On the other hand, Jenny Craig comes with counseling sessions and all the food you eat for the month. In this case, thinking about your usual monthly grocery budget can help you determine if the cost is worth it for you. Plus, some programs might be covered by health insurance, partially funded by employers, or eligible for flexible spending accounts. Now, don’t you feel good about getting with the program?

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The Strange Way Fighting With Your Spouse Can Wreck Your Diet

Heading straight for the fridge after a blowout with your partner? Marital stress and bickering can in fact work up an appetite, per a new study published in Clinical Psychological Science.

Researchers at the University of Deleware and Ohio State University studied the interactions of 43 couples, who have been married for longer than three years, by filming them eating a meal together and then attempting to talk through a problem within their relationship. While the couples’ “problem discussions” took place, the scientists observed how the pair communicated, their hostility levels, and even subtle details like put-downs and eye rolls.

They also used blood tests to track the men and women’s hormone levels before and after the exchanges and examined their heights, weights, BMIs, and typical diets.

RELATED: Couples Who Don’t Fight Much Aren’t Likely to Start

It turns out, couples who had hostile exchanges and showed signs of a distressed marriage saw a surge of the appetite-triggering hormone ghrelin post-argument, and they had poorer diets overall. However, this was only the case for those who were in a normal to overweight BMI range (30 or lower).

The amped up hunger some couples may experience after a spousal spat could have negative longer-term health implications, the study explains, such as worsened emotional eating behavior or obesity.

“Ghrelin’s not just pushing you to eat,” lead study author Lisa Jaremka, an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Delaware, told Today. “It’s creating a craving for specific types of foods: those that are high in sugar, high in fat and high in salt.”

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Live to 100 By Eating These 18 Foods


Want to live to 100? Research shows your diet plays a huge role in how many birthday candles you’ll blow out. The following 18 foods are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that have been linked to longevity. Eat up!

Broccoli: It contains immune-boosting compounds, and may also help ward off stomach ulcers and even cancer.

Salmon: Including omega-3-rich fish (and others like it, such as tuna, mackerel, and sardines) as a regular part of your diet may reduce your risk of heart disease and prevent against inflammation.

Water: Staying hydrated reduces your risk for blood clots. It also helps you feel younger by keeping energy levels high.

Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries—all are bite-sized antioxidant powerhouses that stave off life-threatening diseases.

Garlic: It may not do your breath any favors, but the phytochemicals in garlic may halt the formation of carcinogenic compounds in the body.

Olive oil: The monounsaturated fats in olive oil have been linked to brain and heart health, as well as cancer prevention. Plus, dermatologists say women who follow olive-oil-rich diets have less skin damage and fewer wrinkles.

Bok choy: In a Vanderbilt University study, Chinese breast cancer survivors with diets high in cruciferous veggies like bok choy had a lower risk of death or recurrence.

Avocado: If your cholesterol numbers could use some help, listen up: eating more avocado may help lower your bad LDL cholesterol while also raising your good HDL cholesterol.

Tomato: There’s no better source for the antioxidant lycopene than rosy-red tomatoes.

Beans: Your go-to choice for plant-based protein, beans are also high in fiber, low in fat, and packed with more nutrients per gram than any other food.

Whole grains: In a study of more than 40,000 women, those who ate lots of grains had a 31% lower risk of dying from causes other than cancer or heart disease when compared with women who had few or no whole grains in their diet. (Be sure to check out the other health benefits of whole grains.)

Red wine: Research on the health benefits of wine and other alcohol is mixed, but here’s what we do know: a small amount of red wine at the end of the day may reduce stress, which is good for overall health.

Leafy greens: In a study, middle-aged people who ate a cup of cooked greens daily were half as likely to die within 4 years as those who ate no leafy greens.

Tea: Green tea has been shown to lower risk of heart disease and several types of cancer.

Coffee: Yes, your morning caffeine craving may be lengthening your life, one cup at a time. Research associates drinking coffee with a lower risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and a 2012 study found that coffee drinkers tend to live longer.

Dark chocolate: A 1999 Harvard study of 8,000 men discovered that those who ate chocolate as many as three times a month lived a year longer than those who didn’t. Try these five nutritionist-approved healthy ways to eat dark chocolate.

Nuts: With heart-healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, nuts may just be the healthiest snack you can eat. (That said, not all nuts are created equal, so choose wisely.)

Red cabbage: This vibrantly colored veggie boosts brain health and guards against cancer.

Is Your Diet Not Working? Blame the Weekends

If your scale is fluctuating more than the stock market, what you do on the weekends could be at fault. Kicking back and being less vigilant about what you eat and drink even just two days out of the week can add up to an almost nine-pound weight gain over the course of a year, according to new research published in the journal Obesity.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis followed 48 overweight adults for a year, tracking daily food intake and weight. Even from the beginning, they found a striking difference in what people ate during the week compared to the weekend: On Saturdays, people ate well over 2,200 calories, while Monday through Friday, the average calorie intake was about 2,000 calories. The amount of weight they were gaining based on these extra calories—about .17 pound a week—could translate to about nine extra pounds a year.

Lead researcher Susan Racette, PhD, and her colleagues then divided the participants into three groups: 19 subjects were put on a calorie-restricted diet, 19 were instructed to follow an exercise regimen, and 10 were asked not to change their behavior at all. Over the course of the year, members of the caloric restriction group lost an average of 17.6 pounds, the exercisers lost about 14 pounds each, and the healthy-eating control group lost just two pounds. Upon closer inspection, however, the weekends still posed a problem and thwarted weight-loss efforts.

“Those in the calorie-restricted group would have lost over .6 pounds per week, but because they overate on the weekend, their weekly weight loss was about .5 pounds per week,” Racette says. And those in the exercise group actually gained weight over the weekends.

Even though they were asked to keep food diaries, many people in the study didn’t realize that they were consuming more calories on the weekends. This could be because of the types of food they’re eating (high-calorie on-the-go options), the lack of structure in their days, or the laid-back mind-set that many of us adopt on our days off. Whatever the explanation, this study suggests that one reason why people who go on diets often don’t lose weight as fast or as easily as they first predicted is due to overeating on the weekends.

If you think your weekend might be sabotaging your diet efforts, here’s what you can do:

Weigh yourself twice a week—either Friday and Monday a.m. or Thursday and Monday a.m. There’s nothing better to keep you on track than knowing that you have to face the scale come Monday morning.

Try to stick with the same meal patterns you follow midweek on the weekend.

“Bank” calories: If you know you are going out for dinner and will overeat, cut back even more the day before and after to compensate.

Limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a diet double-whammy; it’s not only rich in calories itself, but it also reduces inhibitions and increases appetite.

If you exercise, don’t give in to your raging appetite afterward; it’ll erase the calorie burn (and then some) of your workout. Instead, fill up with lean protein and whole grains.

Pack fruit and healthy snacks or lunches if you’re going to be out of the house all day, so you don’t have to rely on food-court and concession-stand choices.

If you need to cheat on the weekend, plan what and when you’re going to cheat, enjoy it, then get back on track. One indiscretion won’t set you back—but a weekend of multiple indulgences will.


By Julie Upton, RD


Q: OK, once and for all, am I really more apt to gain weight if I eat a late dinner?A: Not necessarily, because it’s the number of calories you eat, rather than when you eat, that determines whether you’ll pack on the pounds. But chances are good that if you opt for a late dinner, you’ll be so hungry that you’ll underestimate the number of calories you’re eating and down a mega-portion, pushing your daily calories over the limit. Some experts think loading up on calories in the p.m. may also disrupt your body’s normal metabolic processes and affect the hormones that regulate blood sugars and fats, but there’s no research yet to back that up. The bottom-line: Eating a late dinner won’t automatically derail your diet, but aim for an equal distribution of snacks and meals during the day to maintain a consistent level of energy and keep yourself from gorging.

Q: What can I do to get past a weight-loss plateau?A: A plateau is one of the most com­mon—and frustrating—stages of a diet. Research shows that weight loss often levels off around the six-month mark, when dieters have generally dropped some pounds and revert to old eating habits. While diving into that ice cream, they forget they actually need fewer calories to maintain their new, lighter weight. Workouts can be less effective at this point, too, because your body becomes more efficient doing the same ol’ strength-and-cardio routine. As a result, you’re not burning as many calories as you used to. Here are three tips to get that number on the scale moving downward again.

Mix it up. Tack on 10 minutes or add a few hills to your normal run a few times per week to work out harder or longer than you normally do. Or switch types of exercise altogether—try a Spinning class, for example, instead of walking.

Keep a log. After a period of steady weight loss, you may fall into a new comfort zone and go back to over-nibbling. Record everything you eat and drink for a week to help you identify those little slipups that may sabotage your weight loss.

Try a one-week challenge. Do one of the following for a week: Eat a salad for dinner five out of seven days, eat only home-prepared dishes for all meals, or stick to zero-calorie drinks.


By Julie Upton, RD

Food Diary Can Double Weight Loss, New Study Shows

By Julie Upton, RDWhen someone comes to me wanting advice on how to lose weight, one of the first things I tell them is to write down everything they eat and drink for three consecutive weekdays and one day on the weekend. New research supports what I’ve seen hold true in client after client: Food journals can accelerate weight loss.

In a study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers from Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., found that keeping a daily diary doubled weight lost among overweight men and women with cardiovascular risk factors (high blood pressure and/or elevated cholesterol).

Diet, food diary, and support groupsNearly 1,700 patients were enrolled in the study and were put on a heart-healthy D.A.S.H. (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) regimen, which is rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and potassium, and low in sodium. (Incidentally, this is the same diet that my sister followed to lose weight and reduce her blood pressure.)

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In addition, subjects attended weekly group sessions and exercised at moderate intensity levels for at least 30 minutes a day. They were also instructed to keep diet and exercise journals. Individuals who did not record what they ate lost about 9 pounds, whereas those who kept daily diaries lost up to 18 pounds in five months. The average weight lost for the entire group was 13 pounds.

“The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost,” says lead researcher Jack Hollis, PhD. “Simply writing down what you eat encourages eating less.”

As one of the largest and longest-running weight-loss-maintenance trials ever conducted, this study gives support to a practice that we dietitians have been using for years. It’s also one of the few studies to recruit a large percentage (44%) of African Americans as participants. African Americans have a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease, conditions that are aggravated by being overweight. In this study, the majority of African American participants lost at least nine pounds, a higher number than in previous studies.

Next page: The write way to lose

The write way to loseFood journals can be written in notebooks or on Post-its, or you can go high-tech and use an online program that offers lots of bells and whistles to keep you motivated. Many of my clients prefer recording their problem meals or snacks (i.e., record all dinners and every between-meal bite) and other clients prefer to have checklists each day for their fruit and veggie goals, daily glasses of water, or 30 minutes of exercise.

I also suggest that you record the time when you eat, and how hungry you are on a scale of 1 to 10 before and after eating. This helps you get a better understanding of your cravings and food habits, and figure out whether you’re really eating when (and why) you should.

Overall, food journals serve two purposes. First, only those who really want to lose weight will actually use them regularly, so it automatically separates those with a commitment to getting healthier from those without the drive. Secondly, it helps put the brakes on mindless munching and makes us think before we eat or drink.

The Kaiser Permanente researchers set forth these guidelines for weight loss, based on their study conclusions: Keep daily records of food and beverages consumed and minutes exercised.

Eat about 500 fewer calories each day.

Follow the D.A.S.H. guidelines.

Exercise a total of 180 minutes each week (e.g., 30 minutes for six days per week).

Women: Have no more than one drink per day.

Men: Have no more than two drinks per day

By Julie Upton, RD


After a Summer of Splurging, Get Back on Track for Fall

This month, as kids head back to school and the workforce buckles down and says good-bye to the lazy days of summer, it’s time for many adults (ahem, like me) to get back on the nutrition straight and narrow.

I’ve often heard that September is the most popular diet month after January. Apparently, many people rush to Weight Watchers meetings or to the gym, or to Jenny Craig or other diet programs to help them lose the weight they gained over the summer. I’m not sure if that’s entirely true, but it doesn’t surprise me: I do know that I’m feeling more apple-ish than normal, and I can’t take it anymore.

Summer wreaks havoc on our diets because many of us don’t follow normal routines, whether it’s due to a vacation, kids being home all day, or lots of food-focused social events after work and on the weekends; they make us more likely to cheat on our diets, a little here and there. So many of us work so hard on our weight in the months leading up to swimsuit season, but often enough we revert back to our old ways once the grill comes out and the cocktails start flowing. If you add just 150 calories a day—that could be just one cold beer or a 1/2 cup of ice cream—beginning on Memorial Day, you’d be nearly four pounds heavier come Labor Day.

I figure I’m weighing in at about five pounds more than I should, but frankly, I haven’t weighed myself since the end of May. (Note to self: That’s probably one of the reasons for my little belly bulge now.) I’ve also thought about my eating patterns and concluded that weekend barbecues, cocktails and beers, and giving in to my sweet tooth all contributed to my newfound pounds.

So instead of feeling depressed and heading to the ice cream parlor for a pick-me-up, I’m making a game plan to get these five pounds off, stat. September for me means time to get serious about eating healthy.

Here’s what I’ve decided to do.

1. Weigh myself weekly. I’m getting out a calendar, putting it in the bathroom above the scale, and weighing myself each Monday morning. Ouch! Facing the music so soon after the weekend should help me curtail my Saturday and Sunday indulgences.

2. Eat lighter dinners. One of my best tricks is to diet at night and eat during the day. Since I exercise a lot, I cannot perform feeling hungry—but I can fall asleep with a little rumble in my stomach. So I’ll be generous with my breakfast and lunch, burn off those calories during the day, and eat a light salad or smaller-than-normal dinner for the next week or so.

3. Stop the sips. It’s easy to forget about liquid calories, but beer and wine can pack at least 100 calories per glass—not to mention, it’s hard to enjoy a beverage without some chips and dip, a cheese tray, or other munchies. I’m not much into alcohol, so it’s easy for me to eliminate it from my diet completely until I get back to my normal weight.

4. Set an athletic goal. I signed up for an October trail marathon at a higher altitude where I know that, 20 miles into the race, every extra ounce of flab on my body will feel like a pound. Talk about motivation to lose the weight!

5. Enlist my hubby’s help. I need the support of my other half to do this, since we eat most of our meals together. We’ll agree that whoever is cooking will take special care not to go overboard with carbs, fats, or sodium, and we’ll plate our food with appropriate portions—leftovers will go right in the fridge, so that we’re not tempted to go back to the stove for seconds. I’ve also asked him to hide my favorite trigger foods, like trail mix and whole-grain tortilla chips; I can eat entire bags of both if I’m not careful.

Stay tuned. I’ll track my progress and let you know how it goes.

By Julie Upton, RD


Stop Starving! Follow This Diet Rule to Stay Full and Still Lose Weight

One of the hardest parts of dieting and losing weight is managing hunger. Eventually, all of us lose our resolve to eat healthfully and want to give in to our appetite—because we are starving!

I know firsthand how hard it is to overcome a voracious appetite, because I pretty much have to outwit mine on a daily basis.

I also hear this complaint from my clients day in and day out, and I give them this advice: Stick with unlimited fruits, vegetables, and at least three servings a day of whole grains, which help keep us fuller on fewer calories. Now, a series of articles in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition backs up what I’ve been recommending for years.  

The studies focus on women’s weight changes over several years, and on a scientific term called “energy density.” Energy density is the calories divided by the weight of the food; foods with low energy density tend to be those that are heavy, or dense, but not high in calories.

How to eat big and loseIf you want to determine the energy density of the foods and beverages you’re consuming, here’s an easy way to calculate energy density based on the product label: Start by comparing the serving-size weight in grams to the calories.

If calories are lower than the gram weight, the food is low in energy density.

If the calories are equal to—or twice as much as—the grams, eat moderately and watch your portion size.

If the calories are more than three times the gram weight, steer clear!

Why energy density mattersHigher energy-density diets are not only high in calories, but research shows that they’re also the highest in unhealthy saturated and trans fats, and refined carbohydrates. They also contain the least amounts of fruit and vegetables. This month’s AJCN reports that an increase in dietary energy density over one eight-year study period found a 14-pound weight gain among women eating the most energy-dense foods.

Another study by Penn State University researchers found that over a six-year study period, women eating a low energy-density diet gained about five pounds over six years, while those eating the higher energy-density diet gained 14 pounds—nearly three times as much weight!

Reading labels and comparing weight to calories is the best way to get a grip on your diet’s energy density. But for starters, here are also some general guidelines.

Smart, filling food picks (lowest in energy density)Fruits and vegetables

Broth-based soups

Brown rice, oatmeal, and whole-grain bread and pasta

Water-rich foods

More calories, less filling (highest in energy density)Crackers and pretzels

Vegetable oils

Fried foods

Most sweets and desserts

By Julie Upton, RD

(PHOTO: 123RF)

How to Satisfy Late

Q: What can I eat when I’m hungry late at night but have already consumed everything my diet allows for the day?

A: If it happens only once in a while, it’s OK to indulge with a low-calorie snack, even if you’re at your daily diet max. Sip a small glass of vegetable or tomato juice, both of which are thick enough to offer a sense of fullness. Another option: an 8-ounce glass of skim milk. It’s light and filling (thanks to the protein content), but has more calories than veggie juice, so give in only when you’re extra hungry.

If you regularly go to bed feeling famished, it’s a sign you need to redistribute your calories during the day so you eat more at night. To fit in a before-bedtime snack that will curb cravings, cut out some simple extras from the rest of your day (like that third handful of nuts). Bottom line: Keep your nighttime nosh less than 100 calories, and you won’t have to worry about derailing your diet.

Julie Upton, MS, RD, is a media resource for the American Dietetic Association.

Food Fights at Home: Is Your Husband Sabotaging Your Diet?

(Getty Images)

by Julie UptonMoney conflicts are common among couples—they may even be the leading cause of fights. But did you know many couples also have fights about food on a daily basis? In fact, the topic sparks so much interest that ABC in San Francisco asked me to be a guest on View From the Bay to talk about love, marriage, and how to keep peace at meals.

Men and women often have opposing Mars and Venus moments about nutrition, which can lead to tension and arguing in relationships. The sexes are wired differently: For example, men have a biological advantage over women due to their increased muscle mass. Losing and maintaining a healthy weight is easier for guys, and harder for women.

When it comes to long-term relationships and marriage, men win out there too. Studies have shown that women tend to gain weight when they marry. (Men may gain weight, too, but overall they actually get healthier.) Many women complain that their spouses are sabotaging their healthy eating plans. In one study, more than 70% of women on diets complained that their spouses had interfered.

Here are some of the diet dilemmas women have asked me about, and my suggestions for how to handle them. If you’ve had a similar battle of the sexes over your meals and snacks, chime in below.

The salad vs. steak showdownThe problem: “My husband says salad, stir-fry, soy, and anything healthy is ‘rabbit food.’ He just wants a meat-and-potato-type meal.”

The solution: Many men don’t find a plant-based diet as satisfying as a juicy, meaty, stick-to-the-ribs meal. What you can do is offer a compromise. Don’t try to get a carnivore hubby to be a vegan, but serve smaller portions of meat and choose the leanest cuts. Pair them with a large salad or lots of steamed veggies. Try a few subtle substitutes: Serve baked and breaded zucchini fries instead of french fries, for example, and try dishes that use lean ground beef or turkey instead of the full-fat stuff. (Here are four satisfying veggie-rich options for under $10.)

Sneaky snack sabotageThe problem: “My husband brings home cookies, chips, sodas, and other junk food all the time.”

The solution: Your husband needs to know that the food he brings home isn’t helping your efforts to stick to a healthy diet, and it may be impacting the diets of your children too. While you can’t nag him about his habits, ask him to eat those foods when he’s at work or out for meals, rather than bringing them home.

Next page: Self-improvement interference

Self-improvement interferenceThe problem: “My husband tells me he likes me chubby and sabotages my diet whenever he can by taking me out to dinner or giving me chocolates.”

The solution: Many couples are suspicious when one partner embarks on a “home improvement” mission. (If your guy suddenly started hitting the gym every day, you may wonder why as well.) Your husband may be fearful of why you want to change your appearance and may be afraid that you’ll no longer find him attractive as you improve your shape. Your new and improved eating style may also make him more self-conscious of the pizza and beer he’s downing every Friday night. Offer reassurance that you love him, that your attention to diet details has nothing to do with your relationship, and that your quest for better health can benefit the both of you.

The couch-potato predicamentThe problem: “I can’t seem to motivate my husband to do anything healthy!”

The solution: Are you really trying to motivate him, or are you coming across as a nag? In many cases, it may be better to remove yourself from the role of diet or fitness coach and get him some professional help. Hire a personal trainer for him, or get him a fitness gadget like a heart rate monitor or a new piece of exercise equipment. Men tend to be motivated by challenge (as opposed to the bathroom scale, clothing sizes, or physical appearance), so set a diet and exercise plan for him that is more performance-based—like aiming to run a 5K or slim down for ski season.

The anti-diet dilemmaThe problem: “Since I’ve gotten married, I’ve gained 10 pounds in two years. At this rate, I’ll be obese by 2010!”

The solution: Research shows that both men and women tend to gain weight once they are married, but women gain more—and generally in the first two years. It’s generally a psychological issue, as we feel we are settled and no longer have to work too hard on appearance. But even though your spouse may not be going anywhere, weight gain is still unhealthy. Couples should work to maintain the weight they were when they married; this often means setting nutritional ground rules, such as eating out no more than once a week, not allowing junk food at home, and making vacations activity-oriented rather than sedentary.

If you feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle, take heart: While marriage can make some people slothful and apathetic about their weight, it can also be a great opportunity for better health. Sticking with a diet or exercise plan is easier when you’ve got a committed partner—and if you’re both motivated, there’s no better way to improve yourselves and your relationship than by working toward a common goal and becoming a healthier, happier couple. Start by setting a good example; you may be surprised by what you’re both capable of.