A Hidden Benefit of Dieting?

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Dieting during the holiday season can be tough going, with extra calories seeming to lurk around every corner. If you need some inspiration to stick with it, keep in mind that your efforts might not be a benefit only to you. A study in the journal Obesity suggests that if you lose weight on a diet, your spouse or partner is also likely to lose some weight.

To evaluate this “ripple effect,” researchers assigned 130 overweight or obese people (two-thirds women) to either Weight Watchers (which funded the study) or a self-guided diet (based simply on a four-page handout about healthy eating and weight-loss strategies). The spouses or cohabiting partners, most of whom were also overweight or obese, were not invited to take part in the weight-loss attempts.

After six months, the Weight Watchers group lost an average of 9.5 pounds, while the self-guided group lost 7 pounds. Meanwhile, the spouses or partners in both groups lost an average of 4.5 pounds; one third of them lost at least 3 percent of body weight.

Much research has shown that “weight within couples is highly interdependent,” according to the researchers, and “spouses often enter marriage at a similar weight status and mirror each others weight trajectories over time.”