A new poll indicates people gain significant weight in the first year or two of a relationship. Here’s why.

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You’re likely to gain weight after you get into a serious relationship, but there are strategies you can do together to help buck this trend. Getty Images

You gain more than a friend and companion when you enter a new relationship.

You gain weight.

More than three in four Americans pack on some “love weight” once they’re in a relationship.

That’s according to a new poll, which was conducted by the market research firm OnePoll on behalf of weight management company Jenny Craig.

The poll questioned the behaviors and weight gain trends of 2,000 people in relationships.

The average poll participant had gained 36 pounds since they first started dating their current significant other. They gained 17 of those pounds in the first year alone.

Men were more likely to report weight gain in the first year than women.

Almost 7 in 10 men said they had gained weight during that time while fewer than half of women (45 percent) reported the same.

The reasons for the slipping scale point back to behaviors that are inherent in many budding relationships.

During the early courting and wooing stages of a new relationship, many couples choose to dine out for dates. It’s a good opportunity to get to know each other, but it may be setting your waist up for some baggage down the road.

The lovers in the poll attributed their weight gain to this uptick in dining out with 41 percent of people saying that was the primary reason for their waistline expansion.

The second culprit was also food related.

More than 30 percent of couples said their weight gain was the result of eating more takeout or cooking and drinking together at home.

What about the food choices in these meals sets the waist up for growth?

Frankly, the respondents said, they didn’t feel the pressure to look their best all the time, so when they might have once picked a low-calorie salad and a glass of wine when dining out, their newfound coupled status may encourage them to pick the macaroni and cheese — extra cheese, please.

“Eating together, whether at home or out, is one of the most popular activities for couples to do together,” Allison Childress, PhD, RDN, assistant professor in the department of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University, told Healthline.

“Sharing meals allows us to bond even more. You may find yourself indulging in foods you would have passed on before or simply eating more or more often,” she added.

Indeed, 64 percent of people questioned in the poll say “being comfortable” and no longer feeling the need to keep up their appearance was a factor in their weight gain.

The stage of your relationship at which you slip into this comfort zone may portend when you’ll notice the pounds packing on.

Most people felt “comfortable” with their new partner by one year and five months into the relationship.

For younger people, those in the 18 to 24 age range, the comfort phase begins more quickly, as soon as 10 months.

For love birds 45 to 54, comfort comes a bit more slowly. They have to be in a relationship nearly a year and a half before they feel confident enough to let their guard down.

“In the first year of a relationship what ends up happening is that people feel like they’ve found their mate, so they no longer have to try to attract the opposite sex,” Dr. Beth Donaldson, family physician and medical director at Copeman Healthcare Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, told Healthline.

“They probably let go a little bit more and pay less attention to calories, time at the gym, and they end up doing things together, on dates, for example, that involve a lot of calories.”

Marriage also provides the gift of additional weight gain.

The poll showed that more than half (57 percent) of people admitted they gained weight in their first year of marriage. The average person put on 17 pounds.

Here again, men outpaced women, gaining 22 pounds to women’s 13.

The pounds keep creeping on after marriage, too.

The poll revealed five years into the marriage, participants had gained the most weight.

The biggest culprit of this weight gain is the demands that starting a family puts on couples. With babies and jobs, it’s hard for either partner to put much focus on their own body.

It’s not all doom and gloom if you’re trying to get back into the jeans you wore on your first date. (That is, if they’re even stylish anymore.)

A majority of people polled had actually lost weight in the year before the survey. The average poll participant had shed 16 pounds in the 365 days prior to participating in the poll.

What’s more, the poll revealed some healthy behaviors from the majority of the couples.

About 52 percent of them were currently exercising with their partner and 60 percent of them were eating healthy together. Four in ten couples were doing both.

Those couples that said they both eat healthier and move more together were twice as likely to report weight loss in the year before the poll.

The bonuses of these behaviors extend beyond the waistline, too.

“Couples who exercise and eat healthy together are also nearly twice as likely to say they’re consistently happy in their relationship than those who don’t,” Dr. Pamela Peeke, MPH, FACP, FACSM, chair of the Jenny Craig Science Advisory Board, told Healthline.

For couples both old and new, gaining weight together is an unintended consequence of falling in love.

Losing weight together, however, can be an intended benefit of having a built-in exercise and accountability partner.

These tips can help:

Plan your smarter meals.

“To start on a healthier path, couples should pay attention to their eating, physical activity, and sleeping habits to help improve weight loss,” Peeke says. “The key is to do this following the body’s natural, light-dark circadian rhythm. If they can shift their eating times toward earlier in the day and take a break from eating for 12 hours, where they stop eating a few hours before bed, they can take full advantage of their metabolism’s 24-hour rhythm.”

Be each other’s #1 fan.

“It’s important to challenge each other to eat better and exercise more,” Donaldson says. “Go grocery shopping together and push each other to opt for more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins to keep each other healthy. Sign up for a new fitness program together and encourage each other to stick to it.”

Be independent.

Don’t let your partner determine whether or not you decide to get healthy, Donaldson says.

“It’s important that couples don’t rely solely on each other — ‘I’ll only go to the gym if you do’ — when it comes to exercise or eating well,” she says. “If you and your partner don’t have a compatible schedule, don’t wait for the other one to make plans to hit the gym or eat a healthy meal. Fit it in where you can. If it happens to be at the same time, it’s a bonus.”

If you start these healthy habits early in a relationship, it’s easier to stay motivated together and to plan physical activities into your dates and daily activities.

That way, you build a strong foundation for your romantic relationship and your healthy future together.