Miércoles 11 de Abril de 2007, Ip nº 186

Men: move in with one, and fat follows
If you are considering moving in with your loved one, then take note. Cohabitation can seriously increase your waistline. When Dr Amelia Lake, of Newcastle University, examined the eating habits of men and women who move in together she found that women normally come off worse as they tend to eat more foods high in fat and sugar.

It is estimated that the result of doing so leads to an average weight gain of 4lb for women in the first year of living together. It may not sound drastic, but if such gains continue, you could be more than a stone heavier within four years.

If this sounds familiar, then think back to your first few dates with your partner. According to the most recent edition of Proceedings of the Nutrition Society , women eat differently in front of men, probably, as Margaret Hetherington, professor of biopsychology at Glasgow Caledonian University, speculates, in the desire to look feminine.

But familiarity seems to breed consumption. In other words, once you have got your man you are less restrained with your food. Studies indicate that when eating with family and friends our consumption can soar by 40 to 70 per cent. Such meals last longer, so more is eaten, and, apparently, our perception of palatability is enhanced when eating with others.

Dr Lake points out that as well as eating more once we settle into a live-in routine, women tend to change what they eat, too. Loosening our female-singleton healthy food habits is largely because we are trying to please our partners, she says.

“A significant proportion of women said that they see their partner’s influence on diet as negative. You have often got two separate food systems coming together and, no matter what people say, you are not going to like all the same foods.

“If one partner is always saying, ‘takeaway, takeaway’ and the other is always saying, ‘salad, salad’, it could cause problems and there will obviously need to be some compromise.”

It is a wildly sweeping assumption that all single men survive on takeaways and fast food. But should yours have such a penchant and if compromise is the key to weaning him off them, then you need some facts and figures at your finger-tips. Men are problem-solvers and research suggests that they tend not to recognise that they have a weight problem until they are clinically obese. So if you can say, “Darling, here’s the problem: you need a bigger-size waist in your trousers. Here’s the solution: we need to make healthier takeaway choices”, he may well agree and you both win.

When it comes to pizza, for instance, a Hawaiian ham and pineapple version has 688 calories per thin-based pizza, while a pepperoni pizza has 843. Whereas egg fried rice has 588 calories in each portion, plain boiled basmati rice has 215. Tandoori chicken has 321 calories a serving; chicken tikka masala 680.

If compromise and reasoning do not work, then stealth is another option. It is not hard to shave 200 calories off a standard spaghetti bolognese simply by using extra-lean mince and dry-frying onions instead of drowning them in olive oil. The same goes for lasagne. Lean mince for the base and skimmed milk and reduced fat cheddar for the sauce brings calories down from 668 a serving to just 400.

He loves sausages and mash? Fine, serve reduced-fat versions and make your mash with semi-skimmed milk instead of lashings of butter. If steak and chips is his favourite, buy two lean steaks, give him the larger of the two, serve his with oven chips and have yours with a huge salad.

If you use ready meals, buy the healthy eating versions and throw the packet away before he sees it. These days they taste great, and swapping a traditional beef casserole containing 585 calories for a healthy version saves 205 calories at least.

If your man is in charge of the kitchen, then scour the cookery bookshelves. It is surprising how many chefs have cleaned up their culinary acts from a nutritional point of view.

Antony Worrall Thompson, for example, has brought out his GI Diet cookery book (Kyle Cathie, £12.99) and Ainsley Harriott has written Low-fat Meals in Minutes (BBC, £9.99). Raymond Blanc forged the way in the early 1990s with his “nutritious yet delicious” approach to food in Blanc Vite . There should be something in this selection to inspire your partner to cut down on cream and begin whipping up healthy meals that you can share.

If all this sounds too much like hard work you can take the devil-may-care route and just bowl right into your new home with pots of sprouting beans, a five-speed juicer and a yoghurt maker, and let your partner fit in with your preferred gustatory habits. After all, Dr Lake concluded: “Couples should see moving in together as a chance to improve both partners’ life-styles for the better.” This could be your gesture.

  27/03/2007. Times Online.