American Psychological Association

Women who go on diets riskwrecking their marriages, it was claimed yesterday. Researchers have found that women who try to shed a few pounds are unwittingly damaging their closest relationships, because their husbands find it difficult to understand and cannot accept the sudden change in lifestyle.

Women who go on diets riskwrecking their marriages, it was claimed yesterday. Researchers have found that women who try to shed a few pounds are unwittingly damaging their closest relationships, because their husbands find it difficult to understand and cannot accept the sudden change in lifestyle.

In Britain, 90 per cent of women have been on a diet at some point in their lives, while only 20 per cent of men admit to having done so. People should be aware that the desire to lose weight can turn happy and good relationships into stressful marriages which end in the divorce courts, the researchers said.

While the pressure on women to be thin has never been greater, with many people resorting to fad diets, husbands are not so impressed by the anxiety and obsession that comes with dieting.

The researchers found that the key to a long and successful marriage was for a woman to ignore any concerns she had about her weight.

The authors, who presented their findings at the American Psychological Association's annual conference in Washington, said that in contrast, men dieting did not increase the chances of getting divorced.

"When men and women first meet they tend to be attracted to people of similar body size and frame," said Charlotte Markey, of the University of California, who is co-author of the research. "After a while that can change and either partner can feel under pressure to become the person they once were."

But because women are more likely to crash diet or fast than their husbands, they are putting intolerable strain on their marriages.

"Men tend to diet in a much healthier way," said Ms Markey. "They tend to eat more fruit and vegetables and increase the amount of exercise they do if they want to eat less. Women, on the other hand, tend to abstain from eating altogether, or use diet pills to reduce their weight.

"Women do diet in unhealthy ways. They can take watching what they eat too far. They are more concerned about their weight than men and so use dubious techniques that do them no good at all.

"This can put incredible stress on a marriage. That is because the woman's self-esteem falls and this has a knock-on effect on her relationship with her husband."

The researchers recruited 187 educated married couples with an average age of 36. Two-thirds of them had been through higher education. The study showed that even when women dieted in a healthy way, their husbands found it difficult to accept.

They found that women were sympathetic and supportive when men went on a diet but men soon lost patience, especially if their wives were crash-dieting. "Quick-fix diets don't work but can destroy marriages,"said Ms Markey.

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