If you're single and looking, finding the right mate is important to you.
If you also want to be as healthy and fit as possible for the rest of your life, how you select your mate may be key to that goal.
Research studying the effect of marriage on weight and physical activity suggests that marriage tends to encourage a more sedentary lifestyle. This makes sense, especially when one of you isn't very active.
Couples usually spend a lot of time together. So, if your mate is sedentary and only likes to eat fast, processed foods, spending time together means someone's going to have to give.
My patient Donald used to be active in sports. But once he got married and established a household and family, his lifestyle changed. It happened gradually, as did the negative effects on his health.
"One day I looked in the mirror and saw a middle-aged dude with a gut and double chin. What had happened to that guy who liked to be fit?" he said. Donald's wife had never been interested in exercising. He was concerned that if he started getting active, he might disrupt the stability of his relationship and appear selfish.
When Donald was single and dating, his potential mate's health habits were not on his radar. He knew he wanted someone who was attractive, had a sense of humor and was attentive. He looked for that and found it. But, looking back, he acknowledged that Amy was never an active person, nor did she show any other signs of making health a priority. It didn't seem important at the time.
Though Amy's poor health habits have influenced his behaviors, they shouldn't keep him from getting fit. Nor should he blame her, since Donald's behaviors probably influenced Amy's or at least reinforced them.
What should you learn from Donald's experience?
Just as you should consider how you both approach issues such as child rearing, religion and finances, it's important to carefully assess the health habits of a potential mate. Even if they look great now, their attitudes and habits concerning health, food, cooking and exercise will have a tremendous impact on what happens to you in the future.
Here are some things you can do to make it more likely that the person you decide to commit to will also be a positive influence on your healthy pursuits:
• Find activities and events that focus on healthy behaviors. For example, a Meet Up (a popular large network of local groups) centered on hiking or cycling rather than bar-hopping is more likely to attract other health-minded people.
• Take active singles vacations. A canoeing singles adventure tour is definitely going to involve more active folks than a luxury culinary group vacation.
• Writing a personal ad? Don't just say you're looking for an active person. Describe the kinds of healthy things you do so people who lead the same kind of lifestyle will be drawn to your ad.
• Don't be swayed by someone who lists active things they've only recently picked up. Listen and look for signs that this is not just a recent health kick or weight-loss program, but a real lifestyle for them.
• Make sure you try to involve your current love interest in your regular healthy lifestyle. Not only will they see what life would be like with you, but you both will see if they fit into the same kind of world you want to live in.
Whether you're young or old, if you're single and looking for a life mate, look for traits that tend to have lasting effects, including healthy habits. Nothing should keep you from pursuing a healthy lifestyle, but you sure can make it easier on yourself if you have a partner committed to the same goals.
Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.