Would you date someone on a gluten-free or vegan diet if you weren't yourself? According to dating site PlentyOfFish, the vast majority of men and women wouldn't.
A new survey of their users in the most health-conscious cities across the U.S. shows that 70% of women and 75% of men don't want to date people with such restrictive diets. And that's not the only turn-off. Thirty percent of women have felt pressured from a partner to improve their exercise habits, while 28% of men admitted they had pressured their dates to exercise more.
I got an opportunity to talk about this study with Dietician and fitness expert Crystal Higgins, who helped shed some light on the challenges of health and eating habits when it comes to dating and forming relationships.
Q: Why is exercise so polarizing among romantic partners? Are they pressured to look good, compete for attention, or prove they are healthy?
A: In a partnership, there is typically one person who is driven more to exercise than the other. The motivation behind exercising can depend on the dynamics of the relationship and the surrounding environment. For women more so than men, there seems to be pressure to stay thin and remain attractive. However, I believe that couples that sweat together, stay together. Once you're in a committed relationship, it's about feeling good about yourself and your partner. Here is a good article from Psychology Today about it.
Q: It's interesting that the people surveyed are healthy, active people, and yet they don't have much acceptance for their dates' dieting habits (even if they are healthy, like being vegetarian). Can you explain?
A: People can be less accepting for their dates' dieting habits if they feel that their own food choices might be compromised. Many people are turned off by the thought of giving up their favorite meals to compromise for their partner. Imagine if you're favorite foods are on the "black" list for your partner? Food brings people together and when you're not on same page, it's hard to fully enjoy the meal experience.
Q: Why is food such a polarizing thing? Does it have to do with how the body looks, or is it just that people want to feel free to eat what they want without restricting their choices for a partner?
A: Food choices and diet patterns are very intricate and complex at the best of times. As adults, we can make up to 200 food choices a day. We make choices based on our habits, emotions and social environment. There is such a wide range of personalities and motivating factors that affect our food choices.
At the end of the day, food is the one thing that every individual has the ability to control. People want to feel free to eat what they want without restricting the choices of their partner, or have any judgement being passed.