Does Being in a Relationship Affect Your Weight?

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It's great being in a new relationship - you spend more and more time with your partner, basking in the heady feelings of love. But along with this newfound happiness, do you tend to pack on a few extra pounds, too?

There is a common notion that when you settle down into a relationship, it's easy to let yourself go. When you're single, you tend to focus on losing weight and having healthier habits in order to attract a partner. But when you're in a relationship, the pressure to keep yourself looking as attractive as possible subsides. As it turns out, there is research supporting this idea.

A recent study from The Ohio State University showed that women are more likely to gain weight when they get married (whereas men are more likely to gain weight when they get divorced). Another study, published in Obesity Research, reported that women have an average weight gain of six to eight pounds over a two-year period after getting married. But it's not just married couples - a 2009 study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that after studying 7,000 individuals over a period of a few years, those who were in relationships and moved in with their significant others were twice as likely to be overweight than their single peers.

There are some explanations for this phenomenon. For one, when meals are shared (and this is one of the most common bonding activities a couple does together), you indulge together more often. Maybe you go out for a rich pasta dinner, or you buy the extra large tub of popcorn in the movie theatre, or you get an ice cream when you're spending an afternoon at the park. It's easier to indulge with someone else.

This doesn't mean that relationships equal bigger waistlines. In fact, as long as you're aware of how your eating patterns change when you move from single to coupled, you can do a lot to prevent it.

Talk about it. There's nothing like making a plan - if you feel pressured to eat when you're not hungry, or eat foods that aren't so good for you, then feel free to let your partner know that you want something different.

Eat individually. You don't have to enjoy the same meal (or the same portions) together. If you want to have a salad while he has pizza, then make pizza and salad for dinner and each enjoy your own thing. My husband is vegetarian but I eat meat, so sometimes I make myself fish or chicken while he has a veggie burrito.

Make time for exercise. One of the first casualties in relationships is forgoing exercise. What if instead you both decided to take walks, jog, or go to the gym together? Staying healthy is a good goal for any couple.

Prepping For Your Date: A How-To Guide

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For me, the most nerve-wracking part of a date is thinking about it before it even starts. I used to wonder what each new guy would think of me, what I would say, what he'd be like. When I finally met him, usually things fell into place and it wasn't so scary.

To save you some of this angst that I felt, I've created a list to help you prepare - mentally and physically - before that next date. It's good to be prepared, because you never know when the right one will come along - and don't you want to feel ready?

Dress for success. Ok, this may seem like a no-brainer, but lots of people neglect it. Don't show up in jeans and flip flops, even if you want the person to see the "real you." Look your best and dress up a little more than you do on a day-to-day basis. First impressions are key so don't assume they don't matter.

Allow for traffic. I live in L.A., so driving was a main point of consideration for any date. I picked places that were halfway between where each of us lived, so nobody felt they had to drive too far. And I added an extra 15-20 minutes onto my commute to allow for traffic, especially after work. I didn't want to arrive late and stressed out.

Google your date. I'm all for doing a little research before you agree to meet in person. Sometimes you can find out good information, like if someone is married or an ex-con. You can't be too careful when you're dating online.

Take a few breaths - relax! If you're feeling the pressure, take some deep breaths. Tense all your muscles for a few seconds and then relax them. This will physically help remove stress from your body.

Pick a familiar place to meet. If you tend to get nervous in new situations, it's good to have some familiarity on a date. Pick a place you know and like to be, or choose an activity that you like such as biking or walking dogs. Sometimes doing an activity together takes the pressure off of sitting across a table from one another trying to come up with conversation topics.

Remember, this is only a date. This is not the time to overthink things - try your best to just have fun and enjoy the date. Save the play-by-play analysis for other parts of your life.

If it's a first date, make it short. Keep it to a coffee date or something similarly brief if you've never met. Remember, you can always stick around if you're both having a good time. (Or better yet, ask her out again.)

Most importantly - enjoy!

Can Your Playlist Help You Find Love?

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If you've ever had a boyfriend or girlfriend make you a playlist, you know that music can affect your level of attraction. If you loved it, maybe you wanted to jump across the table and declare your undying passion for your boyfriend. And if you hated his musical taste? Well, it was enough to make you rethink the relationship.

At least that's what popular music streaming service Spotify is betting on. Because of the link between music and love, they have developed two new dating apps, Fellody and Tastebuds, to help merge the two. Rather than traditional dating apps that match based on algorithms, profiles, or location using a GPS, these apps let you cut straight to the artistic chase, matching people based on similar musical tastes. So if you're a fan of Taylor Swift you won't be paired with someone who hates her music (in case that kind of thing is a deal-breaker for you).

Tastebuds matches users with a potential partner based on how much they listen to particular artists on Spotify. The potential drawback is that it scans your entire music library, so you can't hide the fact that you listen to One Direction every morning before you get ready for work. But then again, neither can your match.

Fellody is a little more customized, letting users drag and drop their playlists before searching for matches. This way, you can report only the bands you enjoy that you want to report - so you can carve out your own musical identity to potential love interests. Fellody also provides more detail, showing the percentage of overlaps in each match's music interests. Members can see all the artists they have in common, and can find out what other kinds of music a match is listening to. So even if you don't find a love match you might find a new band you like.

"Spotify and Tastebuds both believe that music is the most effective way of connecting people," Alex Parish, co-founder of Tastebuds, said in a statement. "In fact, we've found that you're far more likely to get a response to a message you send on Tastebuds than any other dating site -- 43% of first messages get a reply."

While I'm not sold on the fact that music brings people together for the long-term, I do think it provides an interesting starting point to strike up a conversation. Sometimes it's difficult to ask the same old questions for each new date, and can make you feel like you're in a rut. When you can discuss a common interest like music, you're already in a better place when you meet for the first time. I'm hopeful that Spotify's apps will bring weary online daters a new way of meeting potential love interests - and success in starting a new relationship.

eHarmony offers Free Communication this July Weekend (2012)

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Starting Independence Day, eHarmony is having a free communication event for 4 days. It will run from Wednesday July 4th, 2012 until Sunday July 8th, 2012 (US website only).

To participate in a free communication event (FCW) all you need to do is sign up as a member on eHarmony.com and create a free profile. Filling out the profile will take you about 30 minutes. Your answers to the profile questions eHarmony asks you are then used by eHarmony's matchmaking system to give you a number of matches right away. With these matches (and all matches you receive during the promotion) you can then communicate with for free. Features not included during free communication events are photos and Secure Call. No credit card is required for this promotion.

eHarmony's last FCW happened in May (see Story). By our count this promotion will be eHarmony's 40th free communication event for the US site.

To find out more about this dating site and what it can offer people looking for a long-term relationship, you can check out our review of eHarmony.com.

Skout-ing Out Your Next Date

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If you haven't heard of Skout yet, you probably will soon. The dating app has raised $22 million dollars and is poised to make a huge splash in 2012, but CEO Christian Wikilund doesn't plan to stop at dating. Skout is adding 40,000 to 50,000 new users on the app every single day and if Wikilund has his way, it will eventually become a global network on the scale of Facebook or Twitter.

In an interview with Business Insider, Wikilund described the history of Skout and his vision for the app's future. Skout got its start in 2007, before Facebook had a mobile product and location-based services were just starting to become popular. As a location-based mobile social network, Skout immediately stood out from its competitors. Skout was the first dating app for the iPhone at the time of its launch, and has since evolved into a more general service to meet new people and flirt.

"The mission for the company is to build a global network for meeting new people," Wikilund told Business Insider. "A year ago we had 30 million messages a month, last month we had 425 million messages. We were signing up a year ago 100,000 per month. Now we're signing up 40-50k users per day. Everything has been growing, basically due to a good product."

Skout's impressive growth has taken it through Hong Kong, New York, Japan, Berlin, LA, South Korea, and more. Wikilund attributes the success to Skout's ability to be whatever you want it to be. Looking to meet new friends? Skout can handle it. Looking to meet a lover? Skout can do it. Looking for long-term love? Skout can help with that, too. "Right now," said Wikilund, "50 percent of adults on a national level are single, but 80 percent of our users are single." Flirting is definitely on the Skout menu.

Using Skout is free for all basic functionality, but extra fun requires an extra fee. Users can pay to see who checked them out or to promote their profiles, but the vast majority of activities on the app come with a price tag of $0.

If all goes according to plan, 2012 will be a big year for Skout. The company plans to continue developing the product and spreading the word, and has plans to continue their growth on both the national and international stages. A major launch is also scheduled for this summer.

New Mobile Dating App Yumixo is Latest to Help Bring Online Dating Offline

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Is it just me, or does there seem to be an awful lot of mobile dating apps these days claiming to "bring the online dating experience offline?" Even online dating sites themselves are getting into the act - Match.com is offering their new service The Stir for online daters who want to cut to the chase. (The Stir sets up singles events and depending on what you like to do, you can sign up and they match you with an event.) And then there's the popular HowAboutWe.com, which allows you to post a date idea and see who bites - allowing you to bypass the profile search process.

But mobile dating apps are popping up faster than ever, each utilizing GPS capability to allow people to see who's nearby, text each other, and potentially meet up right away. There's an appeal to many daters for cutting to the chase - you want to see if there's any chemistry rather than spending a lot of time emailing in advance.

The latest app to launch into the mobile dating market is Yumixo, which reminds me of a mobile version of HowAboutWe. It uses GPS to allow members to see who is close by, but the main selling point is that members are able to post their own date ideas - either for the community or to an individual person - and see if anyone is interested in meeting up. Yumixo is integrated with FourSquare, so if you have a specific meeting place in mind, you can suggest it and your date can check it out in advance.

I like the idea of mobile dating apps, but there seems to be the ever-present element of "hooking up" for its users, which doesn't really appeal to people looking for relationships. And it can feel unsafe to meet someone so quickly without really getting to know him first, especially for women.

The great thing about all of these new services and mobile dating apps is that companies are thinking outside the usual online dating box, and looking for more organic ways to help people connect. Not every app or online dating site is right for everyone, so sometimes the best thing to do is give different ones a try and see what you like.

As you can see, there's no reason to be hesitant about online dating anymore. It's not just about looking at profiles over a computer screen, like the want ads. You can still meet people in the usual ways - at social events or just by walking into a bar. But by using dating technology, you'll know whether or not they're single and looking first.