Wait until you’ve got a diploma in hand before you tie the knot with the other, or else you may wind up with a lifetime of obesity-related health issues. A study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior reveals marital timing is a key predictor for obesity. Researchers weighed and watched couples for 13 years and found a person was more likely to become obese if they married first and graduated college second.

"People who get married before they earn a degree from a four-year college are about 65 percent more likely to later become obese than people who get married after college," the study’s lead author Richard Allen Miech, a research professor at the University of Michigan, said in a press release. "While a college degree has long been shown to be associated with lower levels of obesity, the results of this study indicate that the health benefits of college do not accrue to people who get married before graduating."

In 1995, researchers from the American Sociological Association started tracking 14,000 individuals between the ages of 11 to 19 years old. They interviewed and measured the body mass index of the youths throughout the years until they all reached the average age of 28. What they found was when people earned college degrees played a role in their weight. More than one-third of adults in America are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and nearly 40 percent of Americans hold a college degree — but when they earned that degree is what matters.

"People who earn a college degree before getting married are more likely to navigate the changes associated with marriage without shortchanging their health," Miech said. "On average, the initial transition into married life is associated with weight gain, as individualistic exercise tends to drop off and food consumption increases. However, new spouses who graduated from college before getting married typically earn more money than those who did not and can invest in their health by purchasing such things as a gym subscription or healthier, more expensive foods.”

Today, graduates between the ages of 25 to 32 working full-time earn an average of $17,500 more each year than their less educated, high school diploma-holding peers, according to the Pew Research Center. College graduates are 89 percent more likely to have a full-time job and significantly less likely to be unemployed compared to high school grads. Embarking on marriage with a solid career to stand on will help take your focus away from navigating through life with uncertainty and allow you to reinvest focus into your spouse, according to the findings.

Income and debt are two financial conflicts couples often argue about, and which, inevitably decrease relationship satisfaction, according to a 2013 study. It isn’t just about putting your money problems behind you before you say “I do,” but it’s also about the skills you develop in college that help mature you to be a better partner with a more adept set of skills. Once married, those skills will help lay the foundation for a healthy and well-balanced daily routine with your partner.

"In addition, people who earn a college degree before getting married are more likely to have developed problem-solving skills that allow them to overcome obstacles that may prevent them from exercising and eating healthy as they adjust to married life," Miech said. "On the other hand, our research suggests that people who earn a college degree after marrying may have established exercise and diet habits that are more difficult to change later."

Source: Miech RA, Shanahan MJ, Boardman J, and Bauldry S. The sequencing of a college degree during the transition to adulthood: implications for obesity. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 2015.