While dating someone new can lead to weight gain if you adopt your new partner's least healthy habits, matching him bite for bite during dinners out, or ditch your standing gym dates to make it out for date night, some women swear they actually lose weight during the early days of a new relationship, particularly when they begin having way more sex after a dry spell. The "sex diet," they rave, works wonders! The pounds just fall off—despite the fact that even steamy sex doesn't burn a ton of calories—just 3.1 calories per minute for women, on average.
However, new, very preliminary research could explain this odd phenomenon: Existing research shows that a mood boost, including the one you experience when you click with a new partner, can elevate your levels of serotonin, the hormone associated with happiness. There's also evidence that serotonin is mysteriously linked to fat loss. Now researchers can finally explain the connection between serotonin and fat loss: When serotonin levels soar, the brain produces a signal that tells cells in the intestines to turn body fat into fuel, according to a new study recently published in Nature Communications.
But because about a billion other things besides your relationship status and resulting mood could affect fat metabolism, including other hormones, diet, exercise, and your environment, it's anyone's guess as to whether finding love, and in turn, happiness, is the real mechanism in weight loss from the so-called sex diet—even in light of this new research, since it involved animals, not humans.
That said, having a little extra hop in your step regardless of how well your love life's going certainly won't hurt your weight loss efforts. Whether you've just swiped right on a winner or you're single AF, you can boost your body's serotonin levels by stepping into the sunlight or another source of bright light, amping up your exercise, or tweaking your diet to contain more tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin that's found in foods like milk and chickpeas. You'll win no matter what the scale says.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.