Struggling to hit your goal weight? Even if you’ve kicked off a fitness routine and you’re choosing healthier food, you may not be seeing the weight come off the way you’d hoped. Your expanding waistline and muffin top may be the result of something other than simply eating too many cupcakes. Research now suggests that weight gain and obesity are not only caused by a genetic predisposition or dietary and lifestyle behaviours, but are also affected by modern environmental factors. One or a few of these 25 culprits may be all that’s standing in the way of your weight-loss goals.
1. You’re not getting enough sleep
A lack of sleep may be hindering your weight-loss goals. Sleep deprivation slows your metabolism and affects the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin. Leptin tells your brain to stop eating, whereas ghrelin, produced in the stomach, stimulates hunger. Research suggests inadequate sleep is associated with low levels of leptin, high levels of ghrelin and weight gain. Turn off your phone and laptop. Instead, focus on good sleep hygiene: get to bed early, make sure your room is dark and cool and avoid all drugs including cigarettes, alcohol and sleeping pills.
2. You overeat healthy food
Nuts, avocados, whole wheat pasta, olive oil, and dark chocolate are all natural and healthy, but they aren’t void of calories. You still need to watch how much you eat of the good stuff. For example, avocado offers a ton of health benefits, but an entire fruit is over 200 calories. Find out what the serving sizes of your other favorite healthy foods are here.
3. A sluggish thyroid
Your thyroid gland makes hormones that regulate the way your body uses energy. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) disrupts your metabolism, as well as many other aspects of your health. Some estimate that as many as 10 percent of adults have hypothyroidism, which is more common in women and is most often diagnosed in the 40s and 50s.
4. You’re eating hidden sugar
Hidden sugars are everywhere. The biggest culprits include muesli bars, breakfast cereals, sports drinks, sauces and spreads – even certain peanut butter brands contain sugar. So what’s the big deal? Added sugars are now considered to be more damaging than dietary fat to your weight and overall health, contributing to conditions including dental decay, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Read labels and avoid products with high amounts of added sugar. It may be listed as corn syrup, sucrose, malt, glucose, molasses, fructose, maltose or fruit juice concentrate.
5. You skip breakfast
Skipping breakfast may seem like a great way to save calories, but keep in mind that people who eat breakfast regularly lose more weight — so make sure to eat breakfast each morning to jump-start your metabolism. Don’t just grab anything; include protein to give yourself sustainable energy and fiber to fill you up for hours.
6. You count calories, not nutrients
There is no question that portions need to be smaller in order to lose weight. However, we have become so obsessed with calorie control that we often overlook the most important aspect of food – the nutrients. Instead, think quality. Don’t just focus on the calories. Instead, choose nutrient-dense foods and nourish your body with the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in fruit, vegetables and wholefoods.
7. You don’t practice portion control
When it comes to a balanced diet, we know that portion control is one of the keys to success. Keep measuring cups and spoons on-hand to make sure your serving sizes are appropriate, and learn how to give your body the “I’m full” signal in order to help you drop the fork when the time is right and move on with your day.
8. Out-of-whack hormones
As many as 1 in 10 women of childbearing age have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition in which a woman’s ovaries produce an excess of male hormones. In addition to causing ovulation problems and infertility, PCOS may go hand-in-hand with insulin resistance, a glitch in the way your body processes blood sugar, which is often associated with excess fat storage, especially around the waist. Left untreated, insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes.
9. You’re absorbing environmental oestrogens
Also known as xenoestrogens, these are synthetic chemicals found in plastics, fertilisers, detergents and cosmetics. While the effects of xenoestrogens on the body are still being studied, it is believed they can mimic the biological hormone oestrogen. Excess oestrogen can result in weight gain in both men and women. So, ditch plastic drink bottles and containers and opt for glass instead. Buy organic products if possible.
10. You eat while standing up
Standing at the fridge or the counter to chow down isn’t saving time or energy and can lead to mindless eating. It’s best to designate time for snacking and meals that’s set apart from other activities.
11. You overindulge on diet food
Going for foods with a lower calorie count can be deceiving since many times they’re filled with extra sodium, sugar, or chemical additives to make up for the ingredients the company has removed or decreased. Not only are these light versions less nutritious, but they also end up tasting “lighter,” leading you to eat more. You’ll probably end up consuming more calories than you would if you just ate a regular-sized portion of the real thing.
12. Your medicine is to blame
13. You sit down too much
Watching the Kardashians, doing sedentary jobs and stalking old flames on Facebook is a far cry from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. You may think you’re too busy to exercise, but the reality is we are meant to move. Instead, fidget around. Research suggests those who fidget burn hundreds of extra calories throughout the day. Fidgeting includes crossing or uncrossing the legs, stretching, standing up often or maintaining a good posture. Aim to move every 30 minutes to bump your body out of hibernation mode.
14. You don’t have time to cook
The combination of busy lifestyles and fast food at our fingertips has resulted in less food preparation in the home. Grabbing breakfast on the go or takeaway for dinner is not good for your waistline. Set a goal to attempt a new, healthy 20-minute meal each week. Whenever you make a meal, make extra and freeze portions for those days you don’t have time to cook.
15. You forget to eat your veggies
Eating five to seven servings of fruits and veggies a day is important for everyone, but dieters who go heavy on the produce are more likely to lose weight and keep it off since a diet full of plant-based foods offers a greater variety of nutrients with fewer calories — and all that fiber keeps the body feeling fuller longer.
16. You only do cardio
If you live on the treadmill but never lift a pound, then you’re missing out on one of the most important pieces of the fitness puzzle. Not only does weight lifting prevent injury by strengthening the joints, but it also builds muscle mass and increases metabolic rate. Bonus: Thanks to a revved-up metabolism, you’ll keep burning calories long after you’ve slipped off your sneakers.
17. You’re not eating enough good fats
For decades dietary fat was considered the enemy when it came to weight loss. But interestingly, since the introduction of low-fat products we have seen an increase in obesity around the world. Scrap your negative view on fat and include a small amount of “good” fats in each meal. The essential fatty acids in flaxseed oil, oily fish, nuts and seeds not only help you feel full but also facilitate fat breakdown.
18. You’re body has a set point
The set point theory says our body is programmed to be a certain weight and fights to stay there. This may explain why calorie restriction alone doesn’t produce long-term weight loss. Steady weight loss through a balanced diet and exercise is the only proven way to lower your set point. Aim for a loss of a kilo a week and give your body time to adjust.
19. You exercise on an empty stomach
If you regularly exercise without eating first, you should reconsider: When you work out on an empty stomach, research shows that the calories burned come from muscle, not fat. Since muscle burns more calories than fat, the more muscle mass you have, the better it is for weight loss. Not only will fueling your body help you avoid losing muscle, but you’ll also have more energy to push yourself through your workout.
20. You cut out entire food groups
Giving up entire food groups can lead to a nutritional deficiency — not to mention trigger major cravings for whatever food has been cut. Rather than, say, eliminating all carbohydrates, focus on whole grains, and remember to monitor portion control. Usually it’s the extra servings that add to your waistline, not the pasta itself.
21. You don’t eat enough
Don’t starve yourself to save calories for later. It’ll not only mess up your metabolism, and by dinnertime, that famished feeling will likely cause you to eat more than you would if you weren’t starving. Not only is depriving yourself not sustainable for continued weight loss, but limiting yourself to too-small portions can lead to excess snacking between mealtimes.
22. You always dine out
Hitting your favorite restaurant is a great way to unwind, but you’re more likely to indulge in a huge meal, which might include appetizers, drinks, fried foods, and dessert. Calorie counts are also a mystery, especially since smaller food establishment don’t list their numbers. If you don’t want to give up your nights out, then split a meal with a friend, order healthy options like salads and grilled chicken, and sip water instead of wine.
23. You refuel post-workout wrong
A post-workout snack is just that — a snack. And unless it’s mealtime, what you eat after an average workout should be around 150 calories. Since healthy foods like trail mix can be high in calories, measure out a serving instead of mindlessly chomping straight out of the bag.
24. You’re having uncontrolled eating episodes
If you have a healthy appetite, it’s no fun to pay attention to your portion sizes. But experts say it’s an essential part of an effective weight-loss regimen. Keep a lid on how much you eat, plan each day’s food consumption. Know when you’ll eat, and how much. And snack not on cookies and other sweets, but on healthy, filling natural foods. Nuts and raisins are a great option — in part because nuts help keep you feeling full for a long time.
25. You’re drinking alcohol
For most women, there’s nothing wrong with an occasional drink. But if you’re having trouble losing weight, consider the possibility that habitual alcohol consumption — even at a moderate level — can cause a daily calorie “overdose.” A single five-ounce glass of wine, for instance, might contain 120 calories. A cocktail? More like 300 to 400 calories. To lose weight, you might have to lose the habit.
26. You’re stressed out
It’s hard to lose weight if you’re always stressed out. That’s because stress triggers the body to release cortisol, an appetite-stimulating stress hormone. Even if you’re not feeling especially hungry, stress can cause mindless snacking. Instead of eating, what can you do when you feel stressed? Go for a walk or take a series of deep, relaxing breaths.
27. You make things complicated
One of the biggest weight loss mistakes that many women make and thus not able to lose their belly flab is that they overcomplicate things. With weight loss, often times, simplicity is best.
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