Despite your best dieting and exercising efforts, are you still not losing weight? Or, have you even gained weight? It happens to most of us at one time or another. We hit a plateau with our weight and we just get stuck there. Here are nine surprising slim-down saboteurs that might be getting in the way of your weight loss. By being aware of these pitfalls, you can make adjustments in your behavior and lifestyle to avoid weight gain in the future. And hopefully, you’ll soon start to see some results again when you step onto the bathroom scale.
#1 Slim-down Saboteur: Spending too Much Time on the Couch Watching TV
According to a study at Deakin University, Australia, people that watched 1 to 2 ½ hours of TV per day were 93% more likely to be overweight than those that watched less than one hour of TV per day. “When adults watch TV, they are virtually motionless,” notes Tom Farley, M.D., chair of the department of community health sciences at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. “And research has found that your heart rate, blood pressure and metabolic rate all slow down while you’re watching TV — even more than if you were sitting in a chair doing nothing.” While watching TV, the average-sized adult’s metabolism slows down and burns 20 to 30 fewer calories per hour. So if you watch 5 hours of TV a day, this could lead to a one-pound weight gain each month. And when you factor in all the extra calories consumed while snacking in front of the TV, it’s no wonder the majority of Americans are overweight.
A Slimming Solution: You don’t have to cut out watching TV all together. Just enjoy your favorite shows and then turn it off and do some other activities. And avoid filling up on unhealthy snacks while sitting in front of the TV. Instead, try chewing gum, or take up a craft like knitting, needlepoint, or some other activity to distract you from snacking.
#2 Slim-down Saboteur: Gaining Weight After Getting Married
Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that newlyweds often gain an average of five pounds during the first two years of marriage. It’s because their eating habits change and they start to eat the same things. Women generally make more changes in their eating habits than men do. “When you’re single, you’re more likely to skip meals or just have a salad for dinner. But when you’re married, you tend to eat larger meals with multiple courses,” says Jeffery Sobal, Ph.D., an associate professor in nutritional sciences at Cornell.
A Slimming Solution: Try exercising together to offset any possible weight gain. A study at Indiana University found that married couples who joined an exercise program together were 95% less likely to drop out after a year than married people who joined individually. When preparing your meals, try making the reduced-fat recipes of your favorite dishes, eat more natural, whole foods including plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoid processed and packaged foods as much as possible.
#3 Slim-down Saboteur: Constantly Being Stressed-out
Stress boosts the production of cortisol in your body which is a hormone that signals your body to store more fat. Fat around your waistline is the most harmful to your health. It is linked to diabetes, high cholesterol and other health problems. Plus, cortisol increases your appetite and makes you crave sweets and fatty foods. If you’re constantly under stress, it can quickly add up to unwanted pounds around your midsection.
A Slimming Solution: First, change what you can and let go of what you can’t. Second, when you’re in a stressful situation, take a short break and take a few deep breaths to calm your nerves and clear your head. Go for a walk, meditate, light a scented candle, and visualize a peaceful place in your mind such as a tropical island. This will help reduce your levels of stress hormones and minimize some of the appetite-triggering and fat-storing effects that come with stress.
#4 Slim-down Saboteur: Occasional Drinking
Researchers at the University at Buffalo found that those who drink alcohol infrequently, but have four or more drinks on occasion (even just once a week) have more belly fat than those who drink more frequently.
A Slimming Solution:When it comes to drinking, moderation is the key, which is defined as one drink or less per day for women and two drinks a day for men. But if you’re going to have a few drinks, wine is your best choice if you’re trying to lose weight. The University at Buffalo study found that wine drinkers have less risk of getting a “beer belly” compared to those who drink hard alcohol. Instead of hitting the hard stuff, have a glass of wine or a champagne spritzer.
#5 Slim-down Saboteur: You Eat More During the Winter
Many people consume from 300 to 1,500 more calories per day during the winter months, according to surveys. Shorter daylight hours may lead to lower levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which can make you feel lethargic and crave carbs and sweets, explains Raymond W. Lam, M.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia.
A Slimming Solution: Take a short walk in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak. The sunshine and exercise can boost your mood, plus the physical activity will help burn off extra calories.
#6 Slim-down Saboteur: Lack of Sleep
If you don’t get enough quality sleep each night, it can interfere with your metabolism and cause you to unwittingly pack on extra pounds. Sleep deprivation can lead to increased insulin resistance (when your body doesn’t utilize blood sugar properly, which increases your risk of diabetes) and a decrease in leptin (a hormone that plays a key role in signaling satiety of your hunger). These hormonal changes can cause weight gain. And it doesn’t take long for a sleep deficit to add up. Some people experience the adverse effects of these hormonal changes after just five days of getting four hours of sleep per night. The amount of sleep each person requires varies, but generally, the average person needs between seven and eight hours of sleep per night.
A Slimming Solution: Simply get more sleep, says Lauren Broch, Ph.D., associate director of the Sleep Disorder Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, New York. “If you’re trying to fit in that last load of laundry at midnight, find another time of day to squeeze it in and go to bed.”
#7 Slim-down Saboteur: The Lighting in Your Home is too Bright or Too Dim
People who are overweight tend to eat more food in brightly lit rooms compared to rooms with low lighting, researchers report. “Bright lighting makes some people feel more aroused, which could lead them to eat faster and consume more total calories,” says Nanette Stroebele, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Contrary to this, Stroebele says, people on a diet tend to eat more under dimmer lights, perhaps because they lose their self-consciousness and food restraint.
A Slimming Solution: Adjust the lighting in your home so it’s neither too bright nor too dim.
#8 Slim-down Saboteur: Food and Snacks are too Easily Accessible
If you keep your favorite snack foods right at your fingertips, you’ll be more to grab them and gobble them up without a second thought. According to research, foods stored on lower shelves in the pantry are eaten more often than foods stored on upper shelves. Another finding was that you’re more likely to get a second helping when food is served on the dinner table as opposed to food served on the stove.
A Slimming Solution: If you’re dieting, the best thing to do is rid your house of all unhealthy foods and fattening treats. But if you must keep a few treats on hand, try storing them on the top shelves in your pantry. And serve your meals from the stove (not the dining table) to see if it has any effect on whether or not you go back for second helpings.
#9 Slim-down Saboteur: Listening to Music or Watching TV while Eating
People tend to eat more when listening to music or watching TV than when eating in silence, explains Stroebele. Such distractions make people spend more time eating at the dining table, which could lead to overeating.
A Slimming Solution: Turn off the TV and stereo and enjoy meal times with your family. You might be surprised how much you enjoy the good food and conversation with your loved ones.
By being aware of these slim-down saboteurs, you should be able to avert these pitfalls and avoid weight gain when you are trying trim your waistline in the future.