You may be feeling frustrated that you can't lose those last ten pounds—or that you're even gaining weight despite exercising regularly. What gives? While exercise is certainly important, you need to consider other factors as well. Read on to learn about some unhealthy habits that may be sabotaging your weight and health goals.
Habit 1: Poor Preparation
Good preparation means a lot of things. For example, it means stocking your fridge and pantry with healthy foods such as lean protein, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. These ingredients will help you eat what you should and when you should. Good preparation also means having a plan when you go to a restaurant, as well as keeping healthy snacks on hand to curb those evil cravings.
Habit 2: Not Eating Enough Protein
People who consume too many of their calories from carbohydrates, especially simple sugars, usually have a hard time losing weight. Protein takes twice the energy to digest, keeps you feeling full longer, lowers blood sugar, and helps to reduce cravings. Excellent sources of protein include skinless chicken and turkey breast, pork tenderloin, seafood, and lean cuts of beef. Other good sources of protein include eggs, nuts, Greek yogurt, green peas, lentils, hemp, kale, beans, nut butter, and protein bars and powders.
Habit 3: Not Drinking Enough Water
Drinking enough water helps skin, bones, joints, digestion, and brain functioning, but did you know water also helps with weight loss? Drinking enough water increases energy and discourages overeating. The recommendation for daily water intake is to drink half your weight in ounces (for example, a 150-pound person should drink at least 75 ounces a day).
Habit 4: Consuming Too Many Liquid Calories
Liquid calories are often the silent preventers of weight loss. They don’t keep you full, they take little energy to burn, and they spike blood sugar levels faster than whole foods. Avoid fruit juice, sport drinks, soda, and alcoholic beverages. Instead, drink water, tea, or coffee without sugar. If you must have a sweetened drink, try a sugar-free soda or a low-calorie powdered beverage.
Habit 5: Not Getting Enough Sleep
Getting the right amount of sleep seems to be a major factor in maintaining a healthy weight. The reason is hormones, specifically leptin and ghrelin. Separate studies conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and Stanford University indicate that sleep deprivation reduces leptin levels and increases ghrelin levels. Low leptin reduces the feeling of satisfaction after eating, while high ghrelin stimulates appetite, leaving you more hungry during your waking hours and, likely, heavier.
Habit 6: Skipping Breakfast
Eating breakfast stimulates your metabolism in the morning. Even if you are in a hurry, you should make time to grab something healthy for breakfast. Try to get a good balance of complex carbohydrates and protein, with a little healthy fat. Why not try one of these breakfast ideas: eggs and a slice of whole grain toast with natural peanut butter, a cup of Greek yogurt with fruit, or a bowl of oatmeal topped with berries and skim milk. If you are usually in a hurry in the morning, stock up on some low-sugar protein bars.
Habit 7: Shopping the Center Aisles of the Grocery Store
A good rule when at the grocery store is to shop the perimeter of the store, which contains the whole, non-processed foods you should be eating: produce, lean meat, and low-fat dairy. One exception to the perimeter rule is the freezer section (typically in the middle of the store), where you can find frozen vegetables and no-sugar-added fruit.
Habit 8: Poor Record Keeping
If you have been trying to lose weight for a while with no success, try keeping a food journal. Log everything that goes into your mouth by writing it down or by using one of the many apps available. You may find you've been eating more than you thought, especially snack and junk foods, which may be sabotaging your healthy-living efforts.
Habit 9: Not Lifting Weights
Losing fat will not come easily with diet and cardio alone. The key is to combine these elements with weight training, which optimizes your ability to shed not only weight but fat. While both weight lifting and cardio burn calories and boost your metabolism, cardio only raises metabolism during the exercise and for a short time after. In contrast, weight lifting increases metabolism during the training session and for a long time afterward, meaning you burn more calories for hours or even days after the session has ended.
Habit 10: Throwing in the Towel
When trying to lose weight, no one is perfect and many succumb to a craving or have an unhealthy meal. But instead of blowing the whole day or week, forgive yourself and get back to your plan right away. Those who give up for the rest of the day, week, month, or year due to a momentary setback will never achieve lasting weight loss. Mistakes happen, and the weight-loss battle is won or lost depending on how you respond to those mistakes.
Which unhealthy habits are you going to replace with healthier ones so you can achieve your health-related goals?
Still looking for other tips and tricks to avoid the weight gain? We have another article on how to avoid the holiday weight gain.