There’s a reason weight loss is at the top of nearly every resolution and goal list. Men and women of all ages struggle to find balance when days are packed with commuting, work and family life. Getting to the gym seems like one more hassle. While exercise is an important part of health and fitness, diet is also a huge factor when it comes to reaching and maintaining your ideal body weight.
Most of us have struggled with fad diets and crazy workout trends. The all-salsa diet, the Twinkie diet (yes, that’s a real thing) and even the tapeworm diet! With more and more of these crazy weight loss secrets popping up, it’s no wonder we are all a little confused about how to get our bodies looking and preforming their best.
There are many ways that you could be inadvertently sabotaging your weight loss efforts. Many of them we are already familiar with. We understand that eating fast food three times a day or skipping the gym for an entire month can lead to weight gain but did you know that these 8 less obvious habits that could be contributing to your weight gain and sabotaging your fitness goals?
Most of us have lived under the assumption that the longer we workout, the better. You sweat more, you lose more right? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If you are only doing cardio based workouts, you could actually be maintaining fat while losing muscle. That’s the opposite of what you want! In fact, studies have shown that after as little as 20 minutes of cardio, muscle may start breaking down. So what’s a better option? Fitness experts agree that more fat loss occurs as a result of interval training. These types of workouts combine strength training with cardio and require the body to work it’s hardest for short bursts of time, typically at intervals ranging from 30 seconds to a minute. As a result, more fat loss, not muscle loss, occurs.
Often we give ourselves permission to drink whatever we want because after all, we aren’t eating anything. Unfortunately, soda and other sugary drinks are worse for you than the occasional cheat meal (or a meal that isn’t on your dietary plan). Drinking soda causes blood sugar levels to spike and crash and are packed with empty calories. Many think that diet soda is harmless since it contains no sugar or calories. These diet fizzy drinks unfortunately contain lots of not-so-healthy sweeteners that our body still sees as sugar. For this reason, blood sugar still spikes and you may end up craving more and more sweets once that soda can is empty. If you simply can’t go without soda, choose a natural soda sweetened with stevia, a natural zero calorie sweetener.
Multitasking while eating
Many of us are guilty of multitasking. Our days seem so hectic and busy that it’s tough to take the time to get everything done separately. Maybe you are at your desk working while eating lunch or watching a movie with the kids while eating dinner or snacking. Routinely multitasking when eating can lead to weight gain. Mindless eating doesn’t allow you to recognize the feeling of being satiated or full. Your mind is occupied with something else and totally misses these natural cues that the body doesn’t need to keep consuming food. No matter how busy your day, take the time to make eating the solo event.
Lack of portion control
Restaurant portions may have something to do with our skewed sense of regular portion size. Many Americans have no idea that they are having double or triple the amount of food they need at every meal. According to the USDA, here are a few examples of what the appropriate serving sizes of many of our favorite foods should be:
- 1 ½ ounces of cheese
- 3 to 4 small crackers
- 1 slice of whole-grain bread
- ½ cup of pasta or rice
- ¼ pound hamburger patty
Does that sound like your normal serving size? Begin taking notice of just how large your serving sizes are. Even healthy foods consumed to excess can lead to weight gain.
Unfortunately, the word ‘fat’ has a negative connotation. When it comes to dietary needs however, the body requires fat in order to function. The key is to consume natural fats that come from trees and plants in moderation. Many fad diets call for cutting out any type of fat or dropping it down to extremely low amounts. Believe it or not, this could be contributing to your weight gain. Fat is needed to maintain essential fatty acids, prevent hunger between meals and give you energy. Additionally, when diets are too low in fat consumption (which is somewhere less than 20% to 25%) cravings for unhealthy food begin to set in.
We’ve all heard the saying that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day,’ and while it’s cliché it’s also true. At least in the sense that skipping any meal can be counterproductive. Skipping breakfast can lead to low energy, lack of concentration and binges later in the day. In addition to this, skipping meals leads to a slower metabolism which can pack on the pounds. If you aren’t consuming enough calories, you can actually put your body in starvation mode which will cause it to cling to every bit of food and store it for fear another meal won’t be coming anytime soon. Try eating several small meals a day to keep your metabolism at its fastest. You also won’t become so hungry between meals that you feel the need to turn to unhealthy snacks.
While it’s hard to avoid stress, it’s important to recognize that it could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts. You may be the type of person who loses their appetite in response to stress, however that’s usually temporary. With prolonged periods of stress, often people become hungrier and even turn to food as a source of comfort. When weight gain begins to happen as a result of this, more stress occurs and the vicious cycle repeats. Try taking time each day to release stress in a healthy way. Some people find exercise is enough to release the day’s stress. For others it’s taking the time to read a book, go for a walk or taking a bubble bath. Any healthy way to release stress can help you get back on track toward your weight loss goal.
It’s just a sad fact of life, generally speaking healthier foods tend to cost more. This makes it difficult for those on a tight budget to stock up on healthy meal options. It seems the more artificial and processed food is, the cheaper it is sold for on store shelves or fast food billboards. So what are you supposed to do? Getting into the routine of buying healthy grains in bulks or substituting yogurt for cream in recipes for example can help cut down the fat content and calorie counts of some cheaper favorites.