Does this sound familiar? You’ve followed all your doctor’s instructions. You’re eating all the right foods and working out. But you’ve hit a wall, and no matter what you do, you can’t seem to lose the rest of the weight.
You’re not alone. The changes that most people make when first trying to lose weight — starting a new exercise routine, changing their diet, and eating smaller portions — are all beneficial lifestyle modifications, but after an initial period of weight loss, many people find they reach a plateau. When this happens, you may find that you need to examine other areas of your life where healthy changes may be in order.
Following are 5 common habits that may be interfering with your weight-loss efforts.
- You’re not getting enough sleep. When we’re busy and cramming more and more into our already packed schedules, the first thing to go is usually sleep. But not getting enough shut-eye can have serious health consequences. Sleep deprivation can alter the function of ghrelin, the hormone that triggers hunger. Being tired also makes you more inclined to make poor food choices. And if you’re too tired to cook, you may find yourself resorting to easier options like fast food or packaged foods. When you’re well rested, you’ll likely find that cravings for junk food are less common. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night to keep hormones in balance and cravings in check.
- You’re watching too much television. For every two hours you spend watching television every day, your risk of obesity increases by 23 percent, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. A study showed that watching television stimulates the appetite, triggers cravings for junk food, and leads to the consumption of larger portions. And when you’re distracted by the television, it’s easy to eat more than you realize. Limit yourself to no more than two hours of television per day, and try to refrain from snacking when in front of the TV.
- You’re drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol consumption was found to be the number-one contributor to overeating, above sleep deprivation and television watching. Alcohol is high in calories, and can interfere with ghrelin function in the same way that sleep deprivation does.
- You’re not paying enough attention to your meals. Eating mindlessly — whether you’re watching TV, playing on your phone, or driving — can lead you to eat more than you realize. People who conduct other activities while eating tend to eat faster, consume more calories, and eat twice as much food than they do when not distracted, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. If you tend to eat on the go or while performing other activities, try eliminating your distractions, eating your meals at the table, and eating more mindfully.
- You’re eating out too often. People tend to consume 200 more calories when dining out versus cooking at home, according to a study published by Public Health Nutrition. Those extra calories are the result of larger portions, higher fat counts, and a lack of produce. A separate study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that adults who eat out at least three times a week tend to be more overweight than those who eat mostly at home. If you’re eating out more than once or twice a week, take a look at your dining habits to see where you can make changes. If cooking at home more isn’t possible, see if you can choose restaurants with healthier options, and ask your server to box up half of your food before it even gets to the table.
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Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on March 13, 2017