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25 Science-Backed Habits That Sabotage Weight Loss

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Do not over-consume alcohol and junk foods on holidays. Do not misuse your cheat days or reward yourself. Count calories, don't binge and sleep well. Shun overindulgent late-night and stress-induced eating. Don’t starve yourself or keep switching diets. Avoid vegetable oil, sugar, and sugary drinks. Focus on your food while eating. Emphasize on strength building, not weight loss.

Do you believe you have what it takes to lose weight?

Good! Losing weight is as much mental as it is physical. If your mind doesn’t believe it can happen, it won’t.

Now, most articles on the web don’t look into all aspects of weight loss. Vague advice like ‘eat less, move more’ won’t guarantee weight loss1. So in this article, I will discuss habits that stop folks from attaining ideal weight even when they eat healthily and exercise.

Here you go – 25 habits that may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

1. Overeating On The Weekends

According to research2, most folks maintain healthy eating habits on weekdays and overeat on the weekends.

Eating high-calorie foods and overindulging in alcohol from Friday to Sunday can easily cause weight gain. You have to change your eating habits on the weekends if the scale goes up every Monday morning.

Be more aware on the weekends to realize what makes you overeat. If it’s being idle – keep yourself busy. If it’s eating restaurant food – cook your own meals3.

2. Cheat Days Overindulgence

Cheat days are supposed to help you overcome the stress of dieting and maintain healthy eating habits. But most folks see them as an opportunity to overindulge in unhealthy foods.

In many instances, dieters lose control and continue bingeing days after the cheat day. If this happens to you, stop having cheat days. Just eat the foods you enjoy when you crave them instead of planning for a specific day to eat them.

Cheat days only work for people with control of food. If you don’t, stay away from them.

3. Underestimating Calories Consumed

Various studies4 show that people underestimate the number of calories they consume and overestimate calories burnt through exercise.

If you’re not losing weight chances are you’re eating too much. Counting calorie is the only way to know for sure if you’re on a real calorie deficit. And you don’t have to count forever, just do it until you can accurately eyeball portions5.

MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular tracking apps. You can use it to track your weight and daily calorie intake.

4. Late-Night Eating

Research has proven that eating late at night causes weight gain. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate between 11 pm and 5 am gained more weight than those who didn’t.

And a 6 months study conducted on 160 healthy adults found that 37% of the subjects were eating past 11pm, for 3 consecutive days. At the end of the study, the subjects who ate late at night had gained more weight.

It’s not the act of eating late at night that causes weight gain, but rather the excess calories you end up consuming. Set a simple rule that you won’t eat anything after dinner.

5. Overeating On Holidays

We all overeat on holidays but most people never lose the weight gained during that period. According to this study6, for most people only two-thirds of the weight gained was during holidays.

The weight adds up holiday after holiday and eventually folks become overweight. Well, you can celebrate holidays without sabotaging your weight loss efforts. The easiest way to do this is to eat in moderation – don’t eat until you’re uncomfortably full.

6. Using A Lot Of Vegetable Oil

Most people eat vegetable oil from fried foods and processed foods. Research shows that vegetable oil causes inflammation due to high levels of omega 6 fatty acids. Additionally, oil is also high in calories so it causes weight gain.

Consume less processed foods and junk food to reduce vegetable oil intake. You should also consider cooking with coconut oil. Studies show that it has numerous health benefits.

7. Strict Dieting

There are so many strict diets out there. Diets that advice what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, and so on.

Such diets are not healthy and usually, lead to bingeing. In fact, researchers say7 dieters start craving foods when they’re forbidden from eating them. Sometimes they start craving foods they don’t like, simply because they’re forbidden.

Unless you’re addicted to a food, don’t restrict yourself from eating it. You don’t have to eat clean all the time to lose weight. Just eat healthy foods 80-90% of the time.

8. Consuming A Lot Of Sugar

Even though study8 after study9 have shown that sugar is bad for your health and weight loss – sugar consumption is still increasing every year. And it’s not table sugar which is to blame – added sugar is the real cause of this problem.

So many processed foods have added sugar. Be sure to check food and drink labels for added sugar. Reduce the intake of table sugar as well.

9. Drinking High-calorie Drinks

Calorie-containing beverages will automatically increase your daily calorie intake.The stomach doesn’t care about calories10 – it cares about food volume. Since sugary drinks are not filling, you’ll still be hungry even after drinking 1,000 calories.

Note that fruit juices are not any better because they contain the same amount of sugar as processed drinks. Avoid all calorie containing beverages when trying to lose weight.

10. Rewarding Yourself

Rewarding yourself can actually help you stay on track. But just like cheat meals, most people use this opportunity to overindulge in junk and sugary foods.

If you eat a piece of cake every time you finish a workout, you’re probably consuming more calories than you burnt in the workout. Neither do you have to reward yourself for eating healthy for 2 or 3 days.

11. Eating Mindlessly

Chances are you’ll overeat if you eat while focusing on other things. In fact, most people only realize they’ve binged after they finish the food.

Research11 shows mindful eating will help you eat less and lose weight. And it’ll also reduce chances of bingeing.

From today learn to focus on eating only. Don’t watch the TV, or listen to music, or use the phone while eating. Sit at a table, focus on the food in front of you and chew every bite slowly.

12. Eating Straight From The Bag

Researchers have found that people eat more when they eat snacks straight from the bag. You can’t tell how much you’ve eaten when you eat from a bag.

Put your crisps or nuts in a plate or bowl and eat from there. That way you’ll recognize when you’ve had enough and stop.

13. Not Eating Enough Food

Maintaining high-calorie deficits may work for a few days. But, soon the side effects12 will start kicking in. You’ll start feeling hungry all the time, metabolism will slow down, you’ll lose muscles and fat loss hormones will be damaged.

The body needs enough energy from food to function properly. Don’t maintain a calorie deficit higher than 25% of your maintenance.

14. Binge Eating

Binge eating is when people lose control of food and continue eating even after they’re physically full. And most times they experience feelings of guilt and shame, afterward. Sometimes binge eating goes on for long and eventually, dieters fall off the wagon.

Some binge eaters are addicted to certain foods. So avoid foods which make you lose control. Frankly, abstinence is the only way to beat addiction.

15. Relying On Healthy Drinks For Weight Loss

If losing weight was as easy as drinking green tea13 every day, we would all be lean. Healthy drinks like green tea have weight loss benefits, but they can’t transform your body14. You still need to maintain a calorie deficit and exercise.

Even the best fat burner supplements won’t get rid of the excess fat.

16. Switching Diets

Most folks try to change diets when they don’t see results. Then they get bored with the new diet and start looking for the next one.

The problem is not the diets – it’s your eating habits. You might be on the best diet in the world, but if you lack discipline you won’t lose weight. Switching diets may lead to yo-yo dieting, which by the way, studies15 show that it damages metabolism and makes it harder to lose fat in future.

Frankly, there’s no superior diet out there – they are different approaches to eating healthy and maintaining calorie-deficit. In fact, you don’t need to follow any diet, just stick to the advice in this article.

17. Lack Of Enough Sleep

Studies16 show that lack of sleep causes weight gain. It also raises cortisol levels which in return cause inflammation17 and makes fat settle around the abdominal area. Additionally, lack of sleep causes fatigue and headaches which can reduce your workout performance.

  • Make sure you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Here’s how to ensure you get a full night deep sleep –
  • Keep the room dark,
  • Reduce noises from outside by using white noise,
  • Don’t watch TV before bed and so on.

Check out 20 tips for sleeping better every night18.

 18. Not Consuming Enough Fats

Most people don’t consume enough fats, especially omega 3 fatty acids. As I mentioned earlier, we get omega 6s from many sources. And the more omega 6s we eat the more omega 3s we need.

Research19 shows that you should maintain a ratio of 2:1 of omega 6s and omega 3s, respectively. The best sources of omega 3s are salmon, fish oil and krill oil.

19. Emotional Eating

Many people turn to food when they are depressed, sad, lonely, or excited. These emotions raise cortisol level and trigger a fight or flight response, which stimulates appetite.

Learn to deal with emotions without involving food. Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress. This study20 shows that playing sports may help, but won’t fix the problem. So, seek professional help if nothing seems to work.

20. Focusing Too Much On The Scale

Weighing yourself several times a day is not a good idea. There’s no real weight loss that can happen within hours. Weight fluctuates up and down due to water weight.

Weight going up by a pound or two can be depressing and lead to emotional eating. Step on the scale once or twice a week. Just focus on eating healthy and exercising.

21. Not Eating Enough Proteins

Proteins are a very important nutrient for fat loss and muscle growth. They boost metabolism, reduce cravings, enhance muscle growth, and much more. In fact,research21 shows that eating protein in the morning can help you eat less during the day.

Proteins should make up 30-35% of your total daily calorie intake. Here are the healthiest proteins22 according to 39 nutrition experts.

22. Eating A Lot Of Junk Food

I doubt you need a study to tell you that junk food is bad for weight loss and your health.

For some folks abstinence from junk food is the best strategy since it’s addictive23.

23. Drinking A Lot Of Alcohol

Most alcoholic beverages are high in calories. A gram of alcohol has 7 calories.

Not to forget that getting drunk also leads to poor food choices. This study24 found those people who overindulge in alcohol gain weight. So drink in moderation or avoid it. It’s worth noting that spirits don’t have calories, so you can opt for them.

24. Not Focusing On Getting Strong

Most people only exercise to burn calories and lose fat. Even though that’s a good thing, focusing on getting strong will take your mind off the fat loss and help you get in shape faster.

Focus on doing more push ups instead of calculating how many calories push-ups burn. Gaining strength will motivate you to keep going even when there are no changes on the scale.

25. Sitting All Day

A study conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia found that sitting for a few hours causes the body to stop producing lipase, a fat-restraining enzyme.

If you sit at a desk every day – stand up after every hour and take a walk or stretch. It’s highly likely to forget this, so set reminders.

You may also want to do these exercises25 to correct bad posture caused by sitting all day.

Final Word

This article has enough information to help you lose weight and keep it off. So put it into action and avoid these habits.

Which habits are sabotaging your weight loss efforts?

References   [ + ]

1.The Ultimate Guide To Fat Loss, Focus Fitness
2.Racette, Susan B., Edward P. Weiss, Kenneth B. Schechtman, Karen Steger‐May, Dennis T. Villareal, Kathleen A. Obert, and John O. Holloszy. “Influence of weekend lifestyle patterns on body weight.” Obesity 16, no. 8 (2008): 1826-1830.
3.18 Meal Prep Ideas For Weight Loss, Focus Fitness
4.Lichtman, Steven W., Krystyna Pisarska, Ellen Raynes Berman, Michele Pestone, Hillary Dowling, Esther Offenbacher, Hope Weisel, Stanley Heshka, Dwight E. Matthews, and Steven B. Heymsfield. “Discrepancy between self-reported and actual caloric intake and exercise in obese subjects.” New England Journal of Medicine327, no. 27 (1992): 1893-1898.
5.What Does 100 Calories Look Like, Spark People
6.Yanovski, Jack A., Susan Z. Yanovski, Kara N. Sovik, Tuc T. Nguyen, Patrick M. O’Neil, and Nancy G. Sebring. “A prospective study of holiday weight gain.” New England Journal of Medicine342, no. 12 (2000): 861-867.
7.Martin, Corby K., Diane Rosenbaum, Hongmei Han, Paula J. Geiselman, Holly R. Wyatt, James O. Hill, Carrie Brill et al. “Change in Food Cravings, Food Preferences, and Appetite During a Low‐Carbohydrate and Low‐Fat Diet.” Obesity19, no. 10 (2011): 1963-1970.
8.Bray, George A., Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry M. Popkin. “Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 79, no. 4 (2004): 537-543.
9.Schulze, Matthias B., JoAnn E. Manson, David S. Ludwig, Graham A. Colditz, Meir J. Stampfer, Walter C. Willett, and Frank B. Hu. “Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women.” Jama 292, no. 8 (2004): 927-934.
10.Mattes, Richard D., and Wayne W. Campbell. “Effects of food form and timing of ingestion on appetite and energy intake in lean young adults and in young adults with obesity.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109, no. 3 (2009): 430-437.
11.Timmerman, Gayle M., and Adama Brown. “The effect of a mindful restaurant eating intervention on weight management in women.” Journal of nutrition education and behavior 44, no. 1 (2012): 22-28.
12.Big Calorie Deficits Are Causing You Big Problems, Coach Calorie
13.Discover Weight For Benefits Of Green Tea, Focus Fitness
14.25 Diet and Exercise Tips That Will Completely Transform Your Body, Focus Fitness
15.Leske, Stuart, Esben Strodl, and Xiang-Yu Hou. “A qualitative study of the determinants of dieting and non-dieting approaches in overweight/obese Australian adults.” BMC public health 12, no. 1 (2012): 1.
16.Spivey, Angela. “Lose sleep, gain weight: another piece of the obesity puzzle.” Environmental health perspectives 118, no. 1 (2010): A28.
17.Mullington, Janet M., Norah S. Simpson, Hans K. Meier-Ewert, and Monika Haack. “Sleep loss and inflammation.” Best practice & research clinical endocrinology & metabolism 24, no. 5 (2010): 775-784.
18.20 Tips On How To Get The Best Sleep Every Night, Focus Fitness
19.Simopoulos, Artemis P. “The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids.” Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy 56, no. 8 (2002): 365-379. Harvard
20.Koenders, Paul G., and Tatjana van Strien. “Emotional eating, rather than lifestyle behavior, drives weight gain in a prospective study in 1562 employees.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 53, no. 11 (2011): 1287-1293.
21.A randomized crossover, pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein vs. high protein breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight/obese “breakfast skipping”, late-adolescent girls, BioMed Central
22.39 Nutrition Experts Share Their Favourite Healthy Protein Sources, Focus Fitness
23.Blumenthal, Daniel M., and Mark S. Gold. “Neurobiology of food addiction.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 13, no. 4 (2010): 359-365.
24.Sayon-Orea, Carmen, Miguel A. Martinez-Gonzalez, and Maira Bes-Rastrollo. “Alcohol consumption and body weight: a systematic review.” Nutrition reviews 69, no. 8 (2011): 419-431.
25.How To Fix Bad Posture With Bodyweight Exercises, Focus Fitness
Brian Syuki

Brian Syuki is a fitness expert who teaches people how to get leaner and healthier using bodyweight exercises and proper nutrition.

Brian Syuki

Brian Syuki is a fitness expert who teaches people how to get leaner and healthier using bodyweight exercises and proper nutrition.

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