Jenilee Matz has a master’s degree in public health and worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a health communications specialist. She writes for several health publications including Everyday Health, HealthDay, and Diabetic Connect.
Are you dieting and exercising in an effort to lose weight, but the scale isn’t budging? Bad habits could be thwarting your weight loss efforts.
Here are eleven factors that may be stopping you from losing weight:
You’re eating too many processed foods. It’s best to eat whole foods—foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. The fewer ingredients on a food label, the better. Processed foods, like frozen meals, chips, and soda, are considered “empty calories” because they contain few nutritional benefits. Filling up on these foods may cause you to eat more than you need, which can lead to weight gain.
You’re not active enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults be active for at least 2.5 hours each week. However, they say you can reap even more benefits—and lose weight—if you’re active for at least 5 hours per week.
You’re still eating too much. Even if you’ve replaced burgers with salads, you still could be overdoing the calories. Seemingly healthy foods like salads can be loaded with toppings high in fat and calories—think dressing, cheese, and croutons. Be mindful to keep portions in check, too.
You’ve cut out a food group “just because.” Giving up meat, dairy, or carbs or going gluten-free isn’t necessarily a recipe for weight loss success. You may accidentally skimp on vital nutrients. Only eliminate a food group if you have a medical reason. If you want to go vegetarian for other reasons, make sure to eat enough protein and hold off on weight loss efforts until you have your new eating plan figured out.
You always eat low-fat. In the 90s, low-fat and fat-free products were all the rage. Now we know that low-fat doesn’t always equal low calorie. Plus, some fats are good for you—like the fat in peanut butter, beans, and avocado—and eating them can actually help you lose weight because you’ll stay fuller for a longer amount of time.
You eat too quickly. It can take 20 minutes for your brain to realize your stomach is full. Eat more slowly and you may end up eating less overall. Put your fork down between every bite.
You drink diet soda, sugar-free sweets, and other artificially sweetened products. In moderation, artificial sweeteners are usually okay, especially if you have diabetes. Know that fake sugar may make you crave more sugar, though. Since artificial sweeteners taste like sugar, they keep the craving for sweets alive in your body.
You’re stressed. Stress releases the hormone cortisol into your body which can increase your appetite and make you eat more.
You don’t get enough shut-eye. When you’re tired you may turn to coffee or the vending machine to try to stay awake. It’s a vicious cycle—the unhealthier you eat, the more trouble you may have sleeping. Note that most adults need 7.5 hours of sleep each night.
You're on a blood sugar roller coaster. If your blood sugars are constantly too high or too low, the last thing your metabolism is concerned with is burning fat. When your blood sugar is high, your body has so much excess glucose on board that it has no need to burn fat for fuel. When your blood sugar is low, you're required to consume more calories. If you live with diabetes and want to lose weight, your first priority is your blood sugar levels.
You're eating too little. Consuming too few calories (under 1200 calories a day) can cause your body to go into "starvation mode" and begin storing everything you eat as body fat because you simply aren't eating enough. The average woman can aim to eat between 1200 to 1500 calories a day, and 1800 to 2000 for the average man. Spread your calories out, aiming for four to five meals a day about three to four hours apart in order to fuel your metabolism properly.
What are your biggest struggles with weight loss? Share your story in the comments section.