In recent years, obesity has emerged as a global epidemic and is becoming a public health problem. To lose weight, people try everything from exercise to calorie counting and eating healthy, but still many of them fail to achieve successful results.
The answer could be simple, maybe, due to poor and unhealthy lifestyle habits, you are not dropping the pounds. Your lifestyle habits do have an impact on your weight loss journey, therefore, a better understanding of the link between obesity and lifestyle factors is necessary for effective management of obesity. (1)
To help you lose weight successfully, we have listed 8 unhealthy habits that may hinder weight loss:
Eat Morning Meal (Breakfast)
You must be wondering, how not eating can cause weight gain and hinder weight loss? With respect to the timing of the meals, breakfast plays an important role.
A scientific survey noted that people who skip breakfast become obese at a rate five times higher than people who eat breakfast.
An interesting study observed an increase in the number of obese people despite reducing the average calorie intake. The reason behind this was skipping breakfast and having dinner after 9 p.m. This leads to abnormal metabolism, which is possibly the cause of obesity.
Skipping breakfast causes a shift in the phase of expression of the clock gene, that is, it disrupts the body’s internal clock, which is linked to obesity.
Studies have also found that eating breakfast is important for the prevention of obesity. Not eating breakfast regularly, makes you feel weak and lethargic right at the beginning of the day. This increases the craving for energy-dense foods, which are high in sugar and fat. (2)
Don’t Watch TV while Eating
Watching television while eating food is the main reason behind the increasing obesity rate, especially in children. Several studies have shown that longer TV watching time is associated with higher BMI, lower levels of fitness and higher blood cholesterol levels.
Research has found 3 mechanisms via which, watching TV may lead to weight gain:
- Watching TV for a greater number of hours reduces physical activity. Hence, you burn lesser calories than you would if you exercise, this causes weight gain.
- While watching TV, we come across various food advertisements again and again. This causes the customer to purchase such food products, which may not always be a healthy option. For example, fast food chain advertisements increase the exposure of such foods to young adults. Hence, they end up eating more fast foods and packaged foods.
- Sometimes people get so involved in watching TV that they do not eat their food mindfully. Hence, they end up eating more, which boosts weight gain.
- Lastly, watching TV slows down metabolism. 20% of your resting metabolic rate comes from brain function. While watching TV, the activity of the brain is reduced with decreased movement. This reduces the calories you burn and promotes weight gain. (3)
Check Your Portion Size
Snacking on healthy and nutritious foods without paying attention to the portion size does cause weight gain. Besides the quality of food, the quantity matters too.
It’s a simple rule if you eat more, more calories enter your system and you gain weight. In order to lose weight, reduce the portion size of foods, which are energy dense and high in fat and sugar.
A study observed that eating a large portion of low-energy-dense meal reduced the energy intake during the next meal. Here are portion control tips that may help you eat less of energy-dense foods:
- Add fiber-rich foods to your diet. On digestion, dietary fiber draws in water and swells. This makes you feel fuller for a long period of time. Hence, even a small portion of fiber-rich foods can provide satiety as well as reduce your calorie intake.
- Drink a glass of plain water before starting your meal. Filling your belly with water will prevent overeating. Moreover, dehydration may also be the reason behind hunger pangs and sweet craving. Keeping yourself well hydrated will eliminate such hunger pangs.
- Use smaller plates and bowls. When you eat in large plates and bowls, you tend to serve more food without even realizing it. Hence, using a larger plate often leads to overconsumption. Serving a small portion of food in a small plate makes the plate look full, which gives a person a mental satisfaction that he has eaten well. (4)
The speed at which you eat your food causes weight gain. Fast eaters continue to eat until they feel full despite having already consumed an adequate number of calories. In other words, quick eating leads to overeating, which causes weight gain.
On the other hand, eating slowly may help increase the feeling of satiety before an excessive amount of food is consumed.
Our brain signals the digestive system to release appetite-reducing hormones, which indicate us to stop eating. When you eat quickly, you are ahead of your brain signals. Hence, you end up eating more before the satiety signals kick in.
Furthermore, when you eat quickly you tend to chew your food less. When food is chewed properly gut hormones related to satiety and hunger function more. Hence, extra chewing may slow down the speed of eating, which helps in combating weight gain. (5)
Stop Eating Sugar Laden Foods
Studies have found a positive link between sugar intake, especially sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain.
Consumption of sugar-laden foods further increases the hunger as well as calorie intake. This causes weight gain.
When foods containing sugar like soft drinks, candies and cakes are consumed, your pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that converts food into energy for the body to use it.
If sugar-laden foods are consumed in excess, more insulin is produced by the pancreas, which promotes the body to store the extra sugar as fat. This increases the overall fat content of the body, thus causing weight as well as fat gain.
Besides this, a huge number of calories in sugar-sweetened beverages come from sugar. Because these drinks contain no nutrients and simply sugar, all they do is add up calories to your system without providing satiety.
Hence, it is better to limit the intake of foods and beverages that contain sugar. Replace white or refined sugar with organic coconut sugar, jaggery or honey. (6)
Stop Eating Too Much Salt
Salt does not contain calories, yet it contributes to weight gain when consumed in excess. Salt, which is sodium + chloride is used for savory food preparation and today no one can imagine their food without salt.
Sodium present in salt stimulates thirst and appetite. This promotes the consumption of extra calories, which in turn causes weight gain.
Leptin is a hormone, which plays a chief role in reducing appetite. It signals the brain, which tells the body to stop eating. Eating excess salt can interfere with leptin signaling. This reduces the responsiveness to leptin and this hormone is unable to send signals to the brain. This promotes overeating, which leads to weight gain. (7)
Limit your salt intake and avoid foods that contain excess salt like:
- Packaged snacks.
- Ready-to-eat gravies and soups.
- Fast foods.
- Frozen meals.
- Processed cheese.
- Soy sauce.
Stop Drinking Alcohol
Excess alcohol intake can just pour on the pounds. Alcohol inhibits the breakdown of fat, suggesting that frequent alcohol consumption causes storage of fat in the body and thus, high body fat percentage in the long term.
Alcohol contains ’empty calories’, which means it provides your body with calories but contains little or no nutrients. One gram of alcohol contains approximately 7 kcals. The caloric content further increases when sodas or fruit juices are added to alcohol.
Excess alcohol consumption further affects the functioning of the liver, which is responsible for the storage of carbohydrates and fat. Any changes in the functioning of the liver affects the way our body stores energy from the food we eat and thus, making weight loss difficult. (8, 9)
Get 8 Hours Sleep
Sleep is the most sedentary activity, yet it is the only factor that protects from weight gain. A poor night’s sleep increases appetite and craving or desire for tasty foods.
Lack of sleep increases the activity of ghrelin, a hunger hormone that increases appetite, hunger and overall caloric consumption. Moreover, the activity of leptin is reduced, a hormone, which reduces appetite and decreases food consumption.
Additionally, lack of sleep induces a feeling of tiredness and fatigue. This reduces the ability to exercise or stay physically active. Hence, sleeping for fewer hours causes increased caloric intake and reduced energy expenditure. (10)
Summary: Choosing the right type of food is important, but living a healthy lifestyle too plays a pivotal role in weight loss. Wrong lifestyle habits kill our efforts and hinder weight loss. Hence, improving our lifestyle habits may not only help in weight loss but improve our overall health too.