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I’m sure you’ve heard a million things that you should be doing to lose weight. But what happens when you’re watching what you eat, working out regularly, and you still can’t seem to lose weight?
It may be because you’re not focusing on weight loss “dont’s.”
Yep, there are actually a number of sneaky things that might be jeopardizing your weight loss efforts.
Whether you’re trying to completely overhaul your life and lose hundreds of pounds, or just trying to lose those final 5 or 10lbs that seem to love sticking around, it’s important to focus on weight loss don’ts as much as weight loss “do’s.”
Here are 11 common habits that might be jeopardizing your ability to lose weight.
11 Things to Stop Doing If You Seriously Want to Lose Weight
1. Not Having a Big Enough Why
Stop and think for a second about your “why” for losing weight.
Is it because you want to reduce your risk of heart disease? Perhaps you want to fit into your skinny jeans? Maybe you want to feel confident in a pair of shorts this summer? Or perhaps you want to be able to run around and play with your kids without feeling winded?
Your “why” can be whatever you want it to be, but it needs to be bigger than your “why not.”
Things are going to happen that make it difficult for you to stick to your healthy eating and exercise routine. Birthday parties, rainy days where the gym sounds like torture, “that time of the month” where binge-eating a tub of Ben & Jerry’s every night for a week sounds like heaven.
But when your “why” is big enough, it’ll make all your “why not’s” seem trivial.
2. Not Paying Attention to Your Hunger Scale
There’s a commonly held myth that we must eat breakfast very soon after we wake up and that we should be eating every 2-3 hours. The problem with this, is that scientific research dispels these myths.
There’s actually no scientific evidence to prove that breakfast must be eaten almost immediately after eating. And forcing yourself to eat every 2-3 hours if you’re not even hungry doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense when you’re trying to lose weight.
What’s most important is that you know, and pay attention to the difference between “hunger” and “appetite.” Hunger is the physical response your body gives when it’s running low on fuel. Appetite, on the other hand, stems from a desire to eat. Appetite can be emotional, stress-related, etc.
Too often, we eat because we have an appetite, but we’re not actually hungry.
Take breakfast, for example. Personally, I’ve never been a huge breakfast eater. For whatever reason, I’m just not really that hungry in the morning. So rather than forcing myself to eat a large breakfast because “that’s what I should be doing, right?” (wrong) I eat something very small to curb my hunger, or I wait until I’m actually hungry, and then eat.
Moral of the story – eat when you’re hungry, not when your appetite tells you to eat.
3. Too Many “Cheat Meals”
I’m all about relaxing and having fun on the weekend, and if that means the occasional cheat meal, then so be it.
But one cheat meal can quickly turn into two, and before you know it, you’re entire weekend has become one big cheat meal.
When you consider that the average entree from most American, Italian and Chinese restaurants contains 1495 calories, you can see how easy it is to throw all of your weekday progress out the window. (That 1495 calories doesn’t include appetizers, drinks and desserts, either.)
4. Drinking your calories
Did you know that 21% of the total daily energy intake in the general American population comes not from the food you’re eating, but from the drinks you’re consuming, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition?
What exactly does this mean?
It means that all of those soft drinks, energy drinks and alcoholic beverages you might be drinking make up 21% of your daily calorie intake.
Switch these drinks out for water and you’ll instantly drop your daily calorie intake by 21%.
5. Lack of Sleep
It’s recommended that adults should get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night, but a 2013 Gallup poll found that the average amount of sleep for 40% of Americans in just 6.8 hours.
A lack of sleep can result in impaired cognition and contribute to weight gain, along with slowing digestive function and increasing cortisol levels which leads to stress and overeating.
Here are some sleep tips:
- Unplug – don’t use electronics like your iPhone, laptop or tablet for one hour before bed
- Set the room temperature to 60-67 degrees, which is considered optimal for sleeping
- Set a sleep schedule and try to go to bed at the same time every night
- Try taking Valerian Root
6. Avoiding Fat
If you’re still buying into the “fat is the devil” lie, then keep reading.
Fat is not the devil – hydrogenated fats are the devil.
Contrary to being the devil, fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
Additionally, eating healthy fats like avocado and coconut oil can help keep you full for longer, which makes you less likely to snack.
7. All Cardio, No Weights
Regular cardio is important for weight-loss and essential for building a healthy heart, lungs, and cardiovascular system. Cardio also helps to boost your metabolism, which aids in weight loss.
But like most things in life, you can have too much of a good thing when it comes to cardio.
Too much cardio can cause your body to start using your lean muscle mass as a source of fuel.
Less lean muscle mass = lower metabolism and less fat burning.
Incorporating regular weight training into your exercise routine will help to build lean muscle mass which means your calorie burning will increase, even when you’re in a resting state.
8. Avoiding All Carbs
You should definitely be avoiding simple, junky carbohydrates.
Simple carbs are sugars, which are low in fiber, rapidly absorbed into the blood stream and can cause major spikes in blood sugar levels.
Examples of simple carbs that you should be avoiding are candy, white bread, pasta, white rice and soft drinks.
But contrary to popular belief, our bodies actually need carbs to function properly. Complex carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel, provide sustained energy throughout the day, and don’t cause rapid spikes in blood sugar.
Additionally, because carbs contain fiber, they keep our digestive system functioning properly and help to keep us regular, which can help with weight loss.
The key is to make sure you don’t overeat carbohydrates and that the carbs you do eat are the right kind, not the junky kind.
Instead of avoiding carbohydrates completely, fuel yourself with complex carbohydrates like:
- Sweet Potato
- Whole Grains
9. Starving yourself
One of the absolute worst things you can do to lose weight is starve yourself.
When you drastically reduce the amount of food you eat, you’re missing out on vital nutrients that your body needs to function optimally.
Females need a minimum of 1200 calories/day and males need 1500 calories/day just to function (that means breathe, pump blood around your body, repair cells, etc.)
Anything below this seriously jeopardizes your health, and long-term, can cause organ failure and even death. And while you may initially lose a couple of pounds, you will immediately gain them back when you start eating again.
In a nutshell, starving yourself is an incredibly bad idea.
Instead, eat a diet consisting of fresh, whole foods, with an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein – food that fuels your body. And remember the golden rule – eat when you’re hungry, not when your appetite tells you it wants food.
10. Eating hidden sugar
Sugar is one of those nasty guys that is lurking around every corner, using a variety of different aliases – 257, in fact!
Yep, that’s right. There are 257 names for sugar. Insane, right?
(If you want to read them all, Dr Alan Christianson has them listed here.)
You’re probably doing a great job at avoiding the obvious sugar-bombs, like cakes, candy bars, pop tarts, etc. But what you might not realize is that almost every processed, pre-packaged food you buy probably has added sugar in it.
Some common foods that contain high-levels of hidden sugar are:
- Non-fat fruit yoghurt
- Condiments like BBQ sauce and ketchup
- Salad dressing
- Granola bars
- Pasta sauce
- Fruit juice
- Flavored coffee drinks (the type you buy at Starbucks)
Here are some healthier alternatives to those sugar-bombs:
- Greek yoghurt sweetened with fresh berries
- Olive oil, avocado oil
- Fruit (contains natural sugars, but also contains fiber)
- Sugar-free 100% whole grain bread
- Homemade pasta sauce
- Water, flavored with berries, lime, lemon, cucumber or mint
- Black coffee or herbal tea
11. Not drinking enough water
Our bodies are composed of 60% water – almost every single cell in the human body requires water to function.
Additionally, water contains exactly zero calories.
By replacing one Starbucks frappucino with a bottle of water, you’ll save around 480 calories and avoid 70 grams of sugar (which is almost THREE DAYS worth of the recommended daily sugar intake for a female.)
Drinking water flushes toxins from your body, can help to boost your metabolism, increase your energy output (cold water is especially good for this) and help to transport nutrients around your body.