Do you feel like you've done everything you can but still don't seem to lose weight? Chances are, you're not doing the right things. Americans are more confused than ever about how to effectively lose weight and keep it off. Furthermore, many people are surprised to learn that the seemingly insignificant choices they make every day can negatively affect their goal of losing weight. Are you guilty of any of these behaviors?
You Rely on Convenient Transportation
You take the elevator when you need to go up a few floors, you get on the little motorized walk ramp at the airport, and you park as close to the front door as possible. At first glance, choosing these little convenient modes of transportation doesn't appear to make much of a difference in your daily life. The fact is, they do. A flight of stairs burns, on average, 15 calories. If you're taking stairs at work, the mall or in your home on an average day, that could add up to 225 or more extra calories burned. Walk a bit further to get to the front door when you're shopping and you could burn an extra 30 (bye bye little piece of candy that you snuck in during your work day). Forgoing the automatic walkway in the airport -- an extra 100! Now consider how many foods you have "just a nibble" on every day; a chocolate from your co-workers candy bowl, a handful of chips while making dinner, etc. These could all be wiped clean from the daily calorie slate if you just moved more! When given the opportunity, use your body, not the elevator or the car. That's what it's made for.
You Love Your Diet Cola
No calories mean no weight gain, right? This is the popular line of reasoning for many diet soda drinkers. Unfortunately, current research indicates a possible link between artificial sweetener consumption and weight gain. A study in the journal Diabetes Care found that daily consumption of diet soda was associated with a 36 percent greater relative risk of developing metabolic syndrome and a 67 percent greater relative risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared with non-consumption. Another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, in one group of study participants, consumption of artificially sweetened beverages was associated with Type 2 diabetes. The findings are mimicked in rat studies as well. A study in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience found that consumption of products containing artificial sweeteners led to weight gain due to changes in the rat's normal physiological processes of sweets. In addition to this, the presence of constant artificial sweeteners in the diet means you're never really letting your taste buds get a break from the sweet taste you love. The more you drink diet soda, the longer you'll remain trapped in the sugar cycle and continue to crave.
You're Off in Outer Space
Eating is awesome. The feel, smell and satisfaction of food are one of the main pleasures of life. You may miss these food advantages though if you're like most Americans and spend your meals and snacks in front of a TV, computer screen or newspaper. If this sounds like you, you're probably taking in way more calories than you think. A 2010 study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adding stimuli during mealtime increased not only the amount of food an individual consumed at that particular meal, but also increased calorie consumption later in the day as well. Further, a 2004 study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found an association between television viewing and obesity and metabolic syndrome. Enjoy your food and the company of friends and family; it will help you lose weight as well as manage the weight you've already lost.
Your Friends Don't Support You
Have you ever had a friend who knows you're trying to lose weight and eat healthy, but still tempts you with "it won't kill you to have a few bites of (insert tempting high sugar, fat and calorie food here)." Support is crucial when it comes to successful weight loss and maintenance, and having a toxic person close to you can really throw you off. What you really need is a supportive buddy who you can lean on in good times and bad; someone who will keep you on track and compliment you when you lose weight. A 2005 study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that individuals were most successful with weight loss when they "buddied" up with like-minded people with the same healthy goals as they had.
You "Diet" During The Week -- But Go Hog Wild On The Weekends
So many of my patients come to me with the same complaint: "How come I'm not losing weight? I barely eat anything!" At the most basic level, weight loss is a matter of numbers; consume fewer calories than you expend and you'll lose weight. However, in this case, too much of a good thing can actually sabotage your weight loss effort. The daily functions of keeping you alive require calories for fuel (and I'm talking about the basics -- breathing, beating heart, etc.) and when you don't provide your body enough energy, it slows down. It's very much like filling up your car with gas. With a full tank, you can go for miles at any chosen speed. When the gas tank is nearing empty, there is the need to drive slower to conserve gas consumption until the tank is filled again.
Our metabolism works in much the same way. When we feed our body the proper fuel, we have endless energy. As the intake of calories drops to very low levels, our body moves into starvation mode. This starvation mode triggers a lower metabolism as the body becomes super efficient at using what little energy or fuel it receives. Fewer calories are burned and weight loss comes to a stop. A recent study in the American Journal of Physiology described an "energy gap" to explain the difference between appetite and expenditure requirements. Researchers found that energy requirements after weight loss decreased, meaning you needed fewer calories to maintain your current weight loss. As you ate less, the cycle continued and, over time, biology would take over and your ability to continue to lose weight diminished. If, on top of that, you choose to give yourself a "pass" on the weekends for all your hard work starving yourself during the week, expect not only difficulty with weight loss; you may actually experience weight gain. Slow metabolism plus a Saturday/Sunday food and drink fest ... you do the math.
You're Getting Fewer Than 5 Hours A Night
Sleep is great for your brain, your skin, and, as it turns out, your weight as well. An abundant amount of research indicates that a lack of sleep alters the digestive hormones that are responsible for hunger and fullness. A lack of sleep may mean a loss of control of your portions the next day and an increased craving for sweets, fat and carbohydrates. Shoot for eight hours of sleep each night and you're more likely to achieve great skin, great productivity at work and home and a great weight!
Follow Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., R.D., L.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KRISTINKIRKPAT