Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Try as hard as you might but still not seeing any changes in your waist circumference, let alone the scale? You already know diet and exercise are key in promoting changes in your body, but you may not have considered some not-so-obvious factors that could be jeopardizing your efforts.
Here are six to put on your radar:
1. You’re Skipping Meals
Whether you’re doing it intentionally or because time slips away from you and you just forget, skipping meals can create a vicious cycle that’s tough to break. “When you skip meals, it leads to grazings, cravings and overconsumption, especially at night,” says Kim Rose, registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes care and education specialist in Sebring, Florida. When you wake up in the morning, you may not be hungry, and you’ll be likely to skip meals again and again. Doing so not only has the potential to pack on more pounds but also will sap your energy, which could impact your exercise and rob your body of the nutrients it needs. To remedy this, aim to eat three balanced meals around the same time every day. Can’t go more than three or four hours without eating? Have a preplanned snack option at the ready.
2. You’re Not Getting the Sleep You Need
Lack of sleep doesn’t just spell trouble for your energy levels and mood but also your weight-loss success. “Insufficient sleep can make it more difficult to eat well, exercise regularly, and be in the right mindset to reach your weight and wellness goals,” says Michelle Cardel, Ph.D., MS, RD, director of global clinical research and nutrition at WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and faculty member at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults get seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
3. You’re Becoming Too Much of a Cocktail Queen
Health issues aside, alcohol is full of empty calories that quickly add up. But alcohol does more than just ruin your waistline; it also can negatively impact your sleep, which can result in unwanted weight gain. If you choose to drink, do so responsibly, Rose says. Most guidelines recommend no more than one drink per day for women, two at best for men. One serving of beer (12 ounces) contains about 150 calories, liquor (1.5 ounces) about 100 calories and wine (5 ounces) 120 calories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, light beer and red wine tend to be lower in calories, she adds.
4. You’re Eating Too Many High-Fat Foods
Fat is an important macronutrient, and while fat-rich foods like nuts and avocados contain nutrients, they’re also calorie-dense. “It’s easy to think these foods are full of vitamins and minerals that nourish you, but they’re also filled with calories,” Rose says. Mindlessly grabbing an extra handful of nuts can easily thwart your efforts. Keep a record of your food choices so you’ll know what you’re eating with each meal.
5. You’re Overexercising
While exercise is beneficial, it’s also a form of stress, and too much stress comes with a nasty side effect. “Stress produces cortisol, and consistently high levels of cortisol may promote weight gain,” Rose says. To prevent this, make sure that along with scheduling your workouts, you’re also scheduling recovery days.
6. Your Stress Levels Are Through the Roof
Doesn’t matter whether that stress is physical or mental, it all can lead to weight gain, Rose says. That’s why learning how to manage stress levels is key not only to your mental well-being but also attempts to reshape your body. One way to manage stress? Focus on things you can control. “Having a sense of control can help reduce stress,” Cardel says. So, too, can practicing gratitude. Think about starting and ending your day by writing down three things you’re grateful for or exploring the power of meditation. And if that stress is driving you to the pantry, Cardel recommends telling yourself that you’re not hungry, just stressed, and eating will only make you more stressed.