If you Google “how to lose weight,” you get nearly a million results. You’d think with all the weight loss tips out there, we’d be a nation of people with flat tummies then, right? But according to the CDC, nearly 71 percent of our adult population is obese or overweight—and there’s a whole other chunk of people who would simply like to lose 10 pounds. Here’s the thing, though: As hard as you can try to lose weight, there are some everyday habits that might be wrecking your valiant efforts. That’s right, you might be unintentionally sabotaging your weight-loss goals.
To help you improve your health and get a flat belly, we’ve put together a list of all the things you do over the course of an average day—even the things with seemingly no connection to weight loss—that are sabotaging your body goals. How many of these common mistakes did you make today? Aim to do better tomorrow and the results you crave are sure to follow!
It leaves you feeling refreshed and gives you extra energy to take on your boxing class, so sleeping in has to be good for you, right? Surprisingly, if weight loss is your goal, no. Occasionally sleeping in—even just on the weekends—can reset your body’s sleep cycle, making it more difficult to doze off. And the less soundly you sleep, the harder it is to lose weight. In fact, losing a mere 30 minutes of shut-eye can cause ghrelin—the hunger-stimulating hormone–to go into overdrive, stimulating hunger even when you’re full. To keep your appetite and those pesky pounds at bay, maintain a consistent sleep and wake cycle.
Instead of reaching for your afternoon cola, fix yourself a cup of tea. Rich in health-promoting, fat-attacking compounds called catechins, tea is the closest thing we currently have to magic weight loss elixir.
RELATED: Learn how to harness the power of tea to lose weight.
Instead of blindly getting dressed in the dark each morning, open the blinds! Not only will this ensure you don’t leave the house wearing two different colored shoes, but studies show that people who get direct exposure to sunlight in the mornings between 8 am and noon reduce their risk of weight gain—regardless of how much they eat. How? Researchers theorize that the morning sun helps to synchronize metabolism so we burn fat more efficiently. Crazy awesome, right?
Unless you wake up every few hours to sip water throughout the night, you’re likely pretty dehydrated by the time you crawl out of bed. Not only does this stress the body and make you feel sluggish, it can also supercharge your appetite—not good news if you’re trying to slim down. Before you reach for your morning cup of coffee or tea—two drinks that can dehydrate you further—chug 8- to 16-ounces of water. Doing so will fill you up so you won’t blow an entire day’s worth of calories at breakfast.
Unless you’re lactose intolerant, steering clear of milk, yogurt and other popular dairy-based breakfast foods to save calories may be doing you more harm than good. The primary reason: Calcium plays a key role in regulating the way the body metabolizes food. Specifically, it determines whether we burn calories or tack them on as excess fat. On the flip side, a calcium-rich diet can help you burn more flab, according to a University of Tennessee at Knoxville report.
If you’re trying to lose your muffin top or scale back your man boobs, consuming protein at each meal is a must. Not only is the nutrient ultra satiating, making it less likely you’ll nosh between meals, it’s also been shown to grow metabolism-boosting muscle mass and boost post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35 percent! So ditch the bowl of Cheerios and up your morning protein intake—without standing over the stove—check out these overnight oat recipes!
Unlike smoothies, juices strip the fiber away from fruits and vegetables, so you’re left feeling hungrier sooner. In a 2012 study in Current Nutrition and Food Science, researchers put a group of obese adults on a regimen in which they replaced breakfast and dinner with a high-protein smoothie. The participants lost up to 18.5 pounds after three months and reported significant improvements in physical and mental health.
You know that uncomfortable, anxious feeling you get when you’re stuck in traffic and already running late to work? You have your stress hormones to thank for that. And not only does pulling out your hair every morning make your chest tight, it can also cause inflammation, brain damage, fat storage and muscle breakdown. Yikes! To keep those pounds from creeping up on you, make sure you leave with plenty of time to get to the office and make time for a weekly stress management activity that you enjoy. Taking a yoga class or grabbing dinner with your besties are both fun and effective ways to chillax.
We know you’re a super busy #GirlBoss, but skipping meals and skimping on calories can actually make it harder to uncover your abs. The reason: When you don’t sufficiently fuel your body, it begins to conserve calories and slow your metabolism. So even if you’re trying to cut calories and create a calorie deficit, your best move is to eat a little something for lunch even if it’s just a quick protein shake or a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts. This ensures your metabolism keeps torching calories and helps you remain active without getting totally exhausted.
Unless your lunchtime sammy is on whole grain bread, consider it a “Not That.” Though you may not think of your turkey on white as a sweet indulgence, the body converts refined carbohydrates into sugar, which is stored as fat if it’s not burned off. What’s more, when it comes to bread, picking whole grains over refined will help keep your blood sugar levels even-keeled, warding off the munchies and accelerating weight loss results.
That handful of chocolate you snagged from your co-worker’s candy bowl or those nibbles you stole from your kid’s plate may seem insignificant, but they can really add up! Our advice? Keep a glass of water at your desk so your hands—and your mouth—stay occupied. It will make it easier to save those nibbles for the special foods you can’t live without.
If you find yourself complaining about your diet more than you’d like to admit, it’s time for a reality check: A diet you hate is not one that you’ll follow long-term, which means it won’t give you the results you’re looking for. If you want the scale to tip in your favor, you need to find workouts and healthy foods you actually enjoy says registered dietitian and personal trainer Jim White. “Never use exercises or foods that you find displeasing to reach your goal. When you enjoy all of the elements of your healthy lifestyle, you can commit to it for a lifetime.”
Get this: We sit an average of 67 hours a week and spend just seven hours out of every 24 moving. How sad is that? And thanks to a new wave of ultra-sedentary jobs, we now burn 100 fewer calories a day than we did 50 years ago. That alone translates to an extra 10 pounds of flab a year! But thankfully you don’t have to quit your day job to stay slim. Taking a two-minute walk every hour can offset the effects of too much sitting, according to a Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology study.
Although the number on the scale isn’t the only way to judge your continued success, research shows that those who avoid the ritual tend to pack on more weight than those who don’t. There’s no need to be tied to your scale, though—checking in once every seven days before breakfast should do the trick. Since weight naturally fluctuates throughout the week, researchers say that Wednesday weigh-ins are the most accurate.
Though fasted cardio isn’t suitable for everyone, research suggests that the practice can increase the amount of fat you burn once you hit the gym. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, exercising in a fasted state can burn almost 20 percent more fat compared with exercising with fuel in the tank. So if you must eat before a workout, make sure it’s a light snack.
You made it to the gym after work! Yay! And then you bought a bottle of water to hydrate your sweat sesh. Boo! Not only does bottled water drain your wallet, it may also slow your weight loss progress, due to the BPA in the plastic. Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, is a chemical that’s been linked to obesity and belly fat, according to a 2011 Harvard study. Thankfully the fix is a simple one: Trade in your throw-away bottle for the reusable, BPA-free variety.
No gym session is complete without some jams. But if you’re partial to slower genres of music, your go-to playlist may make your workout less effective. According to various studies, fast-paced, motivational music that includes phrases like “push it,” “I believe,” and “work it” can help you move faster and subconsciously motivates you to keep at it, which will supercharge your weight loss progress.
The more muscle mass you have the faster your metabolism, so it’s extremely important for you to hit the weights if you want to get and maintain a lean physique into later life. And no, pumping iron won’t make you big and bulky. That’s because weight training causes you to burn more calories per workout than cardio sessions, and you continue to burn them post-workout.
You already know that hitting the weights can improve your health, help you build lean muscle mass and accelerate your weight loss wins—but there’s something you may not be aware of: Unless you’re challenging your muscles with heavy enough weights, you won’t see any physical changes. “If you’re doing more than ten reps with ease, your weight probably isn’t heavy enough,” warns personal trainer Dustin Hassard. “Vary your reps and consistently increase the amount you’re lifting to see results.”
After a week of killer spin classes, a lot of people feel like they’ve “earned” a treat. But if you’re doing that on the reg, that’s likely the reason you’re not shedding pounds. Instead of rewarding yourself with indulgent food, treat yourself to a weekly manicure, a movie or a monthly massage. Not only will this approach save you hundreds of calories, it will also help you reach long-term weight loss and fitness goals.
Napping may be an easy way to catch up on some missed shut-eye, but dozing off in the middle of the day does nothing to help you burn fat. In fact, research has found that people burn fewer calories when they sleep during the day. Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder studied 14 healthy adults for six days. For two days, participants slept at night and stayed awake during the day, then they reversed their routines to mimic the schedules of night owls. When participants slept during the day, researchers found that they burned 52 to 59 fewer calories than they did while catching their zzzs in the evening. The change in their circadian rhythm played a major role in their metabolism function.
Hey moneybags, get this: Heading to the grocery store with a wallet full of plastic ups the odds you’ll buy waist-widening snacks. Sounds, crazy, we know, but according to a Journal of Consumer Research report, grocery shoppers who use a credit card buy significantly more unhealthy, calorie-dense food than people who pay cash. Keep your cards at home to keep tempting treats out of your house.
Eat This! Tip: If you can’t live without packaged foods like cereal or crackers in the house, limit yourself to one kind. It’ll help you consume it more slowly, warding off weight gain, says Cornell University Food and Brand Lab founder Brian Wansink.
You know that eating trans fats can increase your risk of heart disease, weight gain, and stroke, so you’re smart to stay away. But not all fats need to make your “do not eat” list. In fact, consuming healthy fats like olive and coconut oil actually help you slim down and stay healthy. “Fats not only help us absorb many of the vitamins from our diets, but they also help keep us fuller longer, which can aid weight loss efforts,” explains nutritionist Lori Zanini. She suggests consuming one serving of healthy fats each time you sit down to eat. This could be some sautéed veggies cooked with a tablespoon of olive oil or a side salad topped with some balsamic and avocado oil.
Peppering up your meals can put some pep in your fat-burning abilities. Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper, speeds up abdominal fat loss by boosting the body’s ability to convert food into energy. In fact, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those who supplemented their diet with capsaicin consumed 200 fewer calories during their next meal.
If you typically eat your dinner while watching TV or scrolling through your phone, you’re not really paying attention to what or how much is going into your mouth, which increases the chance you’ll overeat. Can’t imagine going TV-free cold turkey? Put the TV on mute or turn on a TV in another room. Anything that will cut the level of distraction is a step in the right direction.
Ever get the hiccups because you ate too quickly? That’s not the only negative that can come from swallowing your meal in a jiffy. According to a 2014 study published in the journal Obesity, chewing your food increases the number of calories your body burns during digestion. That’s about 10 extra calories for a 300-calorie meal. So if you slowed down and actually enjoyed your meals, you could potentially burn 2,000 extra calories each month. The study also found that chewing food more thoroughly improves digestion and the absorption of nutrients from food.
If you tend to scarf down your food before rushing your kids to soccer or dance class, you may not be giving your stomach enough time to register that you’re full which can get in the way of losing weight. Here’s a trick: Divide your plate in two. Eat half, and plan to eat the rest after you’re dropped off your mini-me. It’ll still be there when you get back, but your hunger may have left the building.
Enjoying a glass or two of wine every now and then is fine, but overdoing it on the booze basically stops the fat burning process. In a study printed in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eight men were given two vodka and sugar-free lemonade cocktails just under 90 calories each. For several hours after drinking the vodka, the participants’ whole body lipid oxidation (how much fat your body burns) dropped 73 percent. In other words, the excess of alcohol pretty much brought fat-burning to a halt.
Like to turn up the heat before heading to bed? Step away from that thermostat—keeping your bedroom hot like the Bahamas may be the very reason your spare tire won’t budge. As it turns out, colder temperatures subtly enhance the effectiveness of our stores of calorie-burning brown fat, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes.
Bad news, late-night scrollers, your social media habit may make it more difficult to sleep soundly and, subsequently, shed pounds. As it turns out, the blue light emitted from electronic devices like your computer, iPad or phone can impair the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, negatively affecting sleep quality, according to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences findings. Poor sleep can affect your weight loss efforts, as noted previously.
Eat This! Tip: Can’t imagine going to sleep without posting one last selfie? Download a free program called F.lux. Throughout the day the software gradually changes the light emissions from electronic devices from blue to a warm red, a hue that minimizes blue light’s stimulating effects.
According to one study, getting eight and a half hours of shut-eye each night can drop cravings for junk food a whopping 62 percent and decrease overall appetite by 14 percent! Mayo Clinic researchers note similar findings: In their study, adults who slept an hour and twenty minutes less than a control group consumed an average of 549 additional calories daily. That’s more calories than you’ll find in a Big Mac! So jump into your PJs early and log some extra Zzz’s!