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 and tiny butts.
But according to the CDC, 69 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.
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.
1. Sleeping in
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.
2. Getting dressed in the dark
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.
3. Coffee as the first drink of the day
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.
4. Skimping on dairy
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.
5. Eating cereal
If you’re trying to lose weight, 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.
6. Not leaving the house early enough
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 best friends are fun and effective ways to relax.
7. Working through lunch
We know you’re super busy, 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.
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8. Complaining about your diet
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.”
9. Barely walking anywhere
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.
10. Music being too chill
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 include 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.
11. Only doing cardio
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.
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12. Not lifting heavy
You already know that hitting the weights can improve your health, help you build lean muscle mass and accelerate your weight loss—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.”
13. Rewarding yourself with sugar
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.
14. Only carrying plastic
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, strange, 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.
15. Not adding oil
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.
16. Turning on the tube
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.
17. Scarfing down your meal
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. For more weight loss tips for the time-strapped, check out these 25 Ways to Lose Weight in 5 Seconds.
18. Turning up the heat
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 weight won’t budge. Colder temperatures subtly enhance the effectiveness of our stores of calorie-burning brown fat, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes.
19. Instagramming from bed
Bad news, late-night scrollers, your social media habit may make it more difficult to sleep soundly and, subsequently, shed pounds. 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 findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Poor sleep can affect your weight loss efforts.
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.
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20. Not going to bed early enough
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).