Carrying unhealthy extra weight can play a role in the development of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint problems and some cancers, reports the Department of Health and Ageing.
But you already knew this. It’s why you eat fruit and vegies daily, own a pair of well-used sneakers, and swap super-sized amounts of your favourite dinner for more waist-friendly portions. So why does it seem your jeans are getting tighter and the scales are moving in the wrong direction?
“Even following healthy eating and fitness habits, you may be making a few small mistakes that can lead to a plateau or derail your results,” says accredited practising dietitian Lisa Renn.
Here we reveal the traps that could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts so you can reach – and maintain – your get-slim goal in time for spring.
You worry about work, finances and relationships = sneaky weight gain
Why it causes weight gain: If feeling stressed has become the norm for you it may be playing havoc with your weight. Stress related to work, personal relationships and finances are associated with weight gain, found research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
In response to a stressful situation your body releases a cocktail of chemicals, such as adrenaline and cortisol, to help you fight or flee the danger causing your stress. However, everyday stressors such as overdue bills or a demanding workplace can cause stress to become chronic and weight gain is the result.
“Stress raises your cortisol levels, and as a result stimulates your appetite driving you to eat more,” Renn says.
Additionally, a lot of people eat in response to stress and use food as a coping mechanism, she says.
What you can do: Cutting all stress from your life is an unrealistic expectation; instead, learning to manage your response to stress may help keep unwanted kilos from creeping on. So avoid reaching for a block of chocolate next time you’re facing a deadline or juggling the finances and take a quick break.
Research from the University of Sussex in the UK found reading for just six minutes may reduce stress levels by 68 per cent, while listening to music reduced stress by 61 per cent, having a cup of tea or coffee lowered stress by 54 per cent and taking a walk by 42 per cent.
Avoid impulse snacking
Carry cash and you’ll be less likely to splurge on unhealthy treats and junk food, claims a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. Cash payments are psychologically more painful than card payments, and this pain of payment can curb impulsive responses to buy unhealthy food items, found the researchers.
You always start the day with a big breakfast = sneaky weight gain
Why it causes weight gain: Contrary to popular belief, starting your day with a big breakfast may not be the best way to keep weight off. In fact, it may result in weight gain.
The idea behind eating a big breakfast is that it might help you feel fuller for longer and prevent overeating at other meals. However, a new study published in Nutrition Journal found those who ate a big breakfast – defined as being an average of 1680kJ greater than a small breakfast – didn’t balance their kilojoule intake and ended up eating an extra 1680kJ.
“The results of the study showed that people ate the same at lunch and dinner, regardless of what they had for breakfast,” says lead author Dr Volker Schusdziarra.
What you can do: “Breakfast is an important meal, but eating a big breakfast isn’t necessary,” Renn says.
“Trying to eat a big breakfast and then decreasing your lunch and dinner sizes isn’t always possible, and unwittingly sets you up for overeating. Instead, you need to balance the kilojoules you consume across the whole day and aim to eat a breakfast based on protein, fibre, wholegrains and fruit.”
You're a night owl = sneaky weight gain
Why it causes weight gain: Are you often surprised by how late it is when you finally hit the sack? Your nighttime routine may be affecting your weight, claims a new study from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in the US.
Researchers discovered those who go to bed late consume 1042 more kilojoules a day, twice as much fast food and half as many fruits and vegetables as those who go to bed early. The research shows not only are the number of kilojoules you eat important, but also when you eat them, says senior author Phyllis Zee.
“Human circadian rhythms in sleep and metabolism are synchronised to the daily rotation of the Earth, so that when the sun goes down, you are supposed to be sleeping, not eating,” she says. “When sleep and eating are not aligned with the body’s internal clock, it can lead to changes in appetite and metabolism, which could lead to weight gain.”
What you can do: Regulating the timing of eating and sleep could improve the effectiveness of weight management, suggest the authors. Do this by avoiding eating late at night and adjust your bedtime by 15 minutes each night until you are going to bed at a healthier hour.
If you’re finding it hard to drift off at this earlier time follow a relaxing bedtime routine by reading, having a bath or doing some deep breathing – this signals to your body it’s time to wind down.
You add sugar to your tea nad coffee = sneaky weight gain
Why it causes weight gain: Ordering your cup of coffee with a spoonful of sugar may appear to be a harmless habit; however, it may play a role in weight gain. According to a 27-year study reported by the American Heart Association, weight gain in adults has coincided with an increased consumption of added sugars. Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods during processing, preparation or at the table.
“Excess sugar contributes to weight gain because most people assume they’re only eating or drinking a small amount, such as one small biscuit here and there, and falsely believe it won’t make a difference to their weight, but it all adds up,” Renn says.
What you can do: “Sugar may contain half the energy of fat but unless you are consuming a moderate amount of sugar you may be taking in too many empty calories,” Renn says.
To stick to a moderate intake of sugar, Renn suggests not adding sugar to foods or beverages, limiting foods and drinks with high amounts of added sugar, and choosing foods with naturally occurring sugars such as fresh fruits.
Your downtime is spent in front of the tv = sneaky weight gain
Why it causes weight gain: At the end of a long day sitting on the couch, remote in hand may be your idea of heaven. Unfortunately, it may also undo all the hard work you put in at the gym, reports a study cited in the International Journal of Obesity.
The researchers found those watching one to 2.5 hours a day – which is the equivalent of watching one episode of Masterchef followed by The Amazing Race – were 93 per cent more likely to be overweight compared to participants who reported watching less than one hour of television a day. And those watching 2.5 to four hours were 183 per cent more likely to be overweight.
What you can do: Whether it’s mindlessly snacking, eating dinner as you catch up on the latest reality show or sitting stationary for hours on end that’s causing your waistline to expand, the best way to avoid it is to put a limit on your TV viewing. Pick and only watch your favourite show, do some simple exercises in the ad breaks and avoid eating when you’re on the couch.