While it looks easy enough on paper, weight loss isn’t always a walk in the park. From office cakes to birthday dinners, there are a million roadblocks stopping us from shedding the pounds. Beyond the occasional afternoon cookie and missed workout, here are the less noticeable things that can get in your way — plus solutions for getting past them.
1. Your diet isn’t for you
Just because your best friend lost 15 pounds on the latest fad diet doesn’t mean you will, too. In a November 2015 study, Israeli researchers found that even though the 800 participants followed the exact same diet, they processed the nutrients in different ways and had widely varying blood-sugar levels.
Solution? Talk to your doctor or a dietitian to come up with a personalised plan that will work best for you.
2.You don’t have a consistent bedtime
People who don’t stick to a regular sleep schedule have larger waistlines and higher BMIs than those who go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day, says this November 2015 study. Your body and health function best when your sleep pattern aligns with your natural circadian rhythm — so much so that the link holds true even if you’re just staying up and sleeping in later on the weekends.
Solution? Stick to a bedtime and wake-up schedule; the consistency over time will help you fall asleep faster and sleep more restfully.
3. Your plate is too big
Even if they were an expensive wedding gift from your in-laws, your tableware might need to go. In an October 2015 study, researchers found that people tend to eat about 92 per cent of the food on their plates regardless of how full they are. So if your dishes can accommodate more than a single serving of food, you could be overeating without even realising it.
Solution? Use smaller plates to ensure you are eating reasonable portions.
4. Your friends have terrible eating habits
We adopt our friends’ eating habits. A December 2014 study found we’re more likely to overeat if we’re around heavier people who pile their plates sky high. Plus, women in particular tend to match the eating pace of the person they’re dining with, says a February 2012 study, which can result in consuming more calories than you intended.
Solution? Don’t worry, you don’t have to snack solo for ever. A March 2017 study found that, while we’re 60 per cent more likely to go off our diet when eating with friends, we’re still 50 per cent more likely to cheat when eating alone. The real solution: eat more frequently with that friend who takes an hour to finish one course, or become the slow-pace-setter yourself.
5. You’re chronically stressed
Studies have shown that cortisol, aka the “stress hormone”, is closely linked to visceral fat (the deeper layer of belly fat that hugs your organs and poses a major threat to your health). Cortisol reduces your body’s sensitivity to insulin and can lead to a flat belly’s biggest enemy: stress eating.
Solution? Take stress seriously: Find stress-reducing practices that work for you — whether that’s meditating, taking a walk, writing in a journal, speaking to a therapist or close friend, or something else — and use them often.
6. You keep your wins to yourself
A January 2013 study found that people who actively use Twitter lose more weight than people who don’t turn to social media for weight loss. That includes sharing both personal successes as well as helpful nutrition and exercise tips. In fact, the study found every 20 tweets correlated to a pound of weight lost.
Solution? Keep it positive — a February 2017 study found dieters who express upbeat ideas and a greater sense of achievement on social media are more successful in their weight-loss efforts than those who only share negative dieting experiences.
7. You diet too often
People who diet are more likely to be overweight than those who don’t, according to a March 2012 study. Even switching back and forth between a healthy week and splurges on the weekend can negatively affect your gut health just as badly as a consistent diet of junk food, says a study published in January 2016.
Solution? Make small, permanent changes over time rather than diving deep into a new, unreliable diet.
8. Your gut isn’t diverse enough
Bacteria don’t sound very appealing — unless they’re in your gut. Your microbiome plays an important role in so many aspects of your health, including weight, waist size and cholesterol levels. And diversity is key, because different bacteria are responsible for these different roles.
Solution? Take a probiotic and eat fermented foods, both of which encourage the growth of good bacteria in your microbiome.
9. You eat too quickly
When you scarf food like a speed demon, your body doesn’t have the time to signal your brain, “Stop, I’m satisfied and full!” A March 2014 study found people who instead ate at a slower pace consumed fewer calories and were actually full for longer.
Solution? Try eating with your non-dominant hand, set your fork down after each bite, or chew each bite at least 50 times. Even better? Try all three.
10. You blame your genetics
Your parents are overweight, your siblings are overweight — but that doesn’t mean your fate is to be overweight. Science has yet to prove there’s a “fat gene”. Plus, a September 2015 study found thinking your DNA dictates your waistline actually makes you more likely to make unhealthy choices.
Solution? Don’t look to your parents for an image of future you. Accept that your weight and healthy choices are both in your own hands.