If you’re not losing weight, one of these reasons could be to blame.
Losing just 5 to 10 pounds can make a big difference in your health if you have diabetes. It can improve your digestion and lower your risk of heart disease. But if those pounds seem to stick despite your best efforts, a few sneaky saboteurs may be to blame. Here, find out what they are and how to outsmart ’em!
Sabouteur: Stressing out.
When you’re upset, you may get sudden urges to raid the fridge. That’s because your body releases the hormone cortisol, which signals your brain to seek out rewards—like food. “Eating comforting high-calorie foods produces a temporary increase in feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine,” explains Marci E. Gluck, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “This has a strong anxiety-reducing effect.” So the next time stress hits, you’re likely to reach for the same foods.
“Increases in cortisol also promote fat accumulation, especially around your abdomen,” adds Kevin D. Laugero, PhD, nutritionist at the University of California, Davis. That’s a strong risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Conquer it by: Keeping a cravings log.
Record what you eat, how much and how you’re feeling. Soon, you’ll spot patterns that can clue you in to the link between mood and food, and whether you’re eating to fill an emotional need. If you’re stressed, channel nervous energy into a brisk walk. If you’re upset or angry, call a friend, listen to music or consider talk therapy.
Sabouteur: Not catching enough zzzs.
Too little sleep may hamper your best attempts to lose weight. Sleepless nights can reduce levels of the hormone leptin, which curbs appetite. It also boosts levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers appetite. “These changes kick your appetite into overdrive,” explains Susan Redline, MD, professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “That results in cravings—especially for foods high in calories and saturated fats.”
Conquer it by: Making sleep a priority.
Aim for more than seven hours of sleep each night. Drift off more easily by avoiding caffeine after 3 pm, and finish working out at least three hours before you go to bed to give your body a chance to unwind.
Sabouteur: Taking yourself to task.
Do you beat yourself up for eating an extra chip or having an afternoon candy bar? Being too strict sets you up for failure.
Conquer it by: Fitting in your forbidden foods.
Instead of putting your favorites off-limits, have a treat once or twice a week. Learning you can trim down without depriving yourself can keep you motivated and on track.