Andrea Metcalf by Andrea Metcalf

It happens with age. Each decade a few more pounds are gained around the midline and although you’re exercising and feel like you’re eating healthy, the pounds keep adding up. But in many circumstances, the things you are doing on a consistent basis could be hindering your best efforts.

-Do you watch the late night talk shows and then get up early for a morning run?
-Are you trying to listen to your body and feel hunger pangs before you eat?
-Are your eyes bigger than your stomach?

Here are six habits that might be keeping you fat!

1. Up Late, Early Wake.

If you’re a night owl but still have to make it into the office before 9 a.m., you may not be getting enough sleep, and a lack of consistent solid sleep may be one habit that is keeping you fat. Sleep plays a role in weight loss by regulating the hormones leptin and gherlin. When you do not get enough sound sleep, leptin hormones drop and gherlin hormones rise. Gherlin is a stress hormone that can lead to food cravings, especially sweets. Leptin helps utilize fat stores for fuel, so when leptin levels drop the body uses more stored sugars than stored fat. KEY: Get at least seven hours of sound sleep.

2. Eat When You’re Hungry.

If you only eat when you’re hungry, you’re missing the metabolism boost that your body gets when you’re regularly fueling the engines. Your body needs fuel to function properly, just like a car’s engine needs to always have gas in the tank. If you’re constantly hungry, you might be eating the wrong combination of carbohydrates and proteins. Protein helps stabilize blood sugars so that you’re not hungry, so every meal should have a source of protein. Even vegetarians need legumes, nuts and the right combination of grains and veggies to meet protein requirements.

3. Portion Distortion.

The only foods you can never get enough of are fruits and vegetables—but even some of those can get you into trouble, such as nuts, avocados or other high-calorie fruits and vegetables. People tend to eat what’s on their plates, even if they know it’s too much for their needs. Just because a restaurant serves a meal for one, it doesn’t mean it has the correct calorie count for a single serve meal based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Use smaller plates to help understand correct portion sizes. Government studies tell us that the average number of calories Americans eat each day has risen from 1,854 to 2,002 during the past 20 years. The extra 148 calories each day can add up to a 15-pound weight gain in just one year.

4. Home Base.

Your home environment is where you store, cook and eat food, and the place where you have the most control. Yet we have cabinets and freezers filled with items that we may not touch for several months (even years). I was victim to this habit by keeping foods on hand that I thought I might make or use in a recipe someday. The key here is fresh foods and preparation. It can be hard to make changes at home, but it is the start to making changes on your scale. Clear out high-calorie temptations from your pantry, including leftovers, ice cream, pies and pizza, so you’re not tempted to eat them. Instead, have healthy snacks on hand like yogurt, cut veggies and fruits, and flavored waters. Stock your kitchen with appliances designed for healthy cooking, such as a vegetable steamer or indoor grill.

5. Break a Sweat.

Exercise is imperative for maintaining body weight and living heart healthy, but many people don’t realize that doing the same activity will actually help the body to become more efficient and burn fewer calories in the process. You have to cross train you muscles and look for different ways to move your body. Many people are stuck in the rut of no exercise or the same thing they’ve been doing for years. Find a personal trainer or change up your programs every eight to 12 weeks to achieve optimal results.

6. Plowing Through.

You may think that being busy is just part of your life, but you really have a choice each day in how you spend it. Take time at least once a week to reflect on what you’re doing right and what you could be doing better. Skip chores that don’t have a lasting effect and evaluate how your emotions play into sabotaging your diet and exercise program. Simple journal writing or mediation can have a big impact on your lifestyle changes and results. One simple exercise: Take notice of how many times you breathe in a minute. Fewer than eight breaths signals a normal heart rate, while more than eight breaths can signal anxiety, stress and a higher heart rate, which could lead to increased health risks.

Are you guilty of any of these habits? See what simple changes you can make daily to have big results on your scale and health.

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