10 Health Screw-Ups That Make You Gain a Ton of Weight

It’s tempting to blame genetics, bone structure, or metabolism when the number on the scale won’t go down. But rarely do we look to some of our everyday habits — which are typically the root of our weight loss problems. If you feel like you’re doing everything you can to lose weight but aren’t seeing any progress, it might actually be time to re-evaluate your decisions.

We’ve compiled 10 common health mistakes to ensure you aren’t doing more harm than good on your weight loss journey.

1. You don’t eat enough calories

man on a restrictive diet

Your restricted diet may be holding you back. | iStock.com

The general rule to lose a pound each week, mentioned by Health, is to cut 500 calories from your daily diet. So if you want to lose weight even faster, you should cut back even more, right? Not exactly. According to Everyday Health, reducing by too much can stall your results because a low calorie diet can actually slow down your metabolism in order to carry out other necessary functions.

When this happens, Livestrong.com says you may experience swollen hands and feet, irregular menstrual cycles, dizziness, and weakness. Symptoms can become even more severe if this continues, so you really need to make sure you’re eating enough to fuel your body.

2. You eat out too much

Friends Enjoying Evening Meal In Restaurant

Too much eating out is a good way to wreck your weight loss plan. | iStock.com/bowdenimages

It doesn’t matter if you are eating the healthiest-looking salad on the bistro menu. Dining out multiple times a week takes away your ability to control your caloric intake, leading to weight gain. “Both fast food and dine-in restaurants serve up more cholesterol and trans fat than what you make at home,” Men’s Fitness summarizes. “What’s more, people who regularly dine out consume an average of 200 calories and 58 milligrams of cholesterol more a day than their home-cooking counterparts.”

This doesn’t mean you have to slave away in the kitchen just to make yourself a meal. Simply keeping healthier options in your kitchen will aid in keeping the pounds off.

3. Your diet lacks essential nutrients

egg sandwich

Make sure you’re eating nutritious foods. | iStock.com

One of the biggest mistakes dieters make when trying to lose weight is completely cutting out carbs. But you should never get rid of them entirely. According to Women’s Health, whole grains provide the body with nutrients that help produce red blood cells, may help reduce risk of heart disease, and minimize bloating. That last one is thanks to fiber, which SFGate says is crucial for a healthy digestive system.

You also don’t want to skimp on protein. Eat This, Not That! says your body is unable to balance and synthesize valuable muscle mass if you don’t get enough protein, and this can hurt your metabolism. This is because muscle burns more calories at rest than fat. Make sure you’re giving your body enough of the right nutrients if you want to keep your metabolism humming.

4. You go overboard on the ‘diet’ labels

Labels disclosing GMOs aren't mandatory

You don’t judge books by their covers, so don’t judge strictly by the sticker. | ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Honestly, if a food has to tell you it is “diet-friendly” it probably isn’t. Knowing what you are putting into your body is half the battle when it comes to losing weight. “Nearly 59% of consumers have a hard time understanding nutrition labels, according to a Nielsen survey,” Health tells us. A lot of “fat-free foods, for example, contain high sugar levels, putting them almost at the same calorie count as full-fat versions.

The solution to this one is simple: Read your nutrition labels. Compare the nutrition facts of different foods and look at what is going into them. It is the best way to keep your weight in check.

5. You consume a lot of artificial sweeteners


Skip the artificially sweetened foods. | iStock.com

Being mindful of your sugar intake is something you should take seriously, especially since it’s linked to both weight gain and increased risk for harmful health conditions. Even sugar substitutes are proving problematic. According to Livestrong.com, your body may release too much insulin to process these artificial sweeteners because they confuse your body. This disrupts your metabolism and could result in overeating. The same story also highlights evidence linking artificial sweetener consumption with type 2 diabetes.

But fear not, for this unhealthy habit is a very easy fix. Giving your food labels a good look-over will give you a good idea of how much faux sugar you ingest on a daily basis — then adjust accordingly.

6. You drink too many of your calories

Milk in a glass

Milk only does the body good if you don’t go overboard. | iStock.com

Whether it is a fruit smoothie or a sugar-filled Frappuccino, drinking calories is a sure fire way to wreck a diet. Researchers have found that drinking a meal or snack tricks your body into not recognizing that you are ingesting calories, and can make you hungry again in a short period of time.

“Simply put, our bodies don’t register them the same way as solids,” U.S. News & World Report explains, pointing out that even healthy beverages like milk can up your caloric intake. “If you are worried about your weight, your goal should be the smallest number of liquid calories you need to enjoy your life as the health benefits intrinsic to liquid calories are minimal to none.”

7. You’re a distracted eater

Man eating while also using the computer

Forget the multitasking and focus on your food intake. | iStock.com

Everyone is guilty of it, especially in this day and age. Instead of focussing on your food, you check your phone, scroll through the internet, or get too engaged in whatever is currently on your television screen. These habits, which seem very commonplace, are actually keeping you from losing weight.

A study chronicled by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found distracted eaters were more likely to eat more and much more likely to be hungry in the not-too-distant future. “Evidence indicates that attentive eating is likely to influence food intake, and incorporation of attentive-eating principles into interventions provides a novel approach to aid weight loss and maintenance without the need for conscious calorie counting,” the study concluded.

8. You spend too much time sitting down

man slumped over his desk at work

Try to spend more of your day moving around. | iStock.com

For many people, the workweek calls for extended periods of sitting at a desk. Unfortunately, that comes with a price, and your weight loss plan could be paying it. According to Women’s Health, spending too much time sitting can actually slow down your metabolism and interfere with the way your body uses blood sugar. This means you’ll burn fewer calories, and it also increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes. If you’re worried your desk job is hurting your health, make sure to be active when you’re not on the clock and be sure to get up during your breaks throughout the day.

9. You don’t sleep enough

tired man

Get enough sleep to keep your body fully functioning. | iStock.com

Not getting your Zs wreaks major havoc on your weight loss plan. According to Reader’s Digest, your metabolism slows down after sleepless nights in order to conserve energy. This causes your body to release the stress hormone cortisol, which may increase your appetite for high-fat and high-carb foods. Over time, this cycle can easily lead to weight gain. It might sound counter-intuitive, but getting plenty of sleep could be the key to maintaining a healthy metabolism.

10. You are an emotional eater

Rocky road ice cream

Check your mood before reaching for that ice cream. | iStock.com/MSPhotographic

Surprisingly enough, emotional eating goes beyond the stereotype of devouring ice cream when you’re sad. Eating due to stress, or even boredom, is also an emotional response that can sabotage your waistline. “Sometimes our emotion-driven hormones con our fat cells, causing us to gain or lose fatty tissue,” Eat This, Not That! says. Feelings such as loneliness mess with hunger hormones and create “greater circulating levels of appetite.” Meanwhile, depriving yourself — of things other than food — can manifest as hunger.

Being aware of your overall mood and state of mind may sound tedious, but it could be what is keeping you from shedding those extra pounds.

Additional reporting by Chelena Goldman

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