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. You’re giving yourself too much credit
Unless you’re tracking every nutritional detail of your diet, you probably think it’s much healthier than it actually is. In a September 2015 survey, despite the fact that 72 per cent of more than 3,000 participants claimed to eat well on a daily basis, more than half of them weren’t actually getting enough essential micronutrients, many of which play a role in weight loss.
Solution? Try using a food tracker that not only logs how many calories you’re eating, but also takes nutrients into account.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. You aren’t eating enough (good) carbs
If you’ve been running the opposite direction every time you see a carb, you may want to change your route. Some starch — more specifically, resistant starch, which is a type of dietary fibre — can actually help you in your weight-loss journey because it’s resistant to digestion, which helps you feel fuller for longer.
Solution? You can get up to double the recommended daily serving of resistant starch (four grams) from two slices of pumpernickel bread, one medium-size banana, or a half cup of lentils.
7. You aren’t eating enough (good) fat
Fearing fat is so 2010. Dietary fat is essential to fighting body fat — just make sure you’re eating the right kind. No doubt you’ve heard about “healthy fats”, aka monounsaturated (shout out to our beloved MUFAs!) and polyunsaturated. They both help the body do all kinds of important (and slimming) things, including helping you feel full, turn stored fat into energy and reduce inflammation.
Solution? Introduce more healthy fats to your diet. Foods rich in the monounsaturated type include olive oil, avocados and most nuts. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (which are polyunsaturated fats) include fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), flaxseeds and walnuts.
8. 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.