If you’re in a daily battle with the number on the scale, you’re not alone.
“I often hear from people who are frustrated at how difficult it is to lose weight,” said Mark Day, DO, a resident physician at Samaritan Internal Medicine - Corvallis. “But for long term success it’s not enough to focus only on what you eat. It’s really important for people to incorporate other healthy lifestyle factors into their routine.”
Nine Mistakes that Can Undermine Weight Loss
Only Doing Cardio
If regular aerobic exercise is part of your routine, that’s good news. Unfortunately simply doing cardio isn’t enough to help with weight loss, especially as you age. Day reports that both men and women start to lose muscle mass in middle age, which affects the rate at which the body burns calories even when resting. Add resistance training using weight equipment or your body weight to help build muscle strength.
Relying on Your Morning Workout for Exercise
Successful weight loss depends on an active lifestyle in addition to regular exercise that gets your heart pumping. Even if you had a great session at the gym, it’s still important to take the stairs at work or walk the dog before breakfast. Use your smartphone or a pedometer to track your activity and aim for 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology reports that women who slept at least seven hours a night over the course of 16 years gained less weight and were less disposed to obesity than their counterparts who slept only five or six hours a night, regardless of diet and exercise. Day recommends getting seven to nine hours a night, but if falling asleep or staying asleep is a problem then it’s time to talk to your doctor.
Forgetting about Your Thyroid
Women are more likely than men to have issues with their thyroid, which can affect their metabolism. If you are having trouble with gaining or losing weight, talk with your doctor about having your thyroid function checked. Day reports that thyroid disorders often show up in women during their 40s, so discuss whether you need to be screened at your next visit to the doctor.
Not Adjusting Your Diet as You Age
According to Day, metabolism starts to slow after age 40 and the amount of calories you need also decreases. Slowly replace foods that are high in fat, sugar and simple carbohydrates with foods that are high in fiber like whole grains, fruits and vegetables to make sure you feel full and get the nutrition you need.
If you’re eating while driving, in front of the TV or while answering emails at your desk, you aren’t paying enough attention to your food and might not notice when you are full. It also increases the chance that you are eating snack foods that aren’t doing much for you nutritionally. Instead, Day recommends taking 10 minutes to stop, enjoy and appreciate your food. It can be good for you in terms of how much you eat, but taking that break can also be beneficial for your mental health.
Letting Stress Rule
Mental health is also an important factor in weight management. A study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology reports that stress is linked to higher levels of cortisol in the body, which stimulates the appetite and leads to eating more and eating higher fat and sugar foods. According to Day, de-stressing with yoga, meditation and exercise are all helpful. If you need additional tools, a counselor can help you identify stressors and teach you stress management techniques to use at home.
Chasing the Latest Food Fads
Paleo, gluten-free, raw food, cabbage soup — Fad diets often deliver short-term weight loss results but neglect overall health and nutrition. Unless you are under the care of a medical doctor or registered dietitian, your food should come from all five of the food groups. Day recommends a Mediterranean-style, whole foods diet for the best long-term weight management and general good health.
Not Counting Drinks
Whether it’s a hazelnut latte or a glass of red wine drinks can add in a lot of calories, most of it from sugar. If you have a drink, consider it your dessert for the day.
“Many people struggle with weight loss, especially in middle age and beyond,” said Day. “If you feel stuck, talk to your doctor about ways to reach your goals and make sure good health is at the center.”