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Trying to lose weight but can't? Habits wrecking weight loss efforts

Some reasons why the weight stays on

There is more to weight loss than just keeping score of your calorie intake. Here are some sneaky saboteurs that may be causing your weight gain.

Sleeping with the lights on

A new study has found that even if you clock the optimum amount of sleep, sleeping with the lights or TV on might nevertheless cause weight gain. This is possibly because the absence of darkness prevents you from going into deep sleep, which is necessary for memory and overall learning, increasing blood supply to muscles, boosting the immune system, cell regeneration, and repairing and growing tissues and bones. Without deep sleep, you may wake up feeling even more tired and crave a big high-calorie breakfast to replenish your energy.

Fruit juices and smoothies

Because of their high sugar content, they can make your blood sugar spike and dip quickly, causing fluctuations in your insulin level and making you crave more sugar after you crash. Fructose, found in fruit juices and flavoured yogurt, stimulates insulin, telling the body to convert calories into fat.


Nuts have a justifiably good reputation as a healthy snack, but the daily recommended amount is no more than a handful (for instance, 20 almonds or 15 cashews).

Good fat is still fat, and will contribute to an expanding waistline if you don't watch your serving. Portion out your serving sizes or buy pre-packaged 100-calorie packets.

Energy bars

Unless you are eating these in place of a meal, be mindful of having them as a snack. Most contain 200 to 250 calories and are loaded with sugar, which can send your body into storage mode, converting them into glucose that stays in the bloodstream instead of getting expended as energy.

Peanut butter

Yet another irresistible item that we tend not to realise we are overeating. Peanut butter is calorie-dense, and its tasty flavour makes it hard to stop at just one tablespoon. But there are about 220 calories in two tablespoons, more than a snack's worth.

Artificially sweetened drinks

Artificial sugar can throw your taste buds out of whack, making you unable to discern a healthy amount of sweetness, triggering you to crave more sugar and making you more prone to reaching for that doughnut. Studies have shown that consuming sweeteners is linked to weight gain and obesity because our body gets confused when it tries to digest something that has a calorie count that is disproportionate to its sweetness. When that happens, our body stores those extra calories as fat.

Fat-free foods

They are typically loaded with extra ingredients such as salt, sugar, flour and thickeners for more flavour, making them a calorie trap that you unwittingly load up on.

Packaged "health" foods

A large part of packaged foods are processed, and some so-called health foods can irritate and inflame fat cells. Foods such as fruit yogurt, fat-free cereals or granola can have ingredients that can cause inflammation, such as corn and sugar, sending you into a cycle of weight gain.

Fight fat inflammation by filling your plate with fruits and vegetables that can put your body back into equilibrium. Opt for low-sugar fruits such as blueberries and low-starch, leafy veggies such as spinach, broccoli and kale for their antioxidative, cancer- and inflammation-fighting properties.

Mindless eating

You might be at a party or working at the computer or binge-watching a Netflix series - but you are also constantly eating. Try to pay attention when you eat and eat slowly (try chewing 20 times for every mouthful). You will be more attuned to your body telling you that it is full and stop eating when you need to.


Insufficient sleep can be a contributing factor to weight gain. Sleep suppresses the hunger hormone leptin, which regulates appetite and metabolism, so when you are up late, you tend to go on a fridge raid. Lack of sleep also makes you crave high-fat and high-carb comfort foods, so your snack choices won't be the smartest. Plus, you're less active at night, so all the calories you consume will be stored as fat instead of getting expended.

This article was first published in Shape (