(BlackDoctor.org) — It’s no secret that taking a months-long hiatus from the gym or indulging in dessert night after night can cause pounds to creep on. But many other less obvious things — from what time you go to sleep to how often you multitask — can impact your weight too.
“Lots of women think they’re doing everything right for weight loss, but habits that you’ve never even thought of may be unwittingly sabotaging your efforts,” says Karlene Karst, RD, author of Belly Fat Breakthrough. If you’re trying to slim down, pay attention to these shockingly sneaky weight-loss saboteurs.
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A Love of Late-Night Television
Staying up late may pack on up to two pounds a month, according to new research from Northwestern University. The study found that people who go to bed late eat more food (on average 248 extra calories per day), have worse diets, and are more likely to have a higher body mass index than people who tuck in earlier.
Study researcher Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD, MPH, says both circadian rhythm and environmental factors may be at play. “Eating at night, when you’re supposed to be sleeping, may cause you to process calories differently,” she says. Plus, the foods we often crave at night — Moose Tracks ice cream, anyone? — tends to be high in calories and fat.
To ease into a new routine, inch your bedtime back by 15 minutes a night until you’re snagging seven to eight hours of sleep. When you get post-dinner munchies, opt for healthy snacks, such as frozen grapes or berries, air-popped popcorn, or high-fiber cereal (look for less than 5 grams of sugar per serving and more than 5 grams of fiber).
Traveling for Work
The more time you spend away from home, the worse off your waistline, according to a recent Columbia University study. After reviewing the medical records of more than 13,000 employees in a corporate wellness program, researchers found that those who traveled the most for work were more likely to have higher BMIs and a greater risk of obesity. Since 80 percent of business travel in the United States is by car, long stints of inactivity behind the wheel and unhealthy on-the-road food choices are probably to blame.
Karst suggests filling a portable cooler with fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, sandwiches, yogurt, and bottles of water, and stashing some nuts (almonds and walnuts) in your glove compartment as a go-to healthy snack. At rest stops, choose sandwich shops (like Subway or Quiznos) where you can pick your fillings; order a 6-inch size sandwich made with whole-grain or flat bread and lean meats, and load it up with filling veggies. Keep a gym bag and a pair of sneakers in your trunk — you can hit the hotel gym if there is one, or at the very least, take a walk.
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A Cardio Obsession
Ramp up cardio, burn calories and fat. Sounds simple enough, but the latest science on exercising for weight loss says otherwise. Classic cardio — walking on the treadmill, running, stepping, spinning, etc. — doesn’t help you lose as much weight as you might think, says Jim Karas, a celebrity trainer based in Chicago and author of The Cardio-Free Diet.