Improve your health by learning

Weight Management

Weight & Nutrition

Weight & Exercise

Wellness

< Go back

4 Lifestyle Factors that Affect Your Weight

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
4
December 18, 2021

Are you trying every single approach to manage your weight, but not finding one that works to keep the weight off? Do you find that it’s tough to lose, or that after you lose, the weight just creeps back up? Well, you are definitely not alone. There are tons of products available that are aimed at weight loss, but sometimes, the key is in your lifestyle. Besides knowing the basics of weight management, it is important to know what other factors affect your weight that may be setting you up for an unreasonable struggle with your weight. Here’s a list of 4 key issues that commonly undermine our efforts to control our weight, and what you can do about them.

Diet

Healthy eating features a variety of healthy foods. If you are already eating healthfully, keep in mind some of the secret pitfalls:

  • Eat when you are not hungry: If you're tempted to eat when you're not hungry, find a distraction.
  • Skip meals: In a rush? Don't skip meals, especially breakfast. If you're in a hurry, grab a piece of fruit, some nuts, or a piece of whole wheat bread on the way out the door.
  • Avoid a category of food: You may have heard that avoiding carbs altogether is a good way to lose weight, or cutting all fat out of the diet. Sure, this may provide some quick weight loss, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Also, it will shock the body and metabolism, and will not provide you with weight loss that lasts. Try eating in moderation, instead.
  • Make concessions: You may have a healthy diet most of the time, but every now and then we like to cheat a little. That’s ok, but be mindful of how often you do it. A little cream in your coffee today can easily become part of your normal routine. Did you find a low-calorie, ‘less-bad-for-you’ ice cream? Great! Just don’t go overboard - don’t make it a part of your regular shopping list, and don’t eat the whole pint. Remember, it is still a treat.
  • Not adding it all up: Eating a special meal on Friday, a treat with friends on Sunday, and not having enough vegetables in your diet on Monday and Tuesday are all little things that add up. Try to think about your entire day, and your week that past and week ahead. If there’s a special event coming, try to be on good behavior throughout the week.
  • Eat the wrong things when you’re hungry: Did you already eat a meal, but you still feel hungry? Before you grab some munchies, think about why you might still be hungry: was the meal low fiber, missing vegetables, carbs, or protein, or did you not drink enough water? If your answer is yes to any of those, then try to fill your body with what is missing, not just what is around you.

Whether your diet is wonderful already, or needs some help, there are a few quick guidelines to always follow. Ask your health coach or Dietitian to help find solutions that work for you, and read this article to learn more about dietary habits that help you lose weight.

Stress

When you're under stress, you may find it harder to eat healthy. Also, during times of particularly high stress, you may eat in an attempt to fulfill emotional needs — sometimes called stress eating or emotional eating. And you may be especially likely to eat high-calorie foods during times of stress, even when you're not hungry.

To prevent weight gain during stress and reduce the risk of obesity, get a handle on your stress. When you feel less stressed and more in control of your life, you may find it easier to stick to healthy eating and exercise habits.

  • Recognize warning signs that you are stressed: tense shoulders, headaches, being easily frustrated are some quick signs.
  • Unplug: separate yourself from the things that are triggering you for just a moment, either physically or mentally.
  • Refocus: Take a few deep breaths, focus on relaxing your shoulders, sitting straight, and thinking about how to resolve the issue,
  • Live well: Lack of sleep, caffeine, low activity, or a poor diet can all make you more prone to feeling stressed.

Stress, alone, can raise stress hormones, offset your body’s natural balance, and make controlling your weight and other health conditions more difficult. Protect your body from the effects of stressors by sleeping and eating well.  If you try stress management techniques on your own but they don't seem to be working, consider seeking professional help through psychotherapy or counseling.

Sleep

Research in adults suggests that, sleeping four hours a night, compared with 10 hours a night, appears to increase our hormones regulating hunger — ghrelin and leptin. These hormones increase our sensation of hunger, and make us less sensitive to the feeling of fullness. In particular, we become more likely to crave higher calorie, high carbohydrate, and more processed foods. Observational studies also suggest a link between sleep restriction and obesity. Other studies have found similar patterns in children and adolescents.

Another contributing factor might be that lack of sleep leads to fatigue and results in less physical activity. So if you are a new parent, or have trouble sleeping at night due to work, a medical condition or lack of routine, then this may make controlling your weight more difficult. You may want to seek help from your provider or a health coach to help with troubleshooting your sleep needs.

Exercise

How much physical activity you need depends partly on whether you are trying to maintain your weight or lose weight. Walking is often a good way to add more physical activity to your lifestyle if you are not typically active. But if you are already active, then you may need different types of exercise to help you sustain your weight loss.

Takeaways

Having a healthy lifestyle is wonderful for your overall health, but the main habit that helps put everything into place and make your weight goals achievable is your routine. If you have a regular routine for eating at similar times, waking and sleeping at similar times, and daily habits aimed at physical activity and helping you keep stress in-check, then your weight will naturally fall into a maintaining or losing pattern. Gradually, you may still need to adjust your routine to keep losing weight, especially if you hit a weight plateau. Talk to your health coach or Dietitian for ways to get out of a weight plateau.