If the scale isn’t showing you the numbers you’d like to see or you’re not making the strides you expected fitness-wise, it’s time to take a step back to unearth some of the “hidden” habits that could be hampering your success.
1. Underestimate how many calories you are consuming. You must expend more energy (calories) than you take in to lose weight, period. If you don’t, you won’t lose weight and you won’t win. How do you know if you are eating the right amount of food to lose weight? You keep track of your eating. Yes, that means counting calories. Sure, you can guess, and you’re likely to be wrong! The average person underestimates their daily calories by as much as 600 per day.
2. Overestimate how many calories you are burning. The best way to know for sure how many calories you are burning off is to either (a) wear a heart rate monitor that calculates calories burned or (b) log your workouts onto a system like MyFitnessPal. But I really like option (c): Do both! Wear a heart rate monitor that calculates your calories and log them.
3. Don’t get enough sleep. Research in the American Journal of Human Biology suggests that people with shorter sleep cycles (and who might be sleep deprived) have a higher BMI (body mass index) than those who get adequate sleep. Why is this? Researchers believe that sleep deprivation increases levels of a hormone called ghrelin, which signals that the body is hungry. On the flip side, it decreases leptin, which signals that the body is full. Not to mention that since you’re dragging throughout the day, you are more likely to eat sugar-filled foods to try to get you over a midday slump. Lack of sleep can also lead to skipping workouts because you’re too tired. Now if you are waking up a bit earlier to exercise, that’s a good thing, but just make sure you are getting enough sleep so that you have the energy and motivation to get your workout in.
4. Binge on healthy foods. Just because something is healthy doesn’t make it calorie free. Actually some healthy foods and snacks like granola and avocados are quite calorie dense. So with that in mind, go back and reread number one on this list again. Track your calories.
5. Mistake thirst for hunger. Are you really hungry, or do you just need something to drink? This is a question you should ask yourself before stuffing your face with food. Mild dehydration can trigger feelings of hunger. When you stay hydrated, your appetite decreases because your body is getting what it needs (hydration); thus, you maintain a feeling of being satisfied. So try chugging a big glass of water before each meal or when you find yourself craving things you know you shouldn’t be eating.
Excerpted from “Men’s Health Workout War” by Jim Cotta. Copyright (c) 2015 by Rodale Inc. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.