If you notice your weight starting to creep up once you hit 30, your lifestyle could be having more effect than you think. We all know the obvious triggers such as eating too much and not doing much exercise but there are some sneakier factors that can play a big part in weight gain. Here are some of the most common ones to avoid so that you can keep your tummy trim and within a healthy weight range.
Too Much Stress
Struggling to keep your stress levels under control? There’s a good chance that it’s affecting your weight - especially for women. Your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol, during stressful periods and this can send your blood sugar levels haywire. According to studies, high cortisol production leaves you craving sweet foods and means you’ll probably eat more calories.
Cortisol also changes how your body uses glucose, makes it harder to burn fat and makes it easier to store fat. Women are more likely to store fat on their stomach but this can also be true for men. Abdominal fat has been linked to health issues so it’s definitely something you want to keep to a minimum!
Falling Into Emotional Eating Habits
Not taking care of your well-being can mean that you eat in line with your emotions rather than when you’re genuinely hungry. Feeling sad, stressed, lonely, bored or disappointed can lead you to eat to fill an emotional void and crave particular foods (usually the unhealthy kind!).
You might feel a little bit better in the immediate aftermath but in the longer term, this type of emotional eating can have a big effect on your weight. Most of the time, you won’t get a signal to say that you’re full and it’s all too easy to find that you’ve eaten a lot more than you planned in a very short space of time. And you probably won’t feel any better afterwards. In fact, you may well feel a whole lot worse as it’s common for emotional eating to make you feel guilty and ashamed of your food choices.
Not Sleeping Well
Poor sleep quality makes you more likely to eat more calories and gain weight. This is because it disrupts hormones that control your appetite. Lack of sleep increases production of ghrelin and decreases leptin levels, which means it’s harder to manage your appetite.
Sleeping well is one of the underrated ways to keep your weight in check as your levels of these hormones will be a lot more balanced.
Not Building Muscle Mass
If you spend a lot of time sitting down and aren’t very active, you probably don’t have much muscle mass. This might not seem like a big deal but it’s a common weight gain trigger.
Lean muscle boosts your metabolism and makes it that little bit easier to burn calories. If you don’t have much lean muscle, your metabolism doesn’t get this benefit and it’s harder to burn calories.
One of the best ways to build more muscle mass is through strength training. Don’t worry- you won’t end up looking like a bodybuilder! The idea of strength training is to build a toned body with minimal body fat rather than the bulky look we often associate with weights.
Not Eating Enough
Being on a diet more often than not means you’re definitely going to lose weight, right? Not always! Restricting your calorie intake too much slows down your metabolism and encourages the body to go into “starvation mode” so that it can run on fewer calories. This also means you burn fewer calories too as your body uses most of your intake to survive.
These kind of diets are very hard to stick to in the long term. Chances are, you’ll go back to a less restrictive way of eating but your body can still be more likely to store fat. This is why many people find that they gain weight after coming off a low calorie diet.
Eating “Low Fat” Foods
Just because a food claims to be “low fat” doesn’t always mean that it’s going to help you to stay in shape. A lot of supposedly “low fat” options are often high in sugar and salt to make them more tasty and can also contain a lot of calories. Eat too many of these “low fat” foods and you’re probably going to put weight on!
Tips for Avoiding These Triggers
So, what can you do to avoid these common triggers and get your body in the best shape?
-Below I go into why getting enough sleep is so crucial for your health and wellbeing, and why diet alone can’t undo the effects of not sleeping well.
Sleep Duration Versus Sleep Quality
We’re always being told how many hours we should be sleeping each night but is it definitely enough even if we can manage to achieve it?
Sleep quality refers to how well we sleep and is a completely different than how long we sleep. It’s pretty easy to tell how long you sleep but the quality of it is a bit harder to determine.
Poor sleep quality means that you’re not sleeping in line with your circadian rhythm or going through all of the important sleep phases (particularly with REM sleep).
Some of the signs that your sleep quality isn’t as good as it could be include:
Sleep and Health
What exactly does your body experience when you don’t get enough sleep? Pretty much everything is affected but here are some of the more serious effects that poor
sleep patterns can have on your health:
Sleep and Cognition
You’ve no doubt heard that eating the right foods can boost your brain health but it’s not just diet that can affect your memory and concentration.
Sleep is an important factor too, and lack of sleep has been shown to impair them. In fact, one study has suggested that even moderate sleep issues can be as damaging as alcohol in affecting performance!
The deeper stages of sleep are particularly vital when it comes to clear thinking, focus, memory and learning. This is when your brain does a lot of its mental ‘sorting’, such as filtering out information that isn’t really needed right now. This adds up to better cognition and performance.
Sleep and Weight Gain
If you don’t sleep well, it can be a lot harder to maintain a healthy weight. The main problem? It sends your metabolism a little bit crazy and can ruin your good intentions for eating well.
Lack of sleep has a big effect on hormones that are linked to appetite - namely leptin and ghrelin. Leptin helps to keep your appetite in check while ghrelin does the opposite.
Ideally, you want to have more leptin and less ghrelin but not getting enough sleep throws this balance out and effectively switches them around. This means you’re a lot more likely to overeat, even when you’re technically full. And you’ll find it harder to shift stubborn fat on your stomach, as sleep deprivation encourages fat to build up in this area in particular.
Improving Your Sleep Quality
Some of the things you can do to try to get better quality sleep each night include:
If you haven’t been seeing sleep as a key part of your wellness routine, it’s definitely time to change that! How well do you sleep?
Comment below I’d love to know more about your situation.