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The potential causes for weight gain are numerous, but few people are aware that our bedtime habits have such a negative impact on weight loss. Once you’re aware of the insidious ways weight gain can occur, you’ll be able to create healthier habits that can help lead to its prevention. In order to live a healthy lifestyle and maintain a healthy weight, it’s best to take a holistic approach and monitor your behaviour across all of these potential causes.
Eating too late
While you shouldn’t eat if you’re not hungry, waiting to eat until shortly before bedtime can be hard on your body. Your body will be working to digest your meal as you sleep, meaning your sleep is disrupted – which will, in turn, have negative effects on your weight.
Solution: Eat dinner at a similar time every day. This will allow your body to get used to expected mealtimes, gradually resulting in less late-night cravings.
Setting your alarm late
It’s always tempting to get up at the last possible minute in the morning, but getting up early and organizing a healthy breakfast as well as planning your meals for later in the day is key if you’re serious about eating well and losing weight. Not allowing yourself enough time in the morning, meaning you have to rush to work, is likely to raise your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), which will, in turn, impact your ability to control your eating and make rational choices, as well as making you feel hungrier.
Solution: Set your alarm for a reasonable time that will allow you to get up and prepare for the day with enough time; your body and mind will both be more relaxed.
Not sleeping enough
In the modern world, people often sacrifice sleep for work, social life and recreational activities. While this may not appear harmful, consistently missing out on sleep is likely to make you irritable and tired. It will also likely lead you to overeat or neglect your diet entirely, as lack of sleep leads to diminished capacity to make decisions and control impulses.
Solution: Ghrelin, a hormone that signals to you that it is time to eat, is produced more in sleep-deprived individuals. To ensure your body runs as it should, have a set bedtime and sleep for at least seven hours a night.
Consuming caffeine too late
Consuming caffeine late at night can create a vicious cycle – you don’t feel tired at bedtime, so you don’t sleep enough, leading to your feeling exhausted the next day (and consuming more calories in the process), meaning you drink more caffeine to cope. While there’s nothing detrimental about a cup of coffee in the morning, especially if it’s black, consuming it in the evening can wreak havoc on your body.
Solution: Switch to herbal tea in the evening for a relaxing hot drink that will help, not hinder, your sleep.
Foregoing exercise to relax
When you’re dieting, it can be easy to congratulate yourself on eating well for a day and rewarding yourself with leisure time instead of completing your usual exercise routine. While losing weight is often more about diet than exercise, the endorphins you experience while exercising will positively affect your mood, allowing you to feel focused and alert. Refraining from exercise often results in feelings of lethargy, which can be extremely detrimental when searching for the motivation to continue dieting.
Solution: Exercise every day, at least for a short while – your body and mind will both reap the benefits.
Overeating at dinner
Eating a large portion, or going back for seconds, can ruin your diet for the whole day. It is a common flaw in thinking that you should allow yourself to eat what you like for dinner because you’ve eaten well the rest of the day, but your body doesn’t care about this kind of reasoning – you’ll still gain weight.
Solution: Monitor your eating, and plan in advance how much to cook or prepare for your meals, so there’s no way to eat second helpings. Trick your brain by serving your dinner on a smaller plate; it will believe that you’re consuming a larger amount, leading you to feel fuller.
Giving into snacking
We’ve all done it – consumed our budgeted calories for the day, only to give into a snack or two after dinner. While snacking is not inherently bad, it’s those extra calories that are unaccounted for that cause damage to diets, most notably when you opt for a sugary, salty, or processed snack instead of a healthy choice.
Solution: If you really want to snack, stick to healthy foods that won’t spike your blood sugar like celery sticks and hummus or a handful of nuts.
Using electronic devices before bed
Using your phone or computer at bedtime may be detrimental to your sleep because the devices emit a blue light that affects your hormones, especially melatonin, which works to induce sleep. This can create shifts in the body’s circadian rhythm, meaning you’ll feel the effects of sleep deprivation the following day, and reap all of its negative consequences.
Solution: Spend at least half an hour before bed away from any of your electronic devices; opt to read a book instead.