Emily Sicinski, MS, RDN, CDN
5 Habits That Affect Weight That Are Not Food Related
Updated: Dec 16, 2022
Imagine this: you wake up early on a Sunday morning after a full week of healthy eating and consistent exercise. You’re feeling great after all your hard work! You head over to the scale to see just how much the efforts have paid off, but when you step on the scale you see… you’ve gained 2 pounds? How could this possibly be after working so hard all week?
Before jumping to the conclusion your diet and physical activity routine aren’t working, know there are a number of reasons why the number on the scale might be a bit tougher to budge on your weight loss journey. In this blog post, we will break down 5 lifestyle factors that could affect your weight, but aren’t necessarily related to what’s on your plate.
1. Sleep. Did you know the quality of sleep you get each night can impact your weight? If you spend the night tossing and turning, you may find yourself snacking throughout the day to help maintain energy levels. This excess snacking could add unnecessary calories to your day and make it harder to achieve your weight goals.
Poor sleep can also affect your hormone levels, especially those hormones that control hunger and fullness. Poor quality sleep has been found to increase ghrelin (our hunger hormone) and decrease leptin (our fullness hormone). An imbalance in these hormones can result in increased appetite and intake, which may also lead to exceeding your daily needs.
2. Stress. Stress is another major lifestyle factor that can affect weight. When a person is experiencing stress, there is an increase in the circulating cortisol (our stress hormone). When cortisol levels are high, it can result in decreased insulin sensitivity and unwanted weight gain. The increase in insulin can also drop your blood sugar and stimulate your appetite more frequently.
3. Age. As we age, it is a biological response that our muscle cells are gradually replaced by fat cells. Since muscle mass plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy metabolism, you may find your usual diet and exercise regimes may not be as effective as it used to be once you reach a certain age. Try not to fret, as this is a very normal part of aging. Just try to pay attention to what has changed over time, and adjust your routine as you see fit.
4. Hydration. Getting enough water throughout the day is important for many things including weight management. And did you know the feeling of thirst can often be mistaken for hunger? It’s important to ensure you’re fully hydrated before grabbing an extra snack during the day.
Adequate hydration also helps maintain a healthy metabolism. By drinking enough water, you can optimize your body’s ability to perform lipolysis (the breakdown of fat molecules). For adequate hydration, the rule of thumb is to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces. For example, a 150-pound person should consume a minimum of 75 ounces of water each day.
5. Genetics. Your genetic makeup can largely influence the way your body stores fat. This can include the amount of fat as well as where it gets stored on the body. Some research even points to how appetite may be something that is genetically predisposed. When considering genetics, it could be familial (i.e., from your parents) or predisposed based on race or ethnicity. Did you know some races have a naturally lower resting energy expenditure than others? And that some are at higher risk for disease? Although the risks are genetically higher in some populations than others, implementing a healthy lifestyle can help reduce those risks.
There are many factors that can affect our weight, so if you are embarking on a wellness journey and notice the scale isn’t moving in the direction you had hoped, try to take a look at the bigger picture and ask yourself the following questions:
How have I been sleeping?
How are my stress levels?
Could age be a limiting factor?
Have I been drinking enough water?
Do any of my family members experience challenges with weight?
It is important to take a wide-lens approach to your health and perform a full evaluation when things may not be going as you had initially planned. Above all, remember to not give up on your diet and exercise regime because these are 2 factors that have tremendous benefits in the long-term. A registered dietitian can help to evaluate your current diet patterns and assess whether or not changes must be made to promote a healthy, balanced diet. Sound nutrition and consistent physical activity are just two of the many factors that could affect a person’s weight, and it is up to each person individually to acknowledge and address the other factors that could also play a role in maintaining good health and wellness.
Until Next Time,
Emily Sicinski, MS, RDN, CDN