When it comes to weight loss, nothing is quite as difficult as dropping the last 10 pounds. At the start, you’re shedding body fat left and right, but at some point your dramatic results come to a screeching halt. Why? Essentially, your body becomes accustomed to your diet and your workout and let’s face it: It’s much harder to lose 10 pounds when you weigh 190 than it is to lose 10 pounds from a 300-pound frame.
At this point, you need to fine tune your lifestyle choices and behaviors. Small changes really do yield big results, according to Jenny Westerkamp, R.D., L.D., co-author of Green Foods for Men: Powerful Foods for a Clean, Healthy Diet. Take a look at the following mistakes she says you probably don’t realize you’re making. These tweaks will help you hone a leaner body in no time at all.
Scrolling through your phone in bed
If you’re reading this and scratching your head thinking, “How the heck does my phone relate to weight loss?” you’re not alone. Men and women don’t think their electronics usage has an impact on their health and fitness, but it has a domino effect on both. Aside from checking emails 24/7 (which is seriously stressing you out, by the way), browsing through social media channels and the news at night can cut into precious sleep time in two ways: You’re wasting minutes (hours) trolling the Internet instead of sleeping, and it’ll take you longer to fall asleep because your circadian clock needs complete darkness in order to release the sleep hormone melatonin, according to the National Sleep Foundation. And that sleep deprivation? It “causes your brain to have a lessened ability to control cravings for low-quality food,” Westerkamp says. Research backs it up. A study from the Endocrine Society found a loss of 30 minutes of sleep per day can promote weight gain, insulin resistance, and negatively affect your metabolism in the long run.
Opting for low-calorie alternatives
Weight loss isn’t a simple cause-and-effect scenario where eating less equates to weighing less. When you limit your caloric intake too much, you throw off ghrelin and leptin levels. These two key metabolic hormones suppress and raise your appetite. “Calorie restriction leads to higher levels of ghrelin (the hormone that stimulates hunger) and lower levels of leptin (the hormone that suppresses hunger and boosts your body’s ability to burn fat),” Westerkamp says. It goes against everything you’ve heard about fad diets and trends, but eating too little won’t lead to long term weight loss; you’ll just burn less fat and always be hungry. “The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on, Westerkamp adds. “This means adding in more of the good stuff (eat whole, unprocessed, anti-inflammatory foods), making edits not deletions (at least at first), to set your body up for success.” Stop counting calories and put your attention on the quality of food you’re eating. Aside from shedding fat, you’ll gain control over cravings, rev your metabolism, balance your hunger hormones, improve your energy, and allow your body to be the fat-burning machine it was designed to be.
Skimping on greens in the morning
Vegetables for breakfast probably aren’t your top choice. But they should be. “Green foods are essential for providing fiber to feel full and B vitamins to energize every cell in your body and keep your metabolism on full-speed,” Westerkamp says. What’s more, you can easily incorporate vegetables in your favorite staples. “Start slowly by adding spinach to your eggs or make the leap to green smoothies to start your day,” she adds.
Pouring too many additives in your coffee
Think about how many add-ins you pour into your coffee. How many spoonfuls of sugar? How many artificial sugar packets? How many splashes of creamer, milk, and syrup? Cringing already because you know it’s too much—and because you definitely don’t limit your caffeine consumption to just one cup? Most people don’t realize it, but according to the American Heart Association, the general recommendation of daily sugar intake for men is no more than 37g or 9tsp (about 150 calories). Refined sugar doesn’t deserve a home in your fat-burning body, Westerkamp adds. Take small steps to reduce your intake. “Aim for half the recommendation or about 17g per day (NOT per coffee!),” she advises. Just to put things in perspective, she says, one sugar packet has 4g of carbohydrates from sugar, a medium sweetened iced coffee has 20g, and a medium vanilla latte has 35g. There are tons of health benefits from drinking coffee, but when you dump a boat-load of sugar into, you’re pretty much defeating the positives. Try cinnamon and unsweetened coconut milk instead to retrain your tastebuds to respond positively to less sugar.
Missing out on protein at breakfast
According to a study done at teh University of Missouri, a breakfast containing 35g of protein helps prevent weight gain, reduces your daily intake of food, staves off hunger, and stabilizes your glucose levels. More specifically, a high-protein morning meal can help you consume 400 fewer calories in a day and burn more fat over time. The reason? “Protein can keep your energy levels stable by providing a more normal post-meal blood sugar response,” Westerkamp explains. “This prevents the urge to eat soon after the meal and improves body composition.” Reap the day-long benefits of the perfect breakfast by chowing down on eggs, dairy, and even lean pork.