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Habits That Are Hurting You From Losing Weight

Last updated Aug. 12, 2017

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Even the slightest bad habit can significantly contribute to weight loss failure.

Each day, eager men and women struggle to lose weight. There may be a variety of factors that could explain why their current weight loss plan has failed. But what they might not be aware of is how even the slightest bad habit can significantly contribute to weight loss failure.

The following habits need to be dumped in order to see noticeable results from the weight loss program that you undertake.

Not Enough Sleep:

Various studies have been steered towards analyzing sleep’s effect on hormone levels associated with hunger and satiety. The hormone leptin is increased or decreased in response to increased calorie intake or shortage, respectively. Ghrelin is a substance produced primarily by the stomach that is known to stimulate appetite.

The University of Chicago published a study in 2004 involving the association between sleep restriction in young men and resulting ghrelin and leptin levels. The participants that slept for 4 hours had leptin levels that were about 18% lower and ghrelin levels that were 28% higher than those who had slept for a total of 10 hours. Those who were restricted an adequate amount of sleep experienced a 23% higher hunger rating for carbohydrate rich foods than those who had enough sleep. These findings are indicative that decreases in leptin and increases in ghrelin levels have a strong correlation for increased appetite during the day, and in turn, weight gain.

Shopping When Hungry:

Going to the grocery store with an empty stomach has a subsequent negative impact on the choices you make. Hunger may cause you to buy the first quick-meal item that you see, which could be nutrient poor and bad for your diet. Make sure to eat a healthy snack before grocery shopping like a small grilled chicken sandwich or some trail mix.

Being Unprepared:

When traveling or at work, the easiest foods to eat are the most convenient. In many of these cases, the less healthy option will win. Make plans to bring healthy snacks such as a homemade sandwich with lean meats, carrots, fresh fruit, a smoothie, or trail mix.

Alcohol Intake:

It is easy to forget that drinks containing alcohol contain a substantial amount of calories that quickly add up with a night of drinking. Be conscious of these calories, and save drinking for occasions that are most important to you.

Skipping Breakfast:

During sleep, your body is in a fasting mode. When you wake up, you require energy, and your metabolism needs to start up again. Eating a healthy breakfast will jump-start your metabolism early in the morning to help promote calorie burn throughout the day. Establish healthy eating habits like choosing a healthy breakfast cereal that contain whole grains, fruit, Greek yogurt, or whole oats.

Large Portions:

Whether you are dining out in a restaurant or have a large amount of food made at home, it is hard to determine how much would constitute as a healthy serving. At restaurants, ask for a to-go box so you can take half of the portion home. There is no need to consume everything on your plate. Use the food guide pyramid to help maintain the amount of servings required for each food group.

Eating Late At Night:

Do not eat late at night before bedtime. Your dinner meal should be the last food that you consume. Consider trying flavored water at night to subside cravings.


Only eat when you feel hungry. Grazing when you are anxious, bored, or stressed will only inhibit weight loss and promote bad dietary habits. Drink water when you feel hungry; you may be actually thirsty instead.

With these bad habits in mind, take the time to identify the ones that you have acquired. By slowly working to eliminate these bad habits one at a time, you may see better results in your weight loss routine. Being informed is the best method of defense against those extra pounds.


Spiegel K, Tasali E, Penev P, Van Cauter E. Brief Communication: Sleep Curtailment in Healthy Young Men Is Associated with Decreased Leptin Levels, Elevated Ghrelin Levels, and Increased Hunger and Appetite. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2004;141(11):846-850.

Kathleen Zelman [Expert]. WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Director of Nutrition. 2005 Oct 7.

Simon H. Weight Control and Diet [Internet]. University of Maryland Medical Center [updated 2013 Sep 18; cited 2015 Jan 27]. Available from: http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/weight-control-and-diet

Davis K. Weight Management Strategies: Weight Loss [Internet]. Massachusetts Institute of Technology [updated 2005 Dec 12; cited 2015 Jan 27]. Available from: http://web.mit.edu/athletics/sportsmedicine/wcrwtloss.html

Improving Your Eating Habits [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [updated 2011 Sep 13; cited 2015 Jan 27]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/eating_habits.html

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Cordain, L. (2012). AARP The Paleo Diet Revised: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. John Wiley & Sons.

Agatston, A. (2005). The South Beach diet: the delicious, doctor-designed, foolproof plan for fast and healthy weight loss. Macmillan.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Aug. 12, 2017
Last updated: Aug. 12, 2017