You're logging plenty of steps and eating pretty healthfully—so why is the scale still creeping up? One possible answer to this mystery might be your evening routine. Banish these bedtime habits and see if the pounds start coming off. (Get in shape for summer with the Women's Health Summer Training Guide!)
NOT BUDGETING FOR NIGHTTIME SNACKS
If you can't imagine watching Netflix without popcorn in hand, we get it. Just make sure you're counting those extra calories in your daily total. "I'm not against people having something at night," says sleep and weight loss expert Dr Peter LePort. "But if you're having a big meal and then a big bowl of ice cream, you're going to gain weight." If you plan on snacking later, add in some exercise during the day or downsize your dinner to compensate.
SNACKING MINDLESSLY IN FRONT OF THE TV
Research has shown that distracted eating not only affects how much you eat, but also how much you remember eating—which is why you can get wrapped up in a good show and suddenly find yourself holding an empty bag of chips. Even if you opt for healthy snacks, you still need to keep an eye on your portions: "Even carrots have calories, so if you go overboard, you're going to gain weight," LePort says. Before you cozy up on the couch, measure out an appropriate serving size of whatever you're eating so you'll stop when you hit the bottom of the bowl.
UNWINDING WITH A NIGHTCAP
Not only is alcohol loaded with empty calories, but that glass of wine before bed can disrupt your sleep cycles. "You're going to end up waking up in the middle of the night and not get good sleep," LePort says. Research shows that getting insufficient sleep interferes with your hunger hormones and makes you more likely to crave (and consume) unhealthy foods. So anything that messes with your z's can sabotage your weight-loss efforts.
WAITING TOO LONG TO CRAWL UNDER THE COVERS
Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep a night, but according to the CDC, more than one-third of us fall short. And while we tend to think of sleep deprivation as a badge of honour, squeaking by on six hours a night (and strong coffee) can have a serious impact on your waistline. According to research from Harvard University, women who slept five hours a night or less were 30 percent more likely to gain 30 pounds over the course of the 16-year study.
CHECKING YOUR TECH BEFORE BED
The blue light emitted by the LEDs in your phone, laptop, and television can affect your sleep cycles, so it's best to log off at least an hour before bedtime. Sleeping with the TV on is definitely a no-no, because the light and sound can disturb you all night long. "You're not reaching the deep sleep you need to maintain a healthy mind and body," LePort says. If you simply can't drift off without the TV, at least set the sleep timer.
SETTING YOUR ALARM TOO LATE
Early mornings can be rough, but resist the urge to sleep in if that means you'll skip breakfast. Research shows that a high-protein breakfast can help you eat less throughout the day and gain less body fat. If you're constantly caught off-guard by the morning rush, change your bedtime and your wake time so you have enough wiggle room in the morning for a healthy meal.