1. You aren’t eating enough
You may need to bump up your calories to increase your metabolism. When you dip below about 1,200 calories per day, not only are you not eating enough to get all your nutrients, but your body slows your metabolism in order to hold on to precious calories, says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, author of The Doctor’s Detox Diet.
Also, if you skip meals to lose weight, your body could lose its ability to feel full. Blame evolution, which has designed our bodies to resist famine and not the buffet table. For example, if you skip breakfast, the body assumes food is scarce. You need a morning meal to let your body know it’s okay to burn calories. “Within 1 hour of waking, you should consume a 350- to 500-calorie breakfast, with 10 to 15 grams of protein and fiber to stoke the metabolic fire,” says Gerbstadt. (Make your morning meal count with these 12 healthy ideas.)
2. You reward exercise with food
Burning 300 calories during a workout is cause for celebration…but rewarding yourself after exercise with a high-calorie treat doesn’t add up to weight loss. You’re likely to overestimate how much the workout burned off and underestimate how much you ate. “Even if you’re just working out for well-being, you still have to keep calories in check,” says Heidi Skolnik, author of Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance.
4. Do workouts with friends
Your chances of being overweight or obese increase half a percent with every friend in your network who is obese, finds a recent study from Harvard. That more than adds up: Your chances of obesity double for every four obese friends you have, say researchers. Even if that friend lives thousands of miles away, your chances of gaining weight still go up, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study. That may be because your perception of being overweight changes—living larger seems acceptable since the heavy person is a friend. (Interestingly, having an obese neighbor that you don’t know does not raise your risk.) Experts also think that a person’s lifestyle and behaviors can subconsciously rub off on those in the individual’s inner circle.
But you don’t have to ditch overweight friends to lose weight. In fact, if you embark together on an exercise plan, you can increase your fun and calorie burn: Research from Oxford finds that exercising with friends as a team can actually make the agony of exertion less intense. And once a friend starts to lose weight, you have a greater chance of losing as well (this mechanisms work both ways).
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