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Bad Habits That Sabotage Weight Loss

(Virgin HealthMiles) You want to lose weight, and you're really trying. You're eating healthy food and exercising regularly. But if you're not seeing the results you expect, you may be inadvertently sabotaging your weight loss with one or more bad habits. Change this, and you're more likely to lose weight and be healthier. The five habits that sabotage weight loss are:

1. You don't sleep enough.
If you don't get enough quality sleep at night, it sets off a chain reaction that isn't conducive to weight loss: First, it makes it more difficult for your body to metabolize carbohydrates, which in turn causes blood sugar to go up and insulin levels to rise. The excess insulin encourages your body to store more fact, especially around your tummy and hips. And if that's not bad enough, when you're tired, you are more likely to make poor choices of what to eat and drink--opting for a quick burst of energy instead of healthy food. (Read: candy bars and sweet drinks instead of carrot sticks and water.) What can you do? Go to bed earlier. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep every night.

2. You don't effectively manage the stress in your life.
When you experience stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol. This is designed to quickly increase the body's energy. But when cortisol is released in excess, as it is during times of chronic stress, it stimulates glucose production. That excess glucose is converted into fat--and ends up in your body as stored fat. What can you do? Learn stress management techniques, such as trying to avoid the stress, learning to change the situation so it's no longer stressful and accepting the things you cannot change.

3. You don't eat "real" food.
When you consume too many processed, packaged foods, your body becomes overloaded with pesticides and chemicals. That means your liver has to work double-duty to remove the toxins. While the liver is designed to do just that, it also needs to help control your metabolism. If the liver is working overtime to control toxins, it can't do its part to help you burn calories. What can you do? Eat fresh, unprocessed and preferably organic foods.

4. You have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
Drinking alcohol has an unusual side effect you may not realize: It can make you hungry. Since alcohol lowers your blood sugar, it increases your appetite. It's also loaded with calories. Gram for gram, alcohol has more calories than carbohydrates or protein. What can you do? Drink less!

5. You don't eat enough or you skip meals.
It seems logical that if you eat less, you lose weight. But if eating less means skimping at meals or skipping them altogether that drastic calorie restriction will likely cause you to gain weight in the long run. When you don't eat enough, your body thinks it's starving and causes your metabolism to slow down--a lot. What can you do? Eat six small meals a day, instead of three large meals. This helps your metabolism to work all day at maximum capacity.

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