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Top 7 Habits Preventing You from Losing Weight

Reading Time: 5 minutes 40 seconds


Date: 2022-05-11

You, or your client, might be doing all the right things to lose weight, but weight loss will eventually stall if you’re still doing some of the wrong things. 

You can watch what you eat and exercise regularly, but certain habits may sabotage these efforts. Not only do you need to engage in healthy habits for weight loss, but you also need to stop or limit unhealthy habits. 

These are some of the top bad habits that stall and prevent weight loss. Take a hard look at your own choices, or those of your clients, to determine if your struggle to lose weight results from some things you need to change. 

7 Habits Preventing You from Losing Weight

These are the typical habits people hold on to that stall weight loss or even contribute to weight gain. Take an honest look at your habits and figure out what’s derailing your good habits. 

#1. Putting too Much Emphasis on Exercise

You can actually lose weight even with no exercise or minimal exercise. This isn’t recommended, of course, because physical activity is good for your overall health. But it illustrates the importance of diet. What and how much you eat has a much more significant impact on weight than exercise. 

In other words, you can’t outrun a bad diet, literally. For a short period of time, increasing exercise without changing how you eat will lead to some weight loss. You will stall soon enough, though, reaching a frustrating plateau or even gaining again if your diet is poor.

Ignoring food choices because you work out is a bad habit, but so too is working out too much. Overdoing exercise can backfire. Excessive exercise limits recovery and can lead to injuries that keep you out of the gym. Overdoing it can also ruin your mood and lead to emotional eating. 

#2. Putting Too Much Emphasis on Calorie Restriction 

It may seem obvious that eating fewer calories is the way to hit your weight loss goal. This is definitely important, but it’s possible to go too far for a few reasons. One is that it leads to burnout. Obsess over calories and eat too little and you’ll soon find yourself eating a whole pizza in one sitting during a desperate binge. 

Another reason is that a calorie deficit can be too big. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a deficit of 500 calories per day for effective, safe weight loss. Don’t make a habit of being overly restrictive. Your body won’t get the fuel it needs to function or be active. It may even go into starvation mode, storing fat instead of shedding it. 

#3. Not Getting Enough Sleep

Staying up too late and not getting enough sleep is a bad habit of many Americans. It’s also a habit that can derail weight loss efforts. Many studies have linked less sleep with higher body weight. Research has found that sleeping too little triggers the appetite. We especially crave carbohydrates and calorie-dense foods when sleep deprived. 

The connection between sleep and appetite is likely due to hormones. The hormones that impact your hunger or satiation are affected by sleep. By not sleeping enough, you’re making it harder to stick to healthy eating habits. 

#4. Eating Mindlessly

Mindless eating simply means you’re eating without thinking. Most of us are guilty of this bad habit at least some of the time. It’s easy to be distracted while eating, to try to multi-task with work or just zone out watching TV. 

Unfortunately, but probably not surprisingly, studies show that mindless eating causes you to eat more. One study found that people who watched TV while eating ate more in that sitting. Those who focused on their eating not only ate less in the moment, but they also ate less later. 

Mindful eating is a good habit that takes time to develop. Here are some mindful eating tips to get you started. 

#5. Overindulging on Cheat Days

A cheat day works for some people, but for others it becomes an overindulgent bad habit, an excuse to binge. If you can have a cheat day and be reasonable about your eating, that’s fine. But if your cheat days devolve into a major binge that makes you feel sick or bad later, it’s a bad habit you need to stop. 

#6. Drinking Too Much

Especially as the pandemic set in, many people turned to alcohol for comfort. This is a bad habit for so many reasons. Just one of them is that it can derail your efforts to lose weight. Most people don’t realize how many calories are in drinks, but it’s not just the extra calories. Drinking can trigger weight gain in several ways: 

  • Alcohol impairs your judgment, of course, and can lead you to eat more than you intended. 

  • Drinking disrupts your sleep. 

  • Excessive, long-term drinking causes fatty liver, which impacts metabolism. 

  • For energy, the body will burn any available alcohol first and then turn to carbs or fat. 

  • The simple sugars in many alcoholic beverages promote the formation of belly fat. 

#7. Using Food as a Reward

Losing weight effectively, and keeping it off, is a lifestyle change. This is why diets never truly work. You have to change your attitude and your habits. One unhealthy habit many people continue to engage in is connecting foods to emotions. 

Even if you have conquered eating your bad feelings, you may still reward yourself with food. This is a bad habit because it continues to tie food to emotions, which can lead to overeating. Food is enjoyable, but it is ultimately fuel, not a reward. 

Bad habits can stall your efforts, but so can myths about dieting and weight loss. Check out these nine weight loss myths that cause more harm than good. 

How to Change Those Bad Habits

To get over that weight loss plateau; to change your relationship with eating; and to maintain a healthy weight for the long-term, you need to change bad food habits. 

Habits Preventing You from Losing Weight Are Difficult to Change

First, accept that this won’t be easy. Forming new habits can be tough, but changing old habits is even more difficult. Habits are the result of repetition, which is often useful. You can do some things on autopilot, which frees up the brain to do something else. 

Habits also come from things that trigger the pleasure or reward areas of the brain. Addictive substances, for instance, trigger dopamine, which makes you feel good and ultimately can lead to a terrible habit. 

Even habits that don’t involve drugs or alcohol can trigger this reward center. Over time, this changes circuits in the brain and makes the habit very difficult to break. As you begin to make changes, be patient with yourself and expect some setbacks. 

Proven Steps for Changing Bad Habits

If you’re ready to make some changes, it may be tough, but science has answers. Try these tips for reducing or stopping bad habits preventing you from losing weight: 

  • Replace bad habits with good habits. For instance, rewarding yourself with a cup of tea instead of a food treat for a goal accomplished. 

  • Find your bad habit triggers. These are the cues that lead you to do them. 

  • Manage those triggers. For example, it may be a bad day at work that leads you to have a bottle of wine at night. You can’t avoid work, but you can recognize it as a trigger and make a conscious effort to do something different in response. 

  • Enlist a friend to make positive changes. It’s always easier to stick with goals when you have someone doing it with you or at least holding you accountable. 

  • Make avoiding bad habits easier by removing certain things from reach. If your bad habit is eating mindlessly while scrolling through your phone, put your phone away or turn it off for mealtimes. 

Whatever your particular bad habits are, they could be preventing weight loss or contributing to a plateau. Recognize the habits and make a conscious effort to change them. It will take time and effort, but you’ll set yourself up for better physical and mental health. 

Do you enjoy helping people reach their goals? Do you have the heart of a coach? Start training people to meet their weight goals with ISSA’s Certified Personal Trainer – Self-Guided Study Program. Complete it at your pace and be ready to start a fun and rewarding career helping people get and stay fit.  

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Raynor, H., & Champagne, C. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Interventions for the Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Journal Of The Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics, 116(1), 129-147.

Jaiswal SJ, Quer G, Galarnyk M, Steinhubl SR, Topol EJ, Owens RL. Association of Sleep Duration and Variability With Body Mass Index: Sleep Measurements in a Large US Population of Wearable Sensor Users. JAMA Intern Med. 2020;180(12):1694–1696. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.2834

Why skipping sleep leads to weight gain. Mayo Clinic. (2020). Retrieved 8 April 2022, from

Eric Robinson, Paul Aveyard, Amanda Daley, Kate Jolly, Amanda Lewis, Deborah Lycett, Suzanne Higgs, Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 97, Issue 4, April 2013, Pages 728–742,

Duke University. (2016, January 21). Why are habits so hard to break? Getting hooked changes the brain, scientists find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 7, 2022 from

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