5 Common Mistakes That Lead to Weight Gain

Caesar salad with croutons and parmesan cheese
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1. Letting the Waistline of Your Pants Be Your Guide

If you wait until your pants or skirt are too tight, you’ve waited too long to check in on your weight. Do yourself a favor and let an objective measurement of your weight, such as the scale, and of your waistline, such as your waist circumference, be the information on which you rely to tell you whether or not you are slowly gaining weight.

In most cases, weight gain occurs slowly but persistently over time, and before one notices it, several extra pounds have crept in.

Given that losing a few extra pounds is much easier than trying to lose tens or hundreds of extra pounds, being able to “nip it in the bud” when those extra pounds first start showing up is key to preventing obesity in the long run.

2. Piling Your Salad Plate High With Cheese, Croutons, and Dressing

While a salad can be an excellent source of fruits and veggies, adding lots of extras is a quick way to commit salad sabotage and end up with a calorie bomb instead of a healthy dish.

3. Not Reading Nutritional Labels

What you think is a single serving and what the food manufacturer has decided to count as a single serving on the label may be two very different things. Food manufacturers have been notorious for designating serving sizes that are much smaller than what the average consumer actually eats.

For example, a common soup maker states on the nutritional label of one of its small soup cans that each can contain approximately 2.5 servings at 70 calories per serving.

Many consumers will eat a whole can, however, so that 70 calories actually becomes 175 calories. (The sodium and fat content is multiplied, too.)

Additionally, it’s a must to read the ingredients section of the nutritional label, to be sure that there are no trans-fats included in the form of hydrogenated oils, which lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and inflammation throughout the body.

Also watch out for added sugars, which go by many names and have been singled out as a leading cause of the obesity epidemic.

4. Spending too Much Time Sitting Down

You may have heard that “sitting is the new smoking.” Not only is a sedentary lifestyle associated with a greater risk for obesity, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, but recent research has shown that sitting still for as little as 30 minutes can have detrimental effects on the body.

Research has shown that sitting for as little as 30 minutes at a time without standing up or otherwise engaging in physical activity causes the beginning of a cascade of events throughout the body, a chain reaction that includes poor circulation, inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction (dysfunction of the lining of the blood vessels).

This translates, in the longer run, into higher rates of cardiovascular disease, overweight and obesity, and possibly even cancer.

5. Skimping on Sleep

That age-old advice to get a good night’s sleep turns out to have more to it in terms of health benefits than ever imagined.

In addition to preventing heart disease, stroke, depression, and other disorders, getting an adequate amount of high-quality sleep every night can prevent weight gain and obesity. What is the right amount? Most studies have shown that seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep per night are required to reap the health benefits of good sleep, including those related to preventing obesity.


Information sheet: promoting fruit and vegetable consumption around the world. World Health Organization. Accessed online on April 23, 2015.

Thosar SS, Bielko SL, Mather KJ, et al. Effect of prolonged sitting and breaks in sitting time on endothelial function. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2014 Aug 18. [Epub ahead of print]

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