Losing weight is not a child’s play. In fact, it can lead to detrimental habits that can cause more harm to your body.

In a study published in the journal Obesity, it’s best to lose weight gradually. With rapid, forced weight loss, there is a high chance you are losing muscle, water and bone instead of fats. Remember, the secret to losing weight is neither an extreme diet nor bursts of intensive exercise. The body likes incremental changes in terms of diet and exercise.

For example, it would not be advisable for an individual who hasn’t exercised in months to start an intensive CrossFit regime. Not only will the jump in level of difficulty leave you feeling dejected, but you’re also far more likely to injure yourself and set your fitness levels back by months.

The same applies to people who go on crash diets in an effort to fast-track their weight loss. Diets that unnaturally restrict calories or the types of food allowed can open up a spectrum of health issues, including a weakened immune system, an increased risk of dehydration, and an increased possibility of future weight rebound.

Starting with incremental changes in your diet and exercise is a more wholesome approach to advancing your weight loss goals. It might take longer, but you would also be likelier to derive sustainable results!

That said: Here are five habits you should never adopt when you’re on a weight loss plan.


1. Sleeping irregularly

If you’re watching your weight, the amount of sleep you get may be just as important as your diet and exercise. In fact, studies have found that a lack of sleep can be a significant contributor to obesity.

For starters, people who lack sleep are more likely to be too tired throughout the day to exercise. As your exhausted body strains to conserve its energy, your metabolism slows down. A study done on 15 men found that when participants were sleep-deprived, the duration and intensity of their physical activity decreased.

Besides, sleep-deprived people are likely to consume more calories throughout the day, since being awake for longer hours maximises opportunities for eating. It also upsets the balance between vital hormones that regulate our appetite. A study on 12 men found that when participants were allowed only four hours of sleep, they ate an average of 559 more calories the following day, compared to when they were allowed eight hours.

Singaporeans have a tendency to work long hours each day, and when we’re not careful, this inevitably eats into bedtime. If you really want to take care of your weight, start by taking care of your sleeping schedule!


2. Skipping essential meals throughout the day

Contrary to popular belief, conforming to an effective diet does not mean eating less. It may be intuitive to believe that if you deprive yourselves of food, weight loss will naturally occur. What happens, in reality, is quite different. Depriving the human body of sustenance has adverse effects on the metabolism, and often leads to binge-eating.

Studies have shown that the human body enters starvation mode when the availability of calories becomes extremely limited. This makes your body less willing to metabolise what little food you eat, and causes excess calories to be quickly stored as fat. To make matters worse, lowered energy levels also limits your ability to be physically active.

Don’t skip essential meals throughout the day. Each meal is important, and yes, that includes snacks. So have your fill of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midday bites in between. Instead of withholding yourself from food, aim to make more nutritious food choices.

Rather than opening up a bag of chips, for instance, pick a 70-calorie banana. Half your intake of white rice. Grilled chicken is always diet-friendly as long as you hold off the skin. It’s about making sound decisions that accumulate over the course of your weight loss plan. More importantly, have patience – your efforts won’t translate into results overnight.


3. Extreme workout routines

Extreme workout routines like HIIT and CrossFit may make for entertaining YouTube videos. But in the real world, it can have painful consequences without proper guidance. Immoderately engaging in an extreme workout can cause severe wear and tear; increase the risk of injury, dehydration; and psychologically turns exercise into punishment for binge-eating.

Singapore’s Health Promotion Board recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week for optimum weight loss. Some examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity include low-impact sports such as badminton and tennis, brisk walking and cycling.

There are many imaginative ways to incorporate activity into daily life. Here are some activities that you can try:

  • Doing household chores
  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift or escalator
  • Parking the car further away from your destination and walking
  • Alighting the bus one or two stops before your destination and walking

Take a moderate approach to exercise, and you’re likelier to follow through over the long run.


4. Smoking

We all know that smoking has numerous health risks. There are also studies that reveal nicotine’s appetite suppressing qualities. In a startling twist, this has actually encouraged some to use smoking as a weight loss strategy.

The science of it is irrefutable though. Smoking damages nearly every part of the body, in addition to causing cancer, diabetes and various diseases of the respiratory and cardiovascular nature. Beyond the health risks, weight gain is often a consequence of the many withdrawal symptoms that occur when smokers try to quit the habit.

Bottom line: Don’t smoke for any reason, least of all to lose weight. You know it’s not worth it.


5. Drinking your calories

Sodas, coffees and alcohols are especially devious because we often underestimate how many calories a beverage can contain. If you look at the math carefully, you may be shocked at how some of our favourite coolers are secretly contributing to our waistline.

Even presumably nutritious fruit juices are loaded with sugar, and usually more than we actually realise. According to TIME magazine, whole fruits are more favourable to fruit juices: A whole orange contains 2.3g of dietary fibre and 9g of sugar, while a glass of orange juice has just 0.1g of dietary fibre and twice the amount of sugar!

The largest problem with sugary drinks is that the human body doesn’t register that it’s full even after consuming hundreds of calories. So the next time you’re in need of a hydrating refreshment, opt for whole fruits or zero-calorie water instead.


Healthy takeaways

Finding an eating and exercise plan that you can follow through is the only guarantee that you will see visible, natural and long-term weight loss. Most importantly, a weight loss plan is never one-size-fits-all. The mark of a successful weight loss plan isn’t necessarily one that’s fixated on calorie intake or number of hours spent on exercising, but one that can be integrated with your lifestyle in a healthy manner.

Have a dieting tip to share with us? Leave them in the comments below!