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For anyone trying to lose weight, it can seem like your body and the whole world is against you. Sometimes you can diet and exercise all you want and see no results whatsoever. What’s up? We know that as we age our metabolisms slow down and it gets harder to burn calories and keep off pounds, but is that all that’s going on here? Research shows that your weight actually comes down to a lot more than just calories in/calories out. Your lifestyle and environment can have a huge affect on your weight and overall health. There are quiet a few everyday things that might be making it difficult to lose weight and have very little to do with calories at all.

Sleep

We all know that sleep plays a huge role in overall health, but lack of sleep can actually have a direct effect on your hunger impulses. The amount of sleep you get changes the amount of the hormones ghrelin and leptin your brain produces. These hormones control when you feel hungry and when you feel full so messing with them can cause you to overeat. According to this study, people who get fewer than five hours of sleep a night tend to eat 350 to 400 more calories than normal the next day. Yikes.

Light exposure

Not only does the blue-light from our devices and excess light while we’re sleeping make it harder to sleep at night (which we just established is pretty important), it can have a more direct effect on your body too. These lights can interrupt and decrease the melatonin in your body which is linked to your metabolism. At the risk of getting too sciency, melatonin is a key factor in brown adipose tissue which is the fat that does most of the calorie-burning in your body. Less melatonin means less brown adipose tissue which means a slower metabolism and that’s exactly the opposite of what you want. So you’re going to want to limit your blue-light exposure during the day and keep your room dark at night.

Stress

Stress-eating is a thing, but your environment plays a bigger role in your weight than just that. When you’re stressed, your cortisol levels increase which can drive you to eat more. Cortisol regulates your metabolism (among other things) so having too much of it can negatively effect your whole body.

In general, stress has some terrible effects on your body, so try out these tips for chilling out at work and just in life.

Medications

Some anti-depressants, diabetes medications, birth-controls and other medicines can cause weight gain. Know what you’re on and its side-effects so you can discern if that’s a factor in your your difficulty losing weight. Always consult with your doctor before stopping your medication though. They might be able to alter it, give you tips or explain the science behind the weight gain so you can better combat it. Your doctor knows best though, and the benefits of your meds may outweigh the negative side-effect of weight gain.

Negative self-talk

It’s been shown time and time again that putting yourself down destroys your self-confidence and harms you mentally in a whole host of ways, but science says it can actually change your brain chemistry too. Negative self-talk can cause disinhibition in the brain which means the regulatory mental processes that help you control your impulses are diminished. So when you’re confronted with a pint of ice cream, you’ll have a harder time saying no or stopping yourself at a reasonable amount. That negative talk doesn’t just have to be about body image either. Any kind of put-downs can contribute to that brain change.

So your weight is determined by a whole lot more than what’s on your plate and how many hours you spend in the gym a week. Take stock of the other things in your lifestyle and environment that could be negating your hard work. Even if you’re not looking to lose weight, it could be a good idea to check your lifestyle. After all, it’s all about being healthy, not the number on the scale.