[By Julia Hunt]

Unless you are Matthew McConaughey or Charlize Theron preparing for yet another upcoming Oscars contending role, most men and certainly most women don’t intend to gain weight most of the time. But as time goes by, without really realizing how and when, we caught sight of a heftier mirror image staring right back at us in bewilderment, wondering what had happened along the way. Every modern Venus worthy of her Chanel is usually pretty well tuned to ways of shedding a few pounds but has often unwittingly overlooked some common reasons that piled on a couple. Consider some of these dietary and lifestyle weight saboteurs, and you can be on the lookout from now on, instead of looking back with regret when no amount of Spanx is going to get you into that fabulous Rosie Assoulin you scored last Black Friday!

Sugar & Fat is a lethal combo

There’s nothing more comforting than a banana and peanut butter sandwich or scones slathered with strawberry compote and fraiche crème, but one of the top weight busters got to be fats and sugars put together. The combination of sugar and fat will lead to insulin spikes in the body which quickly translate into weight gain. The increased insulin basically opens the flood gates for your body to store fat, unless the extra loaded fuel is needed and consumed immediately—for instance if you are an athlete preparing for a race or going to engage in some serious iron pumping.

There’s always a sequence to how your body handle consumed food. It will naturally digest carbs first and store up fats as well, simply because fat is slowest to digest amongst all food groups. Choose to eat fats with vegetables or high protein foods along with low sugar sources. Unless the extra energy boost is required, fats and high carbohydrate foods eaten together are bound to tip you in the wrong direction on the weighing scale.

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Too much fruits

Fruits are healthy options but over indulgence in them is one sure way to sabotage your weight. Fruits are no doubt a glorious food source, but to our bodies, they are just plain sugar, and we only need so much sugar, in certain amounts. The type of sugar found in abundance in most fruits is fructose and there’s just so much of it that our liver can handle at any one time. The rest gets channel off to the pancreas, leading to insulin spikes and eventual fat conversion and storage. Besides moderating your fruit intake, another good tip is to choose low fructose fruits over high fructose ones.

Bananas, oranges, strawberries and papayas are all delicious options. These are lower in fructose and higher in glucose, allowing your body to use them as immediate fuel and not excess fat storage. Beware of the “juice trap” too. With the amount of fruit require to produce a tall glass of fructose laden fresh juice, it should be enjoyed as a sweet treat, and not downed like a day to day beverage.

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Eating dinner late

For the busy urban nite with a tight schedule and round-the-clock deadlines to meet, work often assume priority over mealtimes. Waiting too late to have your dinner is an awful habit that is bad for weight loss for several reasons. To begin with, your body won’t be able to digest food properly during sleep, so nutritional absorption is sub-optimal and compromised. Less calories are burned as one becomes less active as the night progresses. In addition, eating late often means you are tired and more likely to make unwise food choices.

“It is best to have your dinner before 8pm or at least 3 hours before you hit the sack.” Suggests Dr. Toby Hui, senior medical consultant from the SW1 Clinic (formerly from The Sloane Clinic) with a keen interest in Weight Management. “Dinner should be your lightest meal for the day, comprising of a large amount of vegetables, lean protein and some healthy fat, keeping carbohydrates to a minimum.”

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Eating too little

Whether you are doing it consciously with over dieting or you are subconsciously at it due to stress, consuming too little calories can lead to paradoxical weight gain.Our metabolism can only take so much stress with a paucity of fuel before it starts to slow down exponentially in a desperate attempt to conserve energy as signals of starvation are read. Your system will not be able to burn calories from any food that you do eat as it veers preferentially towards excessive fat storage.At the same time, binge eating while one is stressed should also be avoided, since an increased in cortisol, the stress hormone, will lead to an increased in fat storage and eventual weight gain. Besides eating healthy and eating smart, it’s important to eat enough as well to keep the pounds at bay.

It might sound counter intuitive when first suggested, but one can lose weight more effectively by nibbling throughout the day. Experts believe that instead of the usual 3 larger portions, breaking up your daily food intake into five to six small meals will keep your metabolism humming 24/7. As one tend not to feel hungry with constant nibbling throughout the day, you are less likely to overeat as well. Try not to let more than four hours elapse between feeds, making sure each meal includes a portion of protein for an extra metabolic boost.

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Sleep deprivation

One of the most overlooked reasons for putting on weight, which often took many by surprise, is not getting enough eye shut. Let me explain why.Our fat burning hormones are at optimal levels between 10pm and 6am so unless you are asleep during these hours, you ain’t no getting the benefits. These very same hormones contribute to appetite too and without enough sleep, lower hormone production can make you hungrier the following day even if you are not. In order to take full advantage of the situation, try your absolute best to turn in early for a good night’s rest. Trust me, you will be well rewarded from this one lifestyle modification alone than you will from skipping meals or going on yet another celebrity-endorsed fad diet!

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