We all know that eating right and exercising are the keys to keeping excess pounds off…but there are other surprising factors that can also have an effect on your weight—from your bedtime to the ingredients in your skincare products.
A late bedtime
Scientists have been finding more and more links over the years between lack of sleep and weight gain. Most recently, in a study published earlier this month in Sleep, University of California, Berkeley researchers found that, for young adults, a later bedtime during the workweek was associated with an increase in body mass index over time—and, unfortunately, not even exercise or total sleep time mitigated the BMI increase.
Emulsifiers—aka the additives that give foods like peanut butter a smooth, creamy texture—might be causing weight gain, changing your gut’s microorganisms and increasing inflammation, according to recent research published in Nature. The study’s researchers looked at the emulsifiers carboxymethylcellulose, sometimes found in ice cream, dressing, gelatinous desserts, cream cheese spread and cottage cheese, as well as polysorbate-80, sometimes found in ice cream, salad dressing and mayonnaise.
Your favorite cooking show
If you get your recipes from the Cooking Channel and often cook indulgent dishes along with TV chefs, you may have a higher BMI than those who don’t, suggests a study published earlier this year in Appetite. The study researchers found that obtaining food information from cooking shows, watching food television and cooking frequently from scratch were all associated with a higher body mass index.
Your makeup bag
The Environmental Working Group reports that the average woman uses 12 beauty products containing 168 different ingredients daily—and some of these ingredients are wreaking havoc on their bodies. One such ingredient currently being investigated? Triphenyl phosphate, also known as TPHP, commonly found in nail polish and nail treatments and shown to possibly disrupt the endocrine system and contribute to obesity. Polysorbate-80 (the emulsifier listed above found in foods) also shows up in a lot of face creams.
Most of us probably don’t think of our couch or carpets as being full of chemicals, but plenty of furniture sold in the U.S. actually contains synthetic flame retardant chemicals. And according to scientists at the University of New Hampshire, those chemicals in foam couch cushions, carpet padding and electronics have been found to cause metabolic problems that lead to insulin resistance, a major cause of obesity.
“Despite the plethora of resources devoted to understanding the roles of diet and exercise in the obesity epidemic, this epidemic continues to escalate, suggesting that other environmental factors may be involved. At the biochemical level there is a growing body of experimental evidence suggesting certain environmental chemicals, or ‘obesogens’, could disrupt the body’s metabolism and contribute to the obesity epidemic,” explained lead researcher Gale Carey.
Big plates can mean bigger portions, according to numerous studies. The brain associates a lot of white space on a plate with less food, possibly causing you to go for seconds—one study at Cornell University found that people given large bowls not only ate 16 percent more, but their estimates of how much they ate were actually 7 percent less than the estimates of people eating out of smaller bowls.
Anyone who’s ever been nagged by a loved one about their weight knows it doesn’t feel good…but it turns out, it’s not good for your diet either, according to research published in Personal Relationships in 2014. When researchers asked college-aged women to discuss their weight, how they felt about it and whether they discussed their weight with loved ones, they found that women who received few messages of weight acceptance from loved ones gained 4.5 pounds over five months. Women who received more weight acceptance messages lost a pound on average.
Pants feeling a little tight? Nighttime snacking may be to blame. A study published in International Journal of Obesity found that people diagnosed with night eating syndrome—those who consume half or more of their daily calories after 7pm, have sleep difficulty three or more nights a week, and have no appetite for breakfast—tend to have a higher body mass index.
Can binge-watching your favorite show lead to binge-eating your favorite snack? Some research confirms the link between watching TV and overeating—not only can parking yourself in front of the screen cause you to lose track of what you’re eating and eat more calorie-dense foods, commercials for junk food trigger our cravings.
Your open-plan kitchen
Out of sight, out of mind—when it comes to snacks that add extra pounds, the adage applies. Research has found that we’re more likely to consume food when it’s in our line of vision. So if you’ve got junk food a few feet away from you in your cupboards, on the kitchen table or in the office candy bowl, try to situate yourself farther away from the temptation.
James Achanyi-Fontem, is a Senior Health Journalist and Communication Consultant. He worked as a health journalist and broadcaster for 30 years with Radio Cameroon and later Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV before retiring in 2005 to engage fully with Cameroon Link (Human Assistance Programme). Cameroon Link is a registered charity, not-for-profit organisation involved in the promotion of community health, humanitarian assistance, promotion of women and child rights through involvement of communities in Cameroon for mother and child health care. Cameroon Link is a partner to Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Farm Radio International (FRI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN Africa), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). As the intermediary of Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Cameroon Link is engaged to implement a Cameroon Rural Radio story design Programming through an investigative research, which aims to discover through interviewing beneficiaries of health programmes on their interests, documenting and disseminating new ideas about how radio stations produce and air Healthy Communities Radio Programs in Cameroon.