You're eating less sugar and working out more, but still it feels like your diet is not working. Well, it turns out that Father Time is stacking the deck against you when it comes to weight loss—and it's not just because it's harder to lose weight as you get older. It is measurably harder to be thin today than it was in the '80s, according to research published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice.
People in 2006 had higher BMIs—as much as 2.3 points higher—than those in 1988. The real kicker: both groups ate the same number of calories and exercised equally. (Looking to lose weight? Get all of our free healthy meal plans to help you lose weight, created by a registered dietitian.)
So what gives? Modern factors like more stress and environmental toxins such as pesticides, BPA and flame retardants, different sleep patterns, more prescription drug use and different gut bacteria may be promoters of weight gain that we didn't have decades ago.
There are some benefits to living in the modern age. It's easier to track your food intake—forget journaling, there's an app for that—which can help you lose weight. It's easier to get social support through texting and social networks like Facebook and Instagram (hello, inspiring before and after transformation stories). Though there are some factors you can't control (short of time traveling), not everything is out of your hands. Eating more vegetables, moving more and cooking more at home can all help. Plus, try the following tips to help to fend off the challenges to weight loss in today's day and age.
Stress is an enemy of weight-loss, thanks in part to the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol increases your chances of gaining belly fat. But don't stress about it! Instead, work on reducing stress in your life. For one, try not to stress about food too much. There will be days and meals that look healthier than others and that's OK. Everyone eats ice cream and pizza sometimes (at least all the humans I know) and beating yourself up about it can be stressful and completely unhelpful. Yoga and exercise can help with stress management. Eating more of these 7 foods for stress relief may help too.
Get more: 7-Day Flat Belly Meal Plan
Less sleeping means more hours spent awake—and possibly chowing down (especially on late night grub). When you're sleep deprived, you're also more likely to give in to food cravings the next day. Aim for a set bedtime and stick to it. And instead of scrolling your phone before bed, read a book to help lull you to sleep. Luckily, there are foods that can help you get some shut-eye. Try eating these foods that can promote sleep.
Pictured recipe: Homemade Kombucha
Gut bacteria that is. Researchers aren't exactly sure why yet, but they have linked unhappy and unhealthy gut bacteria to slower metabolisms and weight gain. Previous research has shown that gut bacteria may impact obesity. For a healthier gut eat fermented foods, like yogurt and sauerkraut, and watch your sugar intake.