Cortisone as an oral drug is another common culprit (e.g. Prednisolone). Cortisone often causes weight gain in the long run, especially at higher doses (e.g. more than 5 mg Prednisolone per day). Unfortunately, cortisone is often an essential medication for those who are prescribed it, but the dose should be adjusted frequently so you don’t take more than you need. Asthma inhalers and other local cortisone treatments, like creams or nose sprays, hardly affect weight.
This could be because the body increases insulin secretion in anticipation that sugar will appear in the blood. When this doesn’t happen, blood sugar drops and hunger increases. Whether this chain of events regularly takes place is somewhat unclear. Something odd happened when I tested Pepsi Max though, and there are well-designed studies showing increased insulin when using artificial sweeteners.
“[These tools’] potential benefit is awareness,” Fear says. “Knowledge can be power, but these things can be counterproductive when they simply create alarm without any clear course of action to take. Seeing your weight rise doesn't necessarily provide you with any action steps you can take. It's just upsetting, like a fire alarm going off with no exit routes identified.” Langer notes that “in people who have a history of or are at risk for an eating disorder or compulsiveness, tracking anything should be off limits.”
Falling short on zzz’s is also a surefire way to put your waistline in jeopardy. That’s because sleep deprivation knocks your hunger hormones out of whack, leading to an increase in ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and a decrease in leptin, which signals when you are satiated. What’s more, research has shown that when you aren’t well-rested, you’re also more likely to reach for junk food (hello Ben & Jerry’s!)—and it may even become harder for you to build muscle mass.
In an average week, Montgomery would focus on long-distance cardio one day, weights and high-intensity cardio another day, and then lifting with an easy cardio cooldown on another day. (You can find a 6-month training program for building elite, well-rounded fitness in the new Men’s Health book Maximus Body. It includes 100+ workouts that have helped everyone from A-list celebs to busy accountants get ripped, laid out in a schedule that makes it easy for you to stay on track.)
Dairy products such as cream and cheeses. They work well in cooking as they satisfy. The problem is if you’re munching a lot of cheese in front of the TV in the evening… without being hungry. Be careful with that. Or lots of cream with dessert, when you’re actually already full and just keep eating because it tastes good. Or another common culprit: loads of heavy cream in the coffee, many times per day.
The scale is not necessarily your friend. You may want to lose fat – but the scale measures muscles, bone and internal organs as well. Gaining muscle is a good thing. Thus weight or BMI are imperfect ways to measure your progress. This is especially true if you’re just coming off a long period of semi-starvation (calorie counting), as your body may want to restore lost muscles etc. Starting weight training and gaining muscle can also hide your fat loss.
And that raises the most important point: Thinking about exercise as a way to work off food or simply allow you to eat sets up a host of unhealthy and unhelpful thought patterns and habits around food and exercise. For instance, one 2013 research review found that, not only did people generally overestimate how many calories exercise burned—when they did work out, they ramped up their food intake. And if you overeat following exercise, any caloric deficit created during your workout can become a wash. And related: thinking of food as a reward and exercise as a punishment is likely to sabotage your weight loss efforts anyway.
In a way, moderate-intensity physical activity is that "magic pill" a lot of people are looking for, because the health benefits go beyond keeping your waistline trim: Not only can it reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart attacks, but studies have shown that physical activity can significantly improve the moods of patients with major depressive disorders.