By Aly Walansky
With summer here, we're trying more than ever to fit into our skimpiest shorts. But sometimes, it seems like an uphill battle.
Even when we feel like we're doing everything right, there's a lot we're doing wrong. And it's making us gain weight.
We may know the basic rules of avoiding too much fat and carbs, drinking more water and less alcohol, but it's not as simple as choosing egg whites over bacon.
Sometimes, the most surprising of choices aren't nearly as good for us as they seem. In fact, they're downright terrible for us and can derail our weight loss plan.
Here are 10 bad habits that are completely sabotaging your weight loss (without you even knowing it):
1. Stressing yourself out.
Stress creates weight gain because when we're stressed, we're not interested in reading labels and making healthy decisions, says Debi Silber, a personal development expert.
"We're looking for quick and easy solutions which are typically nutrient void, yet calorically dense -- the easiest way to pack on the pounds. We're also looking for comfort foods. It's not just the food we want, but the feeling we had when they were served to us long ago.
Stress also drives fat storage -- especially to your midsection -- spikes cravings, and throws off our hunger/satiety hormones so our ability to detect fullness is thrown off."
2. Lack of sleep.
When we're tired, we look for energy in two places: sugar and caffeine.
Silber says, "Eating sugar for energy gives us that immediate high, followed by the inevitable crash, and we stay on a roller coaster ride of sugar induced energy, moods, and weight gain."
3. Being a couch potato.
Tired of going to the gym and want to lay on the couch instead? Don't do it. Not only does regular exercise (cardio and strength training) help you feel less stressed, happier and healthier, it helps you lose weight, too, says Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, LD/N, Director of Nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa.
4. Going out to eat.
Watch out for restaurant eating -- the most fattening eating of all -- because there are huge portions laden with fat, salt and sugar, says Gomer.
Eat more at home and you can be in control of what you eat, and help your waistline.
Don't multi-task when you eat.
"Science shows that when you eat and do anything else, like watch TV, work on the computer, read a book, or drive in the car, the signal from your stomach to your brain (your stomach is a muscle that has stretch receptors that send a message to your brain that you've had enough) malfunctions and you don't get the satiety signal," Gomer says.
6. Adding unhealthy toppings to healthy foods.
A salad for lunch is great, as long as you're careful about what you add to those leafy greens.
"The calories and fat in toppings such as cheese, croutons, and creamy dressings can really add up, so use them sparingly (if at all) when enjoying your salad. A great way to cut calories is to substitute bad fats with good fats, measure your dressing, or enjoy it on the side and add as you eat," says Shanna Israel, celebrity wellness expert.
7. Eating fruit.
Fruit is refreshing in the summer and is packed with vitamins, but they also come with high-calorie and sugar counts if you're not careful.
"Bananas, plums, and mangos are examples of high-calorie fruits, with 1 cup of mangos weighing in at 107 calories. Enjoy your fruit sparingly and choose lighter fruits, like apples, cantaloupe, or berries to curb the craving without the carb overload," says Israel.
8. Being dehydrated.
Not drinking enough water can be a reason you're gaining weight.
"Drinking water helps flush toxins and keep your body hydrated. Low water intake can cause your body to retain fat," says John Rowley, certified trainer.
9. Eating/drinking mislabeled "diet" food/drinks.
Foods that are considered "diet" foods can be dangerous and hinder your weight loss. High carb "diet" foods are more about marketing than about health.
These so-called "diet" foods don't contain a lot of extra nutritional value, and contain extra preservatives and sodium, which is bad for weight loss, says Rowley.
10. Eating the wrong breakfast.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, which is why you should choose foods that provide you with protein, healthy fats, and carbs.
"Although cereal may be easy for grab-and-go, certain brands are secretly filled with sugar and are refined. Avoid cereals with dried fruit, and honey clusters, as these ingredients add sugar and fat content.
It's also important to be aware of portion sizes, the type of milk you choose, and other toppings, like sugar or honey. It's best to start with mostly protein as your starter meal, as it can help balance sugar levels," says Israel.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.