You've dieted and exercised, and you still can't lose those last few pounds. As it turns out, other factors — from toxins in your home to your cellphone habits — could be sabotaging your efforts. Read on for some surprising ways to increase your chance at success.
1. Avoid environmental toxins
If you store your leftovers in plastic, keep old receipts lying around or think nothing of eating an unwashed grape or two, you could be exposing yourself to chemicals that impede weight loss. "These substances slow your metabolism and increase appetite or alter hormones such as estrogen in the body to cause weight gain," says Scott Isaacs, M.D., an endocrinologist and author of Beat Overeating Now!
What you can do: A new study in JAMA shows that repeated exposure to thermal cash register receipts is a significant source of the chemical BPA, so toss old ones. Plus, cut down on BPA by storing food (especially when it's still hot) in glass containers. And wash your hands frequently when you're at work; toxic compounds known as PBDEs are often found in office furniture and carpeting. To avoid pesticides in your food, thoroughly wash produce, and when possible, buy organic — especially "dirty" fruit such as apples, berries and peaches.
2. Chill out
Good news: There's a type of fat in your body that raises your metabolism. It's called brown fat, and it keeps organs warm by burning calories. Bad news: Obese people tend to have less of it. (You also lose this lean-making tissue with age.) One possible reason? People are too comfortable — thanks to modern-day heating and cooling systems — to stimulate brown fat activity. "We now live in a perennial spring," says Francesco Celi, M.D., chair of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
What you can do: Turn down the thermostat. Chilly temperatures cause muscle to produce a hormone called irisin, which stimulates the activity and growth of brown fat, according to new research coauthored by Celi. You don't need to turn your air-conditioning on full blast or switch off your heat in January, but lowering your thermostat from 75 to 68 degrees stimulates brown fat and increases calorie burn by 100 calories a day, Celi's research finds.