“The biggest mistake people make when they’re trying to lose weight is getting their day off on the wrong foot,” says Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., president of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss. Those first waking moments lay the foundation for the choices you will make the rest of the day—and every day after—so it’s vital to establish good habits that you can fall back on when you’re still foggy-headed and bleary-eyed.
Here, we’ve got the common mistakes that can ruin more than just your morning, and how to adjust them.
1. You Oversleep
We’ve all heard that a lack of shut-eye may cause weight gain, thanks to elevated levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone cortisol in the body. But turns out the opposite—getting too much sleep—might not be much better for you. One study in the journal PLOS One found that sleeping more than 10 hours a night also upped the risk of having a higher BMI compared to those who got seven to nine hours a night. So, hit that sleep sweet spot of seven to nine hours on the reg, and you’ll be in good shape. (Get after your weight-loss goals with Women’s Health’s Look Better Naked DVD.)
2. You Get Ready in the Dark
If you keep the blinds closed after you wake up, you could be missing out on the weight-loss benefits of the sun, according to another study published in the journal PLOS One.
The study authors suggest that people who got some sun in the early morning had significantly lower BMIs than those who didn’t, regardless of how much they ate. According to the study, just 20 to 30 minutes of daylight is enough to affect BMI, even when it’s overcast. That’s because your body syncs up your internal clock—including your calorie-torching metabolism—using the blue light waves from the early morning sun as a guide.
3. You Don’t Make Your Bed
A National Sleep Foundation survey found that bed-makers were 19 percent more likely to report getting a good night’s sleep compared to those who didn’t make their beds. And since sleeping soundly has been liked to a lower BMI, why wouldn’t you pick this habit back up? This may sound silly, but Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, writes in his book that putting your bed back together in the morning can spawn other good behaviors, like packing a healthy lunch, perhaps. At the same time, Duhigg also writes that those who make their beds regularly are better at sticking to budgets—a demonstration of willpower that may carry over to keeping your calorie count in check.
4. You Skip the Scale
When Cornell University researchers tracked 162 overweight women and men for two years, they found that those who weighed themselves every day were more successful when it came to losing weight and keeping it off. And the best time to step to it is first thing in the a.m., when your weight is at its lowest, says Lisa Jones, R.D., spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Not only will the measurement be more accurate (after a night of metabolizing, you’ll be carrying less water weight), you’ll be able to make adjustments if the number’s a bit higher than you expect.
5. You Skimp at Breakfast
Researchers from Tel Aviv University found that low-cal dieters who ate a balanced breakfast that contained 600 calories of lean protein, carbohydrates, and a little something sweet reported less hunger and fewer cravings the rest of the day compared to those that ate a low-carb 300-calorie breakfast. They were also better at sticking to their calorie limits. What’s more, they had lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin after their meals. The researchers suggest that it’s possible that satisfying your cravings first thing in the morning may help keep you from feeling deprived and going hog-wild later in the day. Check out these five healthy breakfasts your sweet tooth will die for.