Have you been slowly gaining weight over the years? Do you have a few stubborn pounds that you can’t lose no matter what you do? There are a few bad habits that have been linked with weight creep and could be keeping you from reaching your desired weight goal.

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham Women’s Hospital found that bad habits in lifestyle factors of food choices, physical activity and sleep habits all add up to an average of 16.8 pound weight gain over a 20 year period.

Food choices had the greatest impact on weight creep. The foods that contributed most to weight gain when consumed daily were: potato chips, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed red meats and processed meats. Eliminating these foods could help prevent slow weight gain.

There were people in the study who lost or maintained weight. Guess what – those people reported eating minimally processed foods. Increased intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grain and nuts resulted in weight loss. Researchers presumed this was because they were replacing “bad” foods in the diet. What that is really saying is that not all foods are good for you in moderation. Some foods are bad for you, even if you only have them sometimes or for a treat. Different foods cause different reactions in the body, not every calorie is the same. The bottom line: there are good and bad foods.

The study also found that TV time and sleep played a role in weight creep. One hour of TV a day added .31 pounds over a period of 4 years. How many hours do you watch a day?

As for sleep, people who slept for 6-8 hours a night experienced the least weight gain. The people who had the most were both those who slept less than six hours and those who slept more than eight hours.

Steenhuysen, Julie. “TV and soda: small habits cause weight creep: U.S. Study” reuters.com. June 22, 2011.