Last week I talked a little bit about something called creeping obesity. It's all too common and affects most adult Americans. But it's highly preventable, too. These are 3 all-too-common habits that lead to weight gain. These are usually the big three that I work with most of my clients on to help them reach a healthy, more optimal weight that sticks. 

[FYI: This is a 2-min read, so take your time and really think about how these habits might be affecting you]

Do you recognize any of these in your day-to-day routine?

1) Eating or drinking too close to bedtime

Doesn't sound like a big deal, does it? Here's the problem with eating or drinking before your body shuts down for the night:

When you sleep, your brain releases something called human growth hormone (HGH). This helps regulate your metabolism (including fat metabolism), develop muscle, improve your skin tone, and repair your body from all the stress and activity of the day.

When you eat or drink, your blood sugar levels rise. This will always happen anytime you consume something with calories. When blood sugar levels rise, insulin gets released from your pancreas. And this will always happen when your blood sugar levels rise.

If your insulin levels are elevated when you go to sleep HGH can't get released. It's blocked. So you get no benefit of HGH, at least at that time in the night.

On top of that, your metabolism naturally slows in the evening. If you have food in your gut when you sleep, there's a possibility that it will still be there when you wake in the AM.

Don't get me wrong, if you have a small bowl of ice cream once in a blue moon while watching a late-night show, you'll be fine. But if you're eating too late at night regularly, it could be a problem.

2) Drinking your calories

I'm talking about any liquids that have calories, with a few exceptions (e.g. a nutrient-packed breakfast smoothie). Unless it's a big meal-size smoothie, it's important to remember that a little of whatever it is that you're drinking goes a long way.

Most drinks have some amount of sugar in them. In fact, most Americans get 46% of their sugar calories from drinks.

This is especially important if you're dealing with the slow but steady weight gain that I talked about last week related to creeping obesity.

Here's some perspective. Let's say that you only have one soda a day. Doesn't sound like a lot, does it? Well, that soda has 9 teaspoons of sugar in it or about 36 grams. Those 36 grams of sugar amount to 14.4 pounds over one year. Sugary coffee drinks usually contain more sugar. And store-bought juices aren't too far off either.

I'm not encouraging you to eat less, but I am encouraging you to observe where you're getting you're drinking your calories -especially drinks that contain sugar

3) Sleeping 6 or fewer hours a night most nights of the week

I give people a lot of space when it comes to this bad habit. If you're a caregiver, a new parent, work 3rd shift, or have a condition that doesn't allow you to sleep, go easy on yourself. There are a lot of things you can do in other areas of your life that can help you manage your weight.

But if you're up binge-watching Season 8 of Friends, or if you drank 2 cups of coffee just before dinner...you can make some changes right now.

How does less sleep equate to weight gain? Food, more and less of it, is just one component that can lead to weight gain or loss. Every part of your lifestyle, including stress and sleep, play a role in how much fat your body stores.

The golden standard for sleep is about 8 hours. This is the amount of time it takes for your body to work through five (5) 90-minute sleep cycles. The beginning of each sleep cycle is when your brain releases HGH. A little less is okay, but six or fewer hours increases the likelihood of insulin resistance and diabetes. This, of course, increases the likelihood that you'll develop central obesity (a.k.a. belly fat), along with the cascading conditions associated with it, including hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, etc.

Bottom line, think of sleep as an appetite suppressant, a muscle make, a mood booster, and a fat-blaster. If you're willfully avoiding sleep, make some changes.

And that's all I've got to say about that for now!

I hope this is helpful to you. Share with a friend or relative you think might benefit from it, too.