There are hundreds, if not thousands of diets, workouts, and methods for weight loss. With so many ways to lose weight, why are so many people out of shape? If these tools for weight loss work so well, why are not more people at their fitness goals? The problem lies not within the methods, but within the basics. You can take every supplement designed for weight loss, but if your day-to-day habits are not in check, you will find yourself right where you started, and with less money in your pockets.

The body stores fat for many reasons. Insulation, energy for future use, and micronutrient delivery are a few examples of things fat is good for. Although fat is necessary in the body, we all know that fat in excess can cause problems like diabetes. So how can we prevent fat gain in our bodies? I'm going to outline five minor lifestyle changes that will not only prevent you from getting fat, but will help you to lose weight and get the lean body we all desire.

1. Eating at Night

Let's face it, most diets are flawed. People eat too much, or too little. People eat too many sweets and processed foods. But one of the largest culprits behind weight gain is eating at night. We've all been told at some point that eating at night is bad, but why? What makes eating at one time of the day any different from another? If we stay up later than most people, can we eat later at night as well?

Our bodies are designed to wake and sleep based on the time of day. Melatonin (a hormone that helps create a healthy healthy nights rest) is produced based on when sunlight hits the eyelids. Our body knows when it's late and when its early. After 5pm, our body begins to slow down. It prepares us for a good night's rest to recover from the stresses and exercise our body gets during the day, thus slowing our metabolism. Since our metabolism is no longer going full force, the foods we eat late at night are no longer burned for energy, but instead stored as fat for later use. This is especially true for foods like ice cream, pasta, and other complex carbohydrates.

As long as these habits continue, I can guarantee that the spare tire that's hiding your abs will always be around. It takes some getting used to, but cutting out food completely after 7 pm-8pm is the best way to avoid storing extra fat. For the first week or two, night time cravings can be controlled with water based veggies and fruits like grapes and cucumber. These will have minimal impact on your results, but should also be weaned out after a few weeks.

2. Lack of Muscle Retention

When you become sedentary, it's easy to put off exercise. Driving to the corner store, taking the escalator, and lying on the couch on a sunny day off are good examples of a sedentary lifestyle. Unfortunately, many people do not exercise enough to maintain their bodies. Muscle mass must be used to be maintained and is not easy for the body to keep. Just by having muscle, the body burns extra calories through the day. Therefore, if the body recognizes that muscle is no longer necessary, it gets rid of it. By reducing muscle mass through lack of use, the number of calories we consume will more easily cause us to gain fat and our metabolisms.

Keeping firm toned muscle is the absolute best way to keep fat off and reduce current fat. This can be achieved by incorporating strength training to your exercise regime. Lifting heavier weights with fewer reps will keep the muscles primed and keep your metabolism through the roof. Even if you exercise regularly, but are not incorporating any strength training exercises, your body may still lose muscle mass. Exercises such as squats, lunges, and pushups are easily done from home, and will help keep your body fit, and burn extra calories. If you are not incorporating at least 20 minutes of strength exercises, twice a week, it's time to start. Extra calories burned, just by strength training, will make the difference between fit and fat.

3. Stress

In this day and age, more and more people find themselves extremely busy. Work, family and finances all must be balanced and working in unison. How can someone stay calm with a hectic schedule, and no free time? Stress is a hidden entity that contributes to weight gain. It's not something we can see or measure, yet it plays a huge role in our results. When the body becomes stressed, it naturally follows the same way as if it were physically stressed. The human body is designed to become stressed when in a difficult situation. In nature this may be caused by a life or death situation and therefore, the body incomes survival mode and must react with a “fight or flight” attitude. In order for the body to be able to perform at its peak performance, a hormone called cortisol is released into the blood stream. Cortisol assists in releasing stored sugars from the liver and muscle into the bloodstream, giving us more energy to allow the body to react quickly. The sugars left in our bloodstream, when unused, will store as fats, generally in the abdominal area. Prolonged stress can also cause health problems such as heart attacks and diabetes.

It's important to learn to deal with stress if you ever desire to get results. Take some time to yourself at least once a week. Even spending one hour a week doing something you enjoy, has proven to help reduce stress in day to day life and assists in preventing gain gain, and remove fat from the body. Strength training, yoga, Pilates, and massage therapy are a few ways many people lower their stress. Find an activity that works for you and use it to help reduce stress. Less stress will also help stop cravings for sweets, and calorie den foods. If these methods do not work, and stress persists, seeking counseling can be very beneficial.

4. Portion Size

So you eat pretty healthy, from all the food groups, and watch your fat and sugar intakes, but you are still not getting results. A very common misconception with diets is how much healthy food you should eat. You do not know how much to eat so you eat until you are full. Eating meals that are too large can cause the stomach to expand, requiring more food to feel satisfied. When you eat too much during one meal you are more likely to eat fewer meals per day, or various sized meals. Skipping meals, and eating meals that are too small, will slow your metabolism and put you in lethargic moods. This is caused by not having consistent nutrients and calories available to the body at all times.

When eating, keep in mind that all meals should be of equal size. Breakfast should have the same amount of calories as every other major meal. Eating 4-5 meals per day will help ensure that the body has fuel at all times of the day. This will reduce craving for high carb, fatty meals; and help reduce the size of your stomach (inside and out). Do not eat more than your body needs. Eat until you are no longer hungry. If you eat until you feel full, you're most likely eaten too much for that meal. Dish out only as much food as your body requires. Having large portions in front of you makes it easy to overeat, especially at dinnertime.

5. Lack of sleep

The human body functions best when well rested. Giving the body 7-8 hours of sleep each night is the best way to ensure that you have the energy you need to function, and the recovery needed for peak performance. Without the sleep and recovery the body needs on a daily basis, you will likely suffer from physiological stress, lethargic tendencies, sore muscles, and your body will store more fats. When you do not get enough sleep, it is common to be stressed out, and you will tend to cope by eating foods you enjoy. These foods are almost always calorie dense fatty foods.

With sleep being such an important factor in your fitness success, it is critical that the sleep you get is good sleep. Tossing and turning all night, unable to stay sleep is almost as bad as not sleeping at all. Try to develop good sleeping habits. Sleep at the same time every night. This helps the body get into a routine and prepare itself for sleep as you get close to that time of night. Exercise on a regular basis to create a need for sleep in your body. If you do not get tired until late hours, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night. Once you get used to sleeping earlier, repeat the process until you begin to get tired at regular hours. More sleep, combined with a good exercise regime will result in more energy and better results.

By controlling these five factors of fitness, you will be in better control of your results. Proper diet, strength training, controlling stress, and sleep habits are some of the most important things you can watch to get the body you want. Keep these factors in balance, and keep them in the back of your mind, and you will have a much easier and enjoyable fitness level.