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3 Surprising Things That Could Be Expanding Your Waistline

It can be hard enough to maintain a healthy diet with plenty of physical activity. If you're already putting in the effort, you may want to check into these 3 surprising causes of weight gain that may–unknowingly–be frustrating your attempts.

According to the World Health Organization, global obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, with 1.9 billion adults considered overweight and 650 million obese in 2016. Singapore has not been immune to this worldwide weight problem. In fact, more than ⅓ of adults in Singapore qualified as overweight in the MOH's most recent National Population Health Survey. Of course, a combination of exercise and a healthy diet is key to maintaining a healthy weight. However, studies have uncovered a few surprising factors within everyday life that could have an impact on your waistline.

1. Traffic Sounds Can Drive Subconscious Stress-Eating

Quite a few articles have already covered how loud music in restaurants can trigger faster eating and less-healthy meal choices. What's less mentioned, however, is that the traffic noises–whether actively noticed or not–can induce excessive eating beyond fullness. In fact, a 4-year study by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden revealed that people's waistlines increased by nearly 1 centimetre per 10-decibel rise in traffic noise. To put this into perspective, 10-decibels is roughly equivalent to the sound of falling leaves. Even more, people exposed to airplane noise in a follow-up study experienced a 6cm increase in waist size.

Ongoing disruptive noises, like city traffic, can trigger stress eating in both humans and animals

Scientists explain this sound-reactive overeating as a displacement activity, distracting from environmental stress. While it may be difficult to avoid traffic and plane noise altogether, there are a few ways to mitigate the impact. If you're looking to move, consider avoiding noisy neighborhoods (Serangoon, Orchard, Outram, Bukit Timah and Clementi are amongst the loudest). If you're already settled, you may want to consider sound-proofing your flat. A few simple fixes include adding a seal to the bottom of your door and purchasing sound block curtains. More comprehensive solutions, however–false ceilings, laminate or double-glazed windows, and floated insulated walls to name a few–cost more because they involve renovation, which can be facilitated by a personal loan.

Soundproofing MeasureApproximate Cost
Acoustic Door SealS$8–S$10
Sound Block CurtainS$25–S$100
Laminated WindowsS$150 / sqm
Double-Glazed WindowsS$280 / sqm
Floated, Insulated WallsS$85–S$317 / sqm
Insulated False CeilingS$113–S$248 / sqm

2. Blue Light from Smartphones Can Build Up Your Blood Sugar

The light our bodies are exposed to has a strong impact on our sleeping behavior, hormone production, and yes–metabolism. This is especially true with blue light, an artificial light emitted by electronics like computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Research by Northwestern Medicine has shown that exposure to such light (including while eating) can increase insulin resistance and cause higher blood sugar levels. This build-up, in turn, is linked to increased body fat, weight gain and a greater risk of diabetes. This is especially alarming, given Singaporeans spend an average of over 12 hours per day on digital devices, mostly on their mobile phone.

Fortunately, consumers now have greater control over their exposure to blue light. Both iPhones and Android devices, for example, have built-in options in their settings that shift the screen's color temperature. Even more, there is a variety of Blue Light Apps available on the marketplace. Even still, consumers must be the ones to remember to make these changes, as factory settings remain blue and bright. It's also worthwhile to spend more time off-screen, whether by reading a book or just spending time with friends and family.

3. Post-Workout Snacking Can Contribute to Weight Gain

Regular exercise has an incredible number of benefits, from boosting energy and mood to improving blood pressure. With the advent of fitness subscriptions, working out is even more convenient and dynamic. Nonetheless, it's not as powerful of a weight loss tool as you might think. According to obesity researchers, physical activity (which includes all kinds of movement, not just exercise) only accounts for 10–30% of calories burned within a day. This is a relatively small fraction, and its impact decreases when considering compensatory mechanisms. Research shows that people tend to eat more and slow down after leaving the gym, offsetting calories burned with unconscious adjustments.

Monthly Fitness Subscription Cost per Class

As mentioned, exercising is key to a healthy lifestyle, but without remaining conscious of food intake, all progress can be easily lost–and potentially, eclipsed. It's only natural that after a hard workout, you may feel hungrier than usual. Consider stocking up on fresh groceries like fruits and vegetables–they're often lower in calories and full of fiber, which is (unsurprisingly) filling. You might also consider moderate exercise, with continued movement throughout the day–this can help to combat potential 'slow downs' while boosting your overall metabolism.


Daily life can be hectic, stressful and chaotic. It's easy to fall into patterns that may not be the healthiest. Simple measures like eating a healthy diet, keeping active and getting enough sleep are important to staying in shape. Nonetheless, a few minor changes may also make an impact–whether you're willing to spend on a few home fixes or to just take a break from screen time, you could very well benefit.

Carrie Arndt

Carrie is a Senior Analyst at ValueChampion, helping consumers find the best credit cards and other financial products based on quantitative and qualitative analysis. She previously led consumer studies worldwide as a Senior Research Executive at MMR Research, and led development & operations and BellaVetro. She attended Duke University and Penn State University, graduating with a degree in Political Science and Government. Her work has been featured on a variety of major media such as Yahoo Finance, Asia One, Buro, Zuu Online and more.

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