Putting on pounds can greatly affect your physical and psychological health. Here are several ways that extra weight can sneak up on you and how you can make some adjustments to win your battle of the bulge.

Falling for “diet” food. Low-fat products entice people to eat more than they should. That’s because people assume that low-fat food has fewer calories, which isn’t always true. According to a 2006 study in the Journal of Marketing Research, participants underestimated the calorie content of “low-fat” chocolates by about 50 percent, on average. So it’s important to read the Nutrition Facts label on products.

Sleeping for fewer than six hours a night. A lack of shut-eye can cause an increase in the hormone ghrelin, which tells your brain that you’re hungry. It also causes a drop in leptin, the hormone responsible for signaling when you’re full. That dual reaction might be stronger in people who are dieting, which can sabotage weight-loss efforts, according to a review of studies in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Bottom line: Make an earlier bedtime a priority.

Letting your cabinets overflow. Does your pantry look as though it could serve 15? Then trim your shopping list. Another study in the Journal of Marketing Research concluded that stockpiling groceries often means that more food is left outside cabinets, causing people to see and consume it more quickly.

Racking up screen time. Research has found that the more you sit, the more you’re likely to gain weight. That seems to be true even for people who get the prescribed 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Office jobs often require lots of desk time, so take “walking” breaks and cut down on after-work and weekend use of your television and computer.

Your efforts to lose weight can be hampered by getting too little sleep. (DETECTO)

Distorting portions. Larger bowls, packages and servings can lead you to eat more than what’s appropriate, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Consumer Research. To eat and drink less, try using smaller plates, bowls and glasses, along with smaller serving dishes and utensils. Take one serving at a time from large packages, then remove the packages from sight. When dining out, share dishes with your companions. Most important, though, downsize snacks and fast food. A study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior had moviegoers eat from either a medium or large tub of popcorn. Those with the larger tubs ate 45 percent more.

Copyright 2013. Consumers Union of United States Inc.