If you’re struggling with your weight, it might not just be poor food choices that are to blame. It’s also how you eat your meals. Choose wisely what you put on your plate, but also learn to eat in a way that maximizes the satiety benefits you get from your diet. Here are five habits that can wreak havoc on your best weight loss plans.
Take meals on the go
Eating on the go is a common habit that can lead to weight gain over time. When you eat on the go, you take prepared meals that you can devour quickly, and they are rarely a healthy choice. The problem with fast food is that it contains high amounts of fat and sugar, which are linked to obesity and other health problems like diabetes and heart disease.
Fast food can also be expensive compared to preparing your meals at home. Despite the popular belief that fast food is cheap, you can make a healthier meal at home for less. Plus, you’ll pay later for that low-nutrition fast food meal with poor health.
If you wolf down your food, your brain doesn’t get the notification that you’re full. It takes about twenty minutes for your brain to pick up this message. Eating on the move also increases cortisol, the stress hormone that promotes weight gain in unwanted areas like your waist and abdomen. Slow down and savor your food and appreciate its sensory attributes and you will be more satisfied!
If you know you’ll be in a rush, plan ahead. There are healthy snacks that can keep you going until dinner or lunchtime. For example, try carrots with hummus or half an avocado with whole grain crackers. If you don’t have time for a great meal, grab a salad from your local grocery store or make your own with fresh ingredients.
Snack in front of a screen
Do you watch your favorite TV show or work on the computer while you snack? Such habits can increase your waistline and reduce your enjoyment of a meal. You could even eat your meal without tasting it!
We all have bad habits that we are not proud of, but they don’t have to stay that way. Here are some tips to help you break the bad habit of multitasking while eating:
1) Sit at the table when you eat. Do not eat in front of the television or computer screen. If possible, create a specific space for eating meals away from other activities like watching TV or working on your computer.
2) Turn off electronic devices before you sit down to eat. No need to check your emails, read tweets or watch videos while you eat, even if it’s only for 10 minutes! This is an important step because it will help you focus on what you are eating. With this strategy, you’ll enjoy your food more and feel fuller after every meal.
3) Take small bites and chew slowly. This gives your brain time to recognize that you’re full, so you don’t overeat! It also ensures that you taste and enjoy what is going on in your body.
Supersize your dishes
Research shows that the size of the plate or bowl you eat from can affect how much you eat. If you eat from larger dishes, the food looks smaller on the plate and you feel like you are eating less. Therefore, you are more likely to backtrack for a few seconds. In contrast, a meal looks like more when served on a small plate, so you settle for less. If you want to reduce your calorie intake without suffering from hunger pangs, try setting your table with smaller dishes.
Also choose sober colors for your plates. Red, orange, and yellow are bright, motivating colors that stimulate appetite, while muted forms of blue, green, or brown are less likely to increase your appetite and make you eat more.
Dinner with others
Research results suggest that people consume more calories when dining with others than when eating alone. Why? When you eat with others, you focus less on your food because you are distracted by the conversation and the good times.
Plus, with social events, you’re more likely to justify ordering a high-calorie dessert or sipping on a high-calorie alcoholic beverage. You may feel like it’s normal or socially acceptable to eat more calories at restaurants than at home.
For example, if everyone around the table orders a starter or a dessert, the gourmet choice of one person can influence the choices of others. Also, drinking alcohol can cause you to lose track of how much food you are eating.
Stick to balanced meals in terms of protein, carbohydrates and fats (like salmon with brown rice and broccoli). What if you go out to dinner with friends or family members who are not healthy eaters? Maybe you can convince them to order something healthier.
Using food as a way to relieve stress
We’ve all been there: you’re in a stressful situation, and all you want is comfort food. Maybe it’s a giant bowl of ice cream or a plate of fries. But here’s the thing: eating your feelings doesn’t make you feel better! It can also lead to weight gain.
Eating high-calorie foods when you’re stressed can raise your blood sugar levels, increase insulin production, and tell your body to store fat rather than burn it. This means that instead of losing weight because you’re stressed from work, you might start gaining weight because of stress!
So what should you do? Put down the ice cream (or don’t buy it at all) and find other ways to relieve stress, like listening to music or talking with friends who make you laugh.
The bottom line?
Eating better isn’t just about making healthier food choices. It’s also about creating an environment that helps you resist temptation. Keep these tips in mind to avoid eating habits that lead to weight gain.
- Medical Daily. “Want to stop snacking so much? Try eating from a red plate”
- “Stress and Weight Gain – Mayo Clinic.” August 18, 2020, mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/expert-answers/stress/faq-20058497.
- “Why Stress Causes People to Overeat – Harvard Health.” February 15, 2021, health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat.
- Appetite 58 (2012) 299-302.
- “A systematic review and meta-analysis of social facilitation of eating” by Helen K Ruddock, Jeffrey M Brunstrom, Lenny R Vartanian, and Suzanne Higgs, August 21, 2019, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.