Losing weight isn’t easy. Otherwise, there would be no obesity. Yet too many people try to oversimplify the challenges of losing weight by saying it comes down to eating less and exercising more. But that’s not the full story. You also must get other lifestyle habits right, like stress management and sleep.
But there’s little doubt that how and what you eat plays a major role in weight loss and weight control. Studies show that nutrition is more important than exercise, although exercise is excellent for improving body composition and maintaining weight loss once you lose it.
If you’re struggling to lose those extra pounds, make sure you’re consciously adopting eating habits that make those stubborn pounds of body fat harder to take off. Let’s look at some of the most common eating habits that are hard on your waistline and stall your fat loss progress.
Not Cooking at Home
Eating at restaurants or getting take-out is convenient, but unhealthy. Even when you smartly order a side of broccoli rather than French fries, the cook may have prepared the broccoli in an unhealthy oil. Most restaurants use cheap oils like corn oil and soybean oil, rather than healthier options, like olive oil. Even worse are the offerings at fast food restaurants.
At most fast-food joints, everything on the menu is deceptively high in calories and ultra-processed, not to mention the added salt and sugar. Studies even show the packaging that fast food comes in contains endocrine-disrupting phthalates.
When you eat at a restaurant, it’s also hard to judge and control portion sizes. Entrees and sides served in restaurants have ballooned in size over the years. You might think you’re eating a serving when it’s more likely to be 2 or more. When you cook at home, you control what goes into your mouth and what ends up on your belly. Make cooking at home an adventure; challenge yourself with new healthy recipes. You’ll have the added assurance of knowing what went into your food.
Decades ago, families would sit down for a leisurely, home-cooked meal. Now, people eat on the run and while doing other things. When you eat in front of a computer screen or television, you don’t appreciate the sensory characteristics of what you’re eating, the aroma, taste, and texture. Another downside is you tend to eat more and feel less satisfied. The best way to eat is in a leisurely manner, with your senses focused on the food. Mindful eating will help you eat less, enjoy what you eat more, and lose weight.
Focusing Too Much on Calories
It’s not only how many calories you eat, but what kinds of calories you put on your plate. Dieting is an outdated term because it doesn’t lead to sustained weight loss and restricting calories too much isn’t healthy. Plus, scrutinizing everything contributes to eating disorders and unhealthy eating habits.
Instead, focus on the type of food you’re eating. Your body converts ultra-processed foods, starches, and sugar quickly into glucose, giving a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar. When your blood sugar drops quickly, it triggers hunger. Adding more protein and fiber to your diet from whole food sources is the key to staying satisfied for hours. Fiber increases the viscosity of your food as it moves through your digestive tract. This slows down the rate at which your stomach empties after a meal, making you feel full longer.
Drinking Your Calories
If you’re sipping a drink that contains sugar with your meals and between meals, you’re adding calories minus substantial nutrients. That’s a waste for your waistline. Soft drinks are in a class by themselves. A single 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar. You might think diet sodas are a less harmful alternative, but studies show our brain expects calories to be associated with something sweet.
When the calories don’t follow, it doesn’t satiate your appetite to the same degree as food with calories would. Plus, there’s evidence that artificial sweeteners alter the gut microbiome in a way that could lead to weight gain. Replace soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages with unsweetened tea or water.
Eating When You Aren’t Hungry
Many people are emotional eaters. They eat not because they’re physiologically hungry, but because they’re trying to distract themselves from other problems and emotions. It’s also the type of eating you do when you’re upset, lonely, bored, or otherwise unhappy. Emotional eaters usually snack on comfort foods high in sugar and fat.
One way to find out if you’re eating for emotional reasons is to keep a food diary. Write down what you eat, when, and your emotions at the time you ate it. Doing this will make you more aware of what you’re feeling when you get the urge for comfort food. Chances are there’s some other feeling mixed in there, like anger, loneliness, boredom, or frustration.
If you identify this type of pattern, look for other ways to relieve stress, like deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or a stroll outdoors in nature. It will take time, and possibly, counseling, to recover from emotional eating, but doing so will make it easier to control your weight.
The Bottom Line
You don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to be strict all the time to lose weight, but you’ll have more success if you avoid these five common eating habits that make it harder to slim down.
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