If you’re trying to lose weight, how you eat is as important as what you munch on. It’s true that bad food choices lead to weight gain, but even the best-conceived food choices can be problematic, depending on where, how, and when you eat those foods. Here are some eating habits to avoid if you’re trying to slim your waistline and be your healthiest.
Most people do it occasionally, grab an unhealthy snack or a meal at a fast-food restaurant, but don’t let it become a habit. This type of convenience eating is bad for your health and waistline. When you eat for convenience, you usually make unhealthy eating choices.
When is the last time you ordered salmon and vegetables at a sit-down restaurant or a salad at a fast-food establishment? Keep this in mind: It’s tempting to eat convenience foods when we’re short on time, but there is a hidden health cost to regularly eating ready-made meals.
Fast-food fare, and even some restaurant food, is low on the nutritional scale, and ultra-processed in a way that’s bad for your blood sugar and body weight. Convenience foods and fast foods are generally high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and sugar. Most dine-out options are deceptively high in calories too. Plan ahead by eating before you go out or carry a healthy lunch with you.
Eating in front of the computer or television is another no-no for your health and waistline. Distracted eating is doing anything other than focus on the task at hand, eating a meal. Some studies show that distracted eating increases total calorie intake because it reduces the awareness of how much you’re eating. You’re so engrossed with the program you’re watching or the e-book you’re reading, that you don’t notice that you filled your plate a second time.
A better approach is to eat mindfully. Focus on the sensory characteristics of the food on your plate, the aroma, texture, and taste. Really savor each bite rather than letting your mind wonder to the television, your computer, or smartphone. The more you tune into your food, the fewer bites it will take to satisfy you. Plus, it takes 20 minutes for satiety hormones to kick in and tell you that you’re full. So, focus on your plate and you’ll be satisfied with less and enjoy your meal more.
Using the Wrong Dishes
Even the dishes you use can affect how much you eat. A study in the Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people eat more when they eat from a large bowl or plate. Therefore, one way to cut your consumption is to switch to smaller plates and bowls. It’s a mind game that works! Psychologically, you feel like you’re getting more when a plate is full, and it’s easier to fill a smaller plate without adding too much food. Tone down the color of your plates and bowls too. You’ll eat more if you eat out of dinnerware that’s bright in color. There’s a reason fast food signs are usually red, orange, or yellow. Those colors activate your appetite and make you want to keep eating. Soft shades of blue and green will reign in our desire to keep eating. Choose your plates and bowls carefully!
It’s a pleasure to go out to eat with a group, but it might encourage you to overeat too. When you’re distracted by talk and laughter, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re eating and even what you’re putting in your mouth. Plus, people feel justified in consuming less healthy options in the company of others since they take cues from their eating companions.
Most people eating in a social setting are out for a splurge, and if your dining companions order a rich dessert, you’re likely to follow suit. Don’t give up dining with friends but eat most of your meals in a quiet environment where you can focus on the food and eat mindfully.
Taking Big Bites and Chewing Too Little
Studies show that people who take large bites and chew too little are more likely to put on weight. One study found that people who take bigger bites consumed 52% more calories than those who don’t. That’s a significant difference! Chewing too few times is another waistline liability and it doesn’t help your digestion either. Get into the habit of putting your fork down between bites and giving yourself more time to chew. As mentioned, it takes 20 minutes for satiety hormones to subdue your appetite, so slow down.
The Bottom Line
How you eat is the most important factor in determining whether or not you will gain weight. You can exercise all you want, but if you don’t pay attention to what you eat and how much, then all your hard work may not lead to fat loss. But don’t stop exercising! You need it for a healthy body composition and to maintain any weight you lose. Studies clearly show that people who work out are more likely to maintain a lower body weight once they get there.
The take-home message? Don’t fall into these bad eating habits that cause weight gain. Choose what you eat wisely, but also be aware of how you eat it, what you do while you eat it, and who you’re with. You can best practice mindful eating when you slow down, eat alone, and focus on your food and plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. Unless you plan, you’ll reach for the most convenient items and the mindfulness factor will be out the window. Plan and choose wisely.
- Front Psychol. 2015; 6: 1657.Published online 2015 Nov 3. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01657.
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