We thought fat was the enemy while companies pumped fat-free foods full of sugar and salt in its place. We shunned potatoes and pasta like one bite would send our weight skyrocketing. All the while, Google continued to pull up ever increasing numbers of results when you went looking for straightforward slim-down advice. To cut through the noise and find you the habits worth avoiding, the Eat This, Not That! team waded through the research on what actually affects your waistline. Here are ten offenders proven to make your pants feel tighter:
Eating off Larger Plates
One study found that when given an option, a whopping 98.6 percent of obese individuals opt for larger plates. Translation: More food, more calories, and more body fat. Keep your portions in check by choosing smaller serving dishes. If need be, you can always go back for seconds.
Putting Serving Dishes on the Table
Resist setting out foods buffet- or family-style, and opt instead to serve them from the kitchen. A study in the journal Obesity found that when food is served from the dinner table, people consume 35 percent more over the course of the meal. When an additional helping requires leaving the table, people hesitate to go back for more.
Choosing White Bread
A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when obese subjects incorporated whole grains into their diets, they lost more abdominal fat over the course of 12 weeks. There are likely multiple factors at play, but the most notable is this: Whole grain foods pack in more fiber and an overall stronger nutritional package than their refined-grain counterparts.
Taking Big Bites
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who took large bites of food consumed 52 percent more calories in one sitting than those who took small bites and chewed longer. By cutting food into smaller pieces, you can increase satiety and enjoy your food more thoroughly. A good general rule? The smaller your bites, the thinner your waistline.
Not Drinking Enough Water
Adequate water intake is essential for all your body’s functions, and the more you drink, the better your chances of staying thin. In one University of Utah study, dieting participants who were instructed to drink two cups of water before each meal lost 30 percent more weight than their thirsty peers. And you can magnify the effect by adding ice. German researchers found that six cups of cold water a day could prompt a metabolic boost that incinerates 50 daily calories. That’s enough to shed five pounds a year!
Hanging Out with Unhealthy Friends
Research from the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that when a friend becomes obese, it ups your chance of obesity by 57 percent. This probably has to do with the social norms that you’re exposed to. Rather than ditch a friend who starts to put on a few extra pounds though, suggest healthy activities that you can do together, and avoid letting him or her dictate the meal (“Let’s split the cheesecake!”).
Eating Too Late
Your body can burn flab while you sleep, but only if it isn't too busy processing a full stomach. A new study in the journal Obesity looked at the sleeping and eating habits of 52 people over seven days, and it found that those who ate after 8 p.m. took in the most daily calories and had the highest BMIs.
Not Using a Scale
Looking at your body weight reinforces weight-loss goals and makes it difficult to cheat your diet. When University of Minnesota researchers observed dieters who weighed themselves daily, they discovered that the routine of stepping on a scale helped those people lose twice as much weight as those who weighed themselves less frequently. Avoid being thrown off by natural fluctuations in body weight by stepping onto the scale at the same time every day.
Choosing Fruity Drinks
Most restaurants and bars have ditched their fresh-fruit recipes in favor of viscous syrups made mostly from high fructose corn syrup and thickening agents. As a general rule, the more garnishes a drink has hanging from its rim, the worse it is for your waistline.
Eating when Emotional
A study from the University of Alabama found that emotional eaters—those who admitted eating in response to emotional stress—were 13 times more likely to be overweight or obese. If you feel the urge to eat in response to stress, try chewing a piece of gum, chugging a glass of water, or taking a walk around the block. Create an automatic response that doesn't involve food and you'll prevent yourself from overloading on calories.