Report

30 Overlooked Habits Making You Gain Weight

Did you know these little habits were making a big impact on your waistline? Read on to find out if they’re lurking in your daily routine.

Report

30 Overlooked Habits Making You Gain Weight

Did you know these little habits were making a big impact on your waistline? Read on to find out if they’re lurking in your daily routine.

An extra bite here, a lunch at your desk there.

Who would’ve thought that even the smallest actions could impact your body’s number on the scale? And while single actions alone will not be the impetus behind your climbing weight (like splurging on a cupcake for your coworker’s birthday), it’s when these little actions become habits that you’ll start to see a problem.

An even worse problem? It’s likely that because you’ve been committing these habits for longer than you can remember, you’re probably overlooking the fact that they’re some of the reasons why you’ve been packing on the pounds.

But don’t worry—any of these fattening habits can easily be turned into a slim move. You just have to recognize your habit and redirect your action to a healthier choice. And guess what? We did all of that for you. All you need is a little determination and the willingness to make some changes and the slimmer you will be here in no time. Speaking of making little changes, start by replacing that 3 p.m. vending machine bag of chips with one of these 40 Healthy Snack Ideas.

LIFESTYLE HABITS

friends walking

Between late nights at work and juggling a family, living your best life isn't always easy—we totally get it. Don't worry about overhauling the big stuff on your quest for a smaller gut, instead, hone in on fixing the fixable. Here, we outline the biggest weight-loss saboteurs that may be sneaking into your daily life—and simple ways to fight back.

1

You Work Into The Wee Hours

exhausted woman

Not only do solid sleep hours keep you energized throughout the day, they also help keep you slim, too. Researchers at Wake Forest proved that maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is crucial for keeping your tummy tight. In fact, they found that dieters who sleep five hours or less gain 2.5 times more weight than those who sleep between seven and eight hours. Overdoing it can also be bad: Those who slept more than eight hours packed on only slightly less than those who slept fewer than five. Shoot for an average of six to eight hours of sleep per night, which is the optimal amount for weight control. Besides getting sleep, integrating these 30 Things to Do 30 Minutes Before Bed to Lose Weight into your nighttime routine can help accelerate your slim-down.

Eat This! Tip:

Forget sheep; eat lamb or turkey for dinner. Both, are high in Tryptophan, an amino acid that has demonstrated an impressive sleep-inducing effect. In fact, in a study, insomniacs were able to get a better night's rest after consuming just ¼ of a gram, which is what you’d find in a skinless chicken drumstick.

2

You Always Skip a Meal

skipping meals

You may think that skipping meals will help you reach your weight loss goal, but contrary to popular belief, that is not the case. And you’re not alone in thinking so. In fact, nearly 20 percent of Americans skip meals to lose weight. Surprisingly, skipping meals actually increases the likelihood of packing on some extra pounds, especially when it comes to breakfast. The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study, which explained that people who cut out the most important meal of the day were 4.5 times more likely to be obese. According to research exposed in Zero Belly Breakfasts, skipping meals slows your metabolism and boosts your hunger. That puts your body in prime fat-storage mode and increases your odds of overeating at the next meal.

Eat This! Tip:

Make your breakfast the night before. Overnight oats, pre-portioned granola with some Greek yogurt, or hard boiled eggs and fiber-rich crackers make a protein- and fiber-packed breakfast. Options like these are delicious, yet nutritious, and easy to make.

3

You Chow Down Quickly

man eating a burger

Fun fact: it takes 20 minutes for your stomach tell your brain it’s full. So chances are, you may be joining the clean plate club before your body tells you it’s satiated. A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association explained that because of their mindfulness, slow eaters consumed 66 fewer calories per meal, but compared to their fast-eating peers, they felt like they had eaten more. Although 66 calories may not seem like a lot, if you can do that at every meal, you’ll lose more than 20 pounds a year!

Eat This! Tip:

Start your meal with two glasses of water, which is a natural appetite suppressant that can help you feel full. Then, when your food comes, put your fork down in between bites. By following this simple trick, you can slow down your eating pace, which will allow your body extra time to digest your food and give you the signal that you are satisfied.

4

You Love To Binge Watch TV

weight gain watching tv

Time spent on Netflix as opposed to at the gym is obviously not a flat-belly move. But it's more than just a lack of gym time that’s packing on the pounds. A study conducted at the University of Vermont found that overweight participants who cut back half of their normal TV time saved an additional 119 calories a day on average. Watching just one less show (if you only watch two) would be an automatic 12-pound annual loss!

Eat This! Tip:

Make the most of your TV time by multitasking while you watch—fold some laundry, or plank and wall sit during commercial breaks. An easy load of chores can further bump up your caloric burn. And if your hands are busy washing the dishes or making your kids lunch, then they won’t be in the popcorn bag! Mindlessly snacking is a tummy trap during this sacred time. Check out these 31 No-Gym Workouts to get inspired.

5

You Always Eat Out For Lunch

man sandwich lunch

If your lunch break is consistently you running out to a local spot or out the door to meet a delivery guy, then chances are you’re eating up more calories, salt, and sugar than if you just ate a lunch from home. Restaurant options are often spiked with diet-destroying sauces and belly-bloating sodium. And when you eat out, you often say “yes” to more than you need. And your local place is just as to blame as the McDonald’s down the block. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that restaurant food is as caloric as fast-food. Researchers found that 92 percent of meals gathered from both large-chain and local restaurants three cities contained on average 1,205 calories—nearly 60 percent of the FDA’s daily recommended intake of 2,000.

Eat This! Tip:

To stay away from those unwanted calories, brown bag it. With these 25 Super-Healthy Lunches Under 400 Calories you’re set to make an awesome week’s worth of lunches.

6

You Always Think It’s Hunger

woman holding fruit water

Your stomach makes some noise. You’re hungry, right? Maybe not. A study in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that 60 percent of the time people confused hunger for thirst. Drinking water is a simple trick to stay on track with those weight-loss goals. This may simply be because water is filling, but researchers note the added H2O may well be displacing calories otherwise spent on calorie-laden beverages. "If all else fails, have a cup of tea, which has almost no calories," recommends Kelly Choi, author of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse. "Tea can help hydrate you and calm down cravings!"

Eat This! Tip:

Even if you're sure those rumbles are for hunger, preloading meals with some good ol' calorie-free H2O can shave hundreds (yes hundreds!) of calories throughout your day. And if plain water sounds boring, you can add some practically calorie-free fresh citrus to create a health-boosting (and flavorful!) detox water.

7

You Love The Food Network

lazy guy watching tv on couch

Chopped, Top Chef, Chef’s Table—these appetite-enhancing shows are doing more than making us hungry, they’re making us fat! "Television recipes often contain more calories, protein, and fat than the experts recommend," says Mary Hartley, R., a consulting nutritionist from Rhode Island. "According to a study from Cornell, watching cooking shows and then cooking from scratch is associated with a higher body mass index (BMI). However, cooking show viewers who watch but don't cook do not have higher BMIs." So feel free to watch, but sorry Ina, we can’t cook up the food.

Eat This! Tip:

Watch the shows, let them inspire you, but make them flat-belly friendly. Change one fattening ingredient to one of these 40 Best-Ever Fat-Burning Foods and enjoy.

8

You Always Celebrate With Food

cupcakes with sprinkles

… or a drink! But just because your BFF got a promotion, or you finally moved into your new home, doesn’t mean you need to overload on Champagne and cookies. In fact, you should do the opposite. Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN explains that rewarding yourself, or your friend, with food is a very slippery slope: “Often times, I see my patients reward a weight loss by indulging in foods they know aren’t the best for their goals. Instead, I suggest using things like manicures, SoulCycle classes and workout gear as a reward for all their hard work. Using junk food will only contribute to weight gain and lead to unhealthy yo-yo dieting.”

Eat This! Tip:

There are plenty of ways to celebrate these achievements without the junk. If you went on a congratulatory trip to the beach three times a year instead of devouring a fancy dinner out, you could keep nearly 4,000 calories out of your mouth. That sums up to a little more than a pound of fat!

9

You’re Constantly Sitting

woman at standing desk

If you’re like most Americans, you sit at a desk all day. On average, we sit 67 hours a week and spend just 7 hours out of every 24 moving. Doesn’t that sound alarming? It gets even worse: thanks to the popularity of desk jobs, we now burn 100 fewer calories a day at work than we did 50 years ago, according to a 2011 study published in the journal PLoS ONE. That itself equates an extra 10 pounds packed on in a year! Compounded with a study published in the journal Food Policy, which found that there has been a 4.3 percent rise in calorie intake globally, you’re looking at some serious weight gain hurdles.

Eat This! Tip:

Take a break. Just two minutes every hour can offset the predicted pounds, according to a Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology study. Even more convincing, a British study explained that that standing at work burned 50 more calories per hour than sitting. If that sounds like nothing, check this out: If you stand for just three hours of your day, in one year you'd expend more than 30,000 extra calories, which amounts to about 8 lbs of fat! Invest in a portable standing desk to reap the benefits.

10

You Always Take The Elevator

pressing elevator buttons

Your office is on the fifth floor. You always take the elevator. Big mistake! Using the stairs burns twice as many calories. Still not convinced you should change your ways? A 150-pound person could lose about six pounds per year just by climbing up two flights of stairs every day, according to the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. Bump that up to six, and you could drop 18 pounds without ever hitting the gym.

Eat This! Tip:

Not only should you be ditching the elevator upon your arrival, but find another excuse to take the stairs. Use the bathroom one floor below or the microwave that’s down two. It may be tough at first, but sooner or later you’ll see results and it’ll be well worth it.

DAILY EATING HABITS

healthy family eating habits

Whether your goal is to lose or maintain your weight, your diet influences your outcome more than anything else. Read on for some easy ways to clean up your act and keep those excess pounds at bay.

11

You Purchase Low-Fat Products

low fat zone

When you’re trying to shed a few, most people think to buy the foods marketed as low-fat or even fat-free. But that’s not the move. Typically, those options only save you a few extra calories, and they replace the harmless fats with slow-performing carbs. The replacers digest quickly, leading to a sugar rush and, immediately afterward, rebound hunger. Alarmingly, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham discovered that meals that limited carbohydrates to 43 percent were more filling and had a milder effect on blood sugar than meals with 55 percent carbohydrates. That means you’ll store less body fat and be less likely to eat more later.

Eat This! Tip:

Don’t let fat scare you! Go for the 2% Fage yogurt, or the Sharp Cheddar from Sargento, not their reduced-fat rendition.

12

You Still Sip Soda

glasses of soda

Not only are you guzzling down blood sugar–spiking sweeteners, but you’re also drinking unnecessary calories. And don’t think diet is any better: A study in the journal Diabetes Pro found that subjects who drank two or more diet sodas a day over the course of 10 years saw their waistlines increase five times faster than non-soda-drinkers.

Eat This! Tip:

Go for water. Need flavor? Add in some fruit to satisfy those taste buds. And if you really need some bubbles check out La Croix, or Spindrift: sparkling options we approve of!

13

You Eat At Your Desk

woman eating at desk

You may think it’s beneficial for your hourly pay, or to prove yourself to your boss, but eating your lunch at your desk isn’t doing your waistline any favors. And you’re not the only one doing this. According to research conducted by NPD group, roughly 62 percent of working American professionals dine “al-desko.” The issue is that you’re eating distractedly, which can cause you to consume up to 50 percent more calories than you intended, according to a 2013 review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Eat This! Tip:

Invite a colleague, take a walk to the salad shop, and eat it there! Taking a break will help you refresh your mind and give you control over your caloric intake.

14

You Say Cheese, Please!

egg cheese bacon sandwich

Saying “sure” to that parmesan at dinner may not seem like a big deal. But that, and the cheese on your breakfast sandwich or topping in lunch salad, seems to be the biggest belly bully around. Since cheese has an average of 113 calories per slice, removing it from just one meal a day could save you 41,000 calories a year. In other words, you could lose up to 12 pounds in just 12 months by saying "hold the cheese, please!"

Eat This! Tip:

Choose wisely! Do you really need that cheese on your salad or in your omelet? Add in some fiber-filled veggies instead.

15

You Prefer Potato Chips

bag chips

If you’re a sucker for a packaged, salty kick, chances are that’s part of the reason for your widening belly. And it's not all water weight, either. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition discovered that salt actually confuses your biological processes that tell you when you’re full. "Our body has biological mechanisms to tell us when to stop eating, and fat activates those mechanisms in people who are sensitive to the taste of fat," lead author Russell Keast said in a statement. "However, when salt is added to the food, those mechanisms are blunted and people end up eating more food. This can cause you to eat more fatty foods, and over time, your body adapts or becomes less sensitive to fat, leading you to eat more to get the same feelings of fullness."

Eat This! Tip:

Cooking at home? Use fresh herbs instead of salt. When dining out, scan the nutrition info at home before you head out and pick a low-cal dish with about 1,000 milligrams of sodium or less. And make sure to avoid The #1 Worst Menu Option at 41 Popular Restaurants.

16

Your Go-To No-Cook Meal is Soup

Not all soups are created equal. Especially those that are cream-based and those straight out of a can. Cream-based soups are much higher in calories and fat. And canned soups are processed goods that sneak in sodium, which causes belly bloat as well as can increase your appetite and dampen your ability to sense when you’re full.

Eat This! Tip:

Choose a broth-based soup, filled with fiber-rich vegetables. There are plenty of waist-friendly options that will warm you right up. Soup also makes a great appetizer and provides you with one of your days suggested servings of vegetables.

17

You Buy White Bread

white bread

Ask any diet expert what they think about fiber, and they’ll likely explain that it's an imperative part of any weight-loss goal. So, if you tend to skimp on the nutrient—like by purchasing white bread products—it could explain why you've been packing on the pounds. Refined wheat flours, like white bread, pizza, pasta, and bagels, have been stripped of their slow-digesting fiber, which means your body can break down what you just consumed very quickly. And the faster your body digests these foods, the faster your blood sugar levels rise, which leads to spikes in your insulin levels and ends with fat accumulation. According to multiple studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those who consume the most refined grains have the most amount of belly fat and largest mean BMI and waist circumference, whereas those who eat the most high-fiber, whole grain foods have the lowest amounts of belly fat.

Eat This! Tip:

We know change is hard, but making the switch to whole grain is well worth it. Find fiber in all of your foods. Adding berries like raspberries and blueberries to your morning oats is a smart move. Fruits like these carry over 6 grams of the belly-filling stuff per cup. Not to mention, they’re low in sugar and filled with flavor. “According to research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, eating foods rich in soluble fiber, like oatmeal (one of the 25 Best Carbs for Weight Loss), apples, and beans, can reduce belly fat,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Jennifer McDaniel.

18

You Hit Up The Add-Ins Station After Ordering Your Coffee

pouring sugar into coffee

If your coffee tastes like ice cream, you’re doing it wrong. Adding packet upon packet of sugar will ultimately cause your blood sugar to spike and crash—which makes you crave unhealthy food—and can ultimately lead to weight gain. And it’s not just sugar you have to be worried about if you’re looking to save calories. According to a 2017 study published in the journal Public Health, researchers found that nearly 70 percent of coffee consumers drink coffee with caloric add-ins (including sugar and creamers); out of those people, close to 16 percent of their daily caloric intake came from sipping on their coffee concoction. That 16 percent translates to an additional 70 calories a day more than non-coffee drinkers.

Eat This! Tip:

Try using other flavor boosters to make up for the sweet stuff, such as cinnamon or cocoa powder, both of which are often available at your local coffee shop. And if you crave that sweetness, go for the less processed stuff. Stevia, which is now available at Starbucks (just ask if it isn’t out) was proven to help minimize spikes in blood glucose and insulin according to a study in the journal Appetite.

RESTAURANT BLUNDERS

Get this: The average American gets a meal or snack from a restaurant nearly six times per week. That's six opportunities to blow your diet or make a decision that will bring you one step closer to your weight-loss goal. Read on to find out how to achieve the latter.

19

You Grab The Freebies

couple eating chips

When you’re starving, those complimentary breadsticks or chips and salsa appear to be quite the lifesaver. But while they might be free, that doesn’t mean you won’t pay for it. Just one of Olive Garden's free breadsticks is an additional 150 calories to your meal. And let’s be honest, you’re probably eating more than one. What's worse, none of these calories come with any redeeming nutritional value.

Eat This! Tip:

Don’t ever go to a restaurant starving. Before you head out, grab a handful of nuts or berries. Their fiber, healthy fats, and protein will help tide you over through the breadbasket period. No time to nosh? Kindly ask your server to shrink your bread basket size or let him or her know you don’t need it at all.

20

You Order The Healthiest-Sounding Menu Item

restaurant diner friends

If you think you’re doing yourself a favor by ordering a lighter fare, you may be surprised to learn you’re not. That’s because when you are under the impression you chose the better option, you tend to let up on restraint. In fact, consumers tend to choose beverages, side dishes, and desserts that contain up to 131 percent more calories when they ordered a “healthy” main dish, according to a study from the Journal of Consumer Research. A separate Babson College study even found that the mere presence of healthy meals on a menu can actually cause people to select a less nutritious meal. Experts believe that people end up splurging because they take the fact that they count the consideration of ordering a healthy item as being virtuous, so it leads them to make poor food choices down the line. Plus, not all lighter fare dishes are as healthy as they sound.

Eat This! Tip:

To keep your slim-down plans in line, take a peek at the restaurant’s menu options in advance. Many chains have nutritional facts readily available, knowing what you take in will rid off any guilty feelings later as long as you stick to your plan. If you’re considering ordering lunch, placing an order ahead of when you’ll start to feel hungry can also help you cut down on calories, according to research published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

21

Your Order Your Own Dessert

friends eating ice cream

Don’t worry: you can still have your cake. But that doesn’t mean you should order alone. Since you’ve likely already licked your plate clean, you’ve definitely appeased your body’s hunger needs. At that point, dessert is just tacking on extra calories and a lot of sugar.

Eat This! Tip:

If you’re looking to curb your sweet cravings, consider splitting. If you and your friend split the dessert, it’s half the calories for both of you, but still as delicious.

22

You Order The Meal As Is

chinese food takeout

Restaurant chefs tend to soak their meals in deep, treacherous puddles of oil, cream, butter, and sugar—all of which are calorically dense and offer little to no nutritional benefits. By asking for your veggies and meat to be cooked dry, and leaving sauces on the side you could save loads of calories. Simple renditions like this on your order can lead to major weight loss success.

Eat This! Tip:

If you're not already making this request when you dine out and order in, it's time to start. Ask for your chicken and broccoli dish steamed, leaving the sauce on the side. When you order, ask for a side of fruit with your veggie-filled omelet rather than going for the oil-drenched potatoes.

23

You Love A Combo Meal

burger and fries

Research found in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing explained that compared to ordering à la carte, the average order picks up a hundred (or more) extra calories when you opt for the “combo” or “value meal." Why? Because when you go for the dish that’s 2-in-1, chances are you’re getting more food than you actually need. You're better off ordering yourself a single dish. That way you won't be influenced by pricing schemes designed to hustle a few more cents out of your pocket.

Eat This! Tip:

Stay fresh and stay simple. Choose one meal, and stick to it. When it comes to watching your figure less is always more.

24

YOU ORDER LAST

reading restaurant menut

The trick to making flat-belly choices when you’re out with your friends? Order first. A study conducted at the University of Illinois concluded that groups of people tend to order similarly, especially when forced to say it in front of others. The researchers attribute their findings to the fact that people are happier making similar choices as their peers.

Eat This! Tip:

If you’re the friend who can never decide on what to eat, we’ve got you covered. Follow these steps: check out the menu at home, decide on a dish, and ask the waiter if you can order first.

25

You Only Order an Entree

steak

Do you opt out of an appetizer because you’re trying to save calories for your entree? Don't do that! A series of well-cited Yale University studies proposed that by starting off with some leafy greens, calorie intake over the course of a meal can be reduced by up to 20 percent. For the typical 600-calorie pizza party, that would save roughly 120 calories, which would take more than a mile on the treadmill to burn off!

Eat This! Tip:

Everyone is going for an appetizer? Go for the classic and light house salad. And if you really want to do yourself a favor, ask for the dressing on the side or just ask for balsamic vinegar and olive oil!

BAD WEEKEND HABITS

weekend sand

Ah, the weekend: The two days of the week you can kick back and decompress. It's also the two days of the week most people blow their diet and healthy living plan. Are you making any of the mistakes below? Read on to find out!

26

You Catch Up With Friends Over Dinner

Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing bad about having plans with your friend group; but, if grabbing food together is your go-to, you could be setting yourself up for weight gain. According to a study printed in the journal Nutrition, a meal consumed with just one other person is typically 33 percent larger than a meal enjoyed alone. But that’s not all; third-wheeling means you're looking at a 47 percent bigger meal. And dining with four, six, or more than eight friends can lead to meal enlargements of 69, 70 and 96 percent. It’s true: part of this has to do with the hours we spend at the table. And when you’re with friends, the meals tend to go on for a longer duration of time.

Eat This! Tip:

There are plenty of ways to see your friends, so it’s time to shake things up. Hit up the movie theater, venture to that new art exhibit, try a new workout class, or go for a hike. With any of these options, you’re sure to save money and calories.

27

You Pour a Few Glasses

weekend habbits

Leaving wine for the weekend is better than having a glass a day, but it’s still not the smartest move if that pour has become a tradition. In fact, in a report found in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition researchers claimed that drinking alcohol can cause people to eat an extra 384 calories a day. This is most likely because it makes us more responsive to the scent of food and less likely to resist indulgent fare.

Eat This! Tip:

Make it a seltzer wine spritzer! By diluting that Rose with a splash of bubbles, you’re saving yourself some major calories—from both the drink and later-on munchies—and it’ll help fill you up and keep you hydrated.

28

You Love a Lazy Weekend

lazy weekend couch dog

If your weekend recap is you, your couch, and the TV remote, it may be time for a change. This weekend routine not only puts a damper on your weekend calorie burn, it also stresses your lower back, tightens your hip flexors and messes with your blood flow.

Eat This! Tip:

Change things up from the norm and get active! Take a walk with your friends, play a board-game with another couple, or stroll the mall and window shop. You're likely sitting at a desk all week, so lounging all weekend is the last thing you should do.

29

You Stress About Work

stressed upset women

If your Sunday consists of dreading Monday, you’ve got something else to worry about besides your job. The constant surges of cortisol, a hormone that helps the body respond to stress, can mess with your hunger hormones and cause you to reach for comforting, calorie-dense snacks.

Eat This! Tip:

Spend your weekends at ease. Sweat out any nerves you may have at the gym. And while you're at it, check out these 30 Ways to Avoid Getting Stressed Out.

30

Your Diet Depends On The Day

pepperoni pizza

Allowing your cycle of good days and bad days dictate your eating habits can set your diet up for failure. We’re not saying that a cheat meal isn’t allowed. In fact, quite the opposite: "Occasionally indulging can aid weight-loss efforts by warding off feelings of deprivation and bouts of overeating," explains dietitian Cassie Bjork, RD, LD of Healthy Simple Life. "It can make it easier to stick with your healthy eating regimen for the long haul." Rather, it’s when you let your emotions dictate your eating routine or when one diet slip-up causes a cascade of poor eating decisions where you can run into a problem.

Eat This! Tip:

We have two suggestions for you: Either keep your hard work in line by picking your cheat meal in advance and be sure to jump right back on the healthy eating bandwagon afterward, no matter how good a second greasy meal may sound. Or, choose a meal plan that's realistic. If you’re a dairy lover, day’s without cheese, yogurt, and ice cream will be quite painful. Instead, allow yourself one meal a day with a little bit of the good stuff. That way, you never feel deprived.