There’s an old saying: If you find yourself standing in a deep hole with a shovel in your hands, stop digging. Yet when it comes to our rapid weight loss, most of us dig ourselves a little deeper into the hole every single day.
In fact, as much as we may guilt-trip ourselves over a couple of innocent indulgences–the decadent dessert we broke down and ordered, or the extra helping we took from the buffet–it’s not the occasional extravagances we should focus on. An extra 500 or even 1,000 calories a week isn’t going to make dent in the bathroom scale. Instead, it’s the little things we do, day in and day out, things that we barely notice we’re doing, which determine whether our waistlines are trending upward or downward.
And that’s great news, because if you can suss out your own sneaky weight-gain habits, you can completely change your life without have to, well, change your life. The editors of Eat This, Not That! have identified these 26 bad habits that make you fat. Tweak just a few of these everyday rote routines and you could be on your way to a leaner belly in no time!
You Eat ’Low-Fat’
It sounds crazy, but stop buying foods marketed as low-fat or fat-free, even weight-loss smoothies. Typically, they save you only a few calories and, in doing so, they replace harmless fats with low-performing carbohydrates that digest quickly—causing a sugar rush and, immediately afterward, rebound hunger. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found 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. Click here to see 10 More Foods That Need Warning Labels!
You Ignore Nutrition Advice
Good news here: By reading this, you’re already forming habits that can help you shed pounds. When Canadian researchers sent diet and exercise advice to more than 1,000 people, they found that the recipients began eating smarter and working more physical activity into their daily routines. Not surprisingly, the habits of the non-recipients didn’t budge.
You Sleeping Too Little Or Too Much
According to Wake Forest researchers, dieters who sleep five hours or less put on 2½ times more belly fat, while those who sleep more than eight hours pack on only slightly less than that. Shoot for an average of six to seven hours of sleep per night—the optimal amount for weight control. And burn calories overnight with these 8 Ways to Lose Weight While You Sleep!
You Eat Free Restaurant Food
Breadsticks, biscuits, and chips and salsa may be complimentary at some restaurants, but that doesn’t mean you won’t pay for them. Every time you eat one of Olive Garden’s free breadsticks or Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits, you’re adding an additional 150 calories to your meal. Eat three over the course of dinner and that’s 450 calories. That’s also roughly the number of calories you can expect for every basket of tortilla chips you get at your local Mexican restaurant. What’s worse, none of these calories comes paired with any redeeming nutritional value. Consider them junk food on steroids.
You Drink Soda —Even Diet
The average American guzzles nearly a full gallon of soda every week. Why is that so bad? Because a 2005 study found that drinking one to two sodas per day increases your chances of being overweight or obese by nearly 33 percent. And diet soda is no better. When researchers in San Antonio tracked a group of elderly subjects for nearly a decade, they found that compared to nondrinkers, those who drank two or more diet sodas a day watched their waistlines increase five times faster. The researchers theorize that the artificial sweeteners trigger appetite cues, causing you to unconsciously eat more at subsequent meals. Click here to see The 7 Amazing Things That Happen To Your Body When You Give Up Soda!
You Skip Meals
In a 2011 national survey from the Calorie Control Council, 17 percent of Americans admitted to skipping meals to lose weight. The problem is, skipping meals actually increases your odds of obesity, especially when it comes to breakfast. A study from the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who cut out the morning meal were 4.5 times more likely to be obese. Why? 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. And don’t say you don’t have time for breakfast; it’s easy if you make these overnight oats!
You Eat Too Quickly
If your body has one major flaw, this is it: It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s had enough. A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that slow eaters took in 66 fewer calories per meal, but compared to their fast-eating peers, they felt like they had eaten more. What’s 66 calories, you ask? If you can do that at every meal, you’ll lose more than 20 pounds a year! To lose even more weight, don’t miss this essential list of 24 Nutrition Myths—Busted!
You Watch Too Much TV
A University of Vermont study found that overweight participants who reduced their TV time by just 50 percent burned an additional 119 calories a day on average. That’s an automatic 12-pound annual loss! Maximize those results by multitasking while you watch—even light household tasks will further bump up your caloric burn. Plus, if your hands are occupied with dishes or laundry, you’ll be less likely to mindlessly snack—the other main occupational hazard associated with tube time.
You Order The Combo Meal
A study in the *Journal of Public Policy & Marketing8 shows that compared to ordering a la carte, you pick up a hundred or more extra calories by opting for the “combo” or “value meal.” Why? Because when you order items bundled together, you’re likely to buy more food than you want. You’re better off ordering your food piecemeal. That way you won’t be influenced by pricing schemes designed to hustle a few more cents out of your pocket. Click here to see What 8 Diet Experts Eat at McDonald’s!
You Face The Buffet
Cornell researchers found that when eating at a buffet-style restaurant, obese diners were 15 percent more likely to choose seats with a clear view of the food. Your move: Choose a seat that places your back toward the spread. It will help you avoid fixating on the food.
You Drink Out of Plastic
You know how important it is to stay hydrated, which is why you’re never seen without a bottle of Poland Spring by your side. While we commend you for getting your daily dose of H20, you should seriously consider trading your throw-away bottle for the reusable, BPA-free variety. Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, can negatively impact fertility in both men and women and has also been been linked to obesity. Don’t believe it? The science doesn’t lie: A 2011 Harvard study found that adults with the highest concentration of BPA in their urine had significantly larger waists and chance of being obese than those in the lowest quartile. Fill your new BPA-free bottle up with these 14 Detox Waters That Banish Bloat!
You Don’t Let Off Steam
You manage to avoid the office candy bowl, which is pretty impressive—especially on super stressful days—but you’ve got to let off some steam somehow. If you don’t, it could lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels, causing sleep and immunity problems, blood-sugar abnormalities and weight gain. How should you chillax? Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says stress relief is very individualized, so what helps your BFF relax may not work for you. Give a few different tactics a try and see what works best for you. Practicing yoga, meeting up with friends and unplugging from technology for an evening are all things Zanini says are worth a shot.
You Don’t Moderate Your Diet
If you’ve just hopped on the Paleo or low-carb bandwagon, proceed with caution! “Often diets that cut out entire food groups do not allow for the balance and moderation we need to follow a healthy, lifelong eating plan,” warns Zanini. “Plus, dieters who follow these plans may be prone to potentially dangerous nutritional deficiencies. Or they may simply get bored with their restricted plan and end up overeating down the road,” warns Zanini. For the best diet ever, click here to Lose 14 Pounds in 14 Days!
You Cook Too Much
Just because your meal is healthy doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice portion control. Remember, even virtuous foods have calories! Half of your plate should be filled with veggies and the remaining half should hold a cellphone-sized serving of lean protein, a fist-sized serving of grains and a bit of fat no larger than the size of your pointer finger.
You Don’t Get Tested
Although you may get scanned for high cholesterol or diabetes at your annual exam, M.D.s don’t typically test or look for physical signs of nutritional deficiencies—which can be dangerous! Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, CSSD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Go Wellness in Orange County, California suggests having your vitamin D levels checked if nothing else. “Many people are deficient and don’t even know it—and not getting enough may increase the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and certain types of cancer,” she warns. Click here to discover the Vitamins You’re Not Getting Enough Of.
You Avoid All Fats
You know that eating trans fats can increase your risk of heart disease, weight gain and stroke, so you’re smart to stay away. But not all fats need to make your “do not eat” list. Consuming healthy fats like flax seeds and nuts can actually help you slim down and stay healthy. “Fats not only help us absorb many of the vitamins from our diets, but they also help keep us fuller longer, which can aid weight loss efforts,” explains Zanini. She suggests consuming one serving of healthy fats each time you sit down to eat. This could be 1/4 cup of almonds or walnuts, some sautéed veggies cooked with a tablespoon of olive oil or a few slices of avocado.
You Don’t Ask How It’s Cooked
Chefs often add fat and salt to make meals taste better—but these ingredients aren’t necessarily something they advertise on the menu. Since you’ve already taken such care to choose a meal that sounds healthy, take the extra step and ask your server if there is any cream or butter in your dish. If these is, ask for your veggies and meats to be cooked dry and have sauces come on the side so you control how much ends up on your plate. After crunching the numbers, we discovered that no matter what kind of restaurant you’re dining at, you can save up to 1,000 calories at each meal by making this simple request! And read up on all your favorite places using this exclusive report: Top Chain Restaurants in America Graded By Health!
You Ignore Sodium Counts
Your favorite trail mix only has 150-calories, but did you check to see how much sodium is lurking inside the package? All too often, those who aren’t suffering from a health condition overlook that part of the nutrition label. “Americans consume, on average, about 50 percent more than the daily recommended intake of salt, and most of the excess sodium is coming from processed foods like frozen waffles, bagels, cheese cottage cheese, veggie burgers and salad dressings,” says Loy. Sticking to The Institute of Medicine’s daily recommendation of 2,300 milligrams per day or less can help you keep a bloated belly, high blood pressure and other health conditions at bay. Click here to uncover The Saltiest Meals in America!
You Eat Off Large 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.
You Serve From 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.
You Don’t Drink 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!
You Hang 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!”).
You Use 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.
You Drink the Fruity Stuff
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. Instead, choose any of these 16 Brand-Name Wines for Weight Loss!
You Eat 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.