Contrary to popular belief, it is not just a lack of willpower that makes us gain weight through bad eating (aka overeating).
Sometimes, it can be a seemingly insignificant habit that you developed without taking much notice of it, such as running out the door without breakfast some mornings or munching through a bag of crisps or family-sized bar of chocolate in front of the TV.
Before you know it, that one little bad habit becomes a few, and you are piling on the weight, as well as putting yourself at risk for further health conditions. Here, we look at some of the bad eating habits that you may have adopted and what you can do to shake them off.
It has always been thought that if you want to lose weight (and sleep well!), late-night snacking is never a good idea. Some experts have claimed this is a myth, but a new study on animals has suggested that it is not just what you eat, but when you eat that counts when you are trying to shift a few pounds.
Northwestern University researchers discovered that when they gave mice high-fat foods in the day time when these nocturnal creatures should have been asleep, they gained a lot more weight than the mice who were given the same food but at night – when they should be awake. It looks like putting down that late-night bar of chocolate might be a good idea.
Not only that, late-night snacking can lead to you having to reach for the treatments for heartburn – and heartburn is never a pleasant experience!
How to shake it: Try thinking of your kitchen or your fridge as a cafe or a shop, that is shut and off-limits after you have eaten your dinner.
Get into the routine of brushing your teeth – once you have a freshly clean mouth, you are much less likely to want to snack. If you have a real craving or feel hungry, have a glass of water and wait ten minutes or so. If you are still hungry after that, have a small piece of fruit or something like a cracker and a little bit of cheese.
How many times have you sat down in front of the TV or the computer with a family bag of popcorn or crisps, intending to eat ‘just a few’, and before you know it, you have polished off the whole bag?
It happens to the best of us. Not only that, but we also tend to eat more if we have a larger plate. A food psychologist found that the larger the plate or the bowl you eat from, the more you unknowingly consume.
How to shake it: First of all, try to avoid eating in front of the TV or the computer. If you can, sit at a table to eat and concentrate on what you are doing, paying attention to every mouthful you take, Not only will you enjoy the food much more, but you are more likely to notice when you are feeling satisfied and stop eating. Never eat out of the containers; put it in a bowl or onto a plate and eat from smaller plates.
It is drummed into us from an early age that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but still, so many of us skip it and grab something later on in the day when our stomach starts to growl at us.
Not only does this usually mean we shrug off something healthy for an often unhealthy snack, but it means that our metabolism does not get the kickstart it needs at the beginning of the day. Your body needs fuel to get going; breakfast is that fuel.
Shake it off: If time is the issue, prepare something the evening before that you can grab and go. Overnight oats can be made the night before in a jar and taken with you to work and can be packed full of protein and fruits. Other easy breakfasts include smoothies, flapjacks and homemade cereal bars.
We have all done it; come home from a tough day at work and grabbed that tub of Ben and Jerry’s out of the freezer and devoured it because it makes us feel a whole lot better. But does it? Quite often, after an emotional binge, we feel ashamed and guilty. While this is not a healthy way to feel either, comfort eating, which is okay once in a blue moon, can very quickly become a bad habit.
How to shake it: The best way to avoid comfort or emotional eating is to find new ways of busting the stress. Go for a walk, pick up the phone and call a friend or take up a new hobby -anything to relieve the pressure and take your mind off whatever it is that is bothering you.
This bad habit is not helped by the fact that we all live incredibly busy lives, and sitting down to eat and enjoy a meal is something that we often feel we do not have the time for. However, this is very closely linked to the mindless munching point we discussed earlier on in the post. If you wolf down your food, it takes a while for your brain to catch up with your stomach and send the signals that you are full. Japanese researchers found a link between fast eating and being overweight.
How to shake it: You literally need to slow down the speed that you eat, but this is much easier said than done. Try putting your fork down in between mouthfuls of food and chew each bite thoroughly before lifting the fork up again. Have a glass of water to hand at mealtimes, as taking sips while you eat slows you down and helps your brain register when you are starting to feel full.