10 Everyday Behaviors That Could Be Leading to Weight Gain
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Profile photo of Melissa Halas-Liang, MA RD CDE

We’ve all heard it before, “You are what you do everyday.” Our actions day in and day out come to define us, and even seemingly small behaviors can have a big impact on our waistlines over time! All of those weeknights you spend working late, mindlessly snacking, the days you skip exercise –even just skipping the stairs, all of these choices can start weigh you down, literally. Thankfully, once you become aware of these unhealthy behaviors, you can begin to change them. Which of the following everyday behaviors are getting in the way of your weight loss goals? Commit to changing a few of these behaviors each month to get your weight back on track.

1. Problem: Your plate is too big.

Solution: Rethink your plate.

Even something as small as the size of your plate can lead to unconscious overeating. Larger plates can mean larger portions that you don’t truly need. Choose a smaller plate and aim for smaller portion sizes. The same amount of food will seem more generous when served on a smaller plate. Plus, many of us are programed to just finish our plate, regardless of how much is served. These behaviors are often not hunger related, but are instead related to visual cues.

2. Problem: Snacking late at night.

Solution: Evaluate your hunger before you chow down.

Although it doesn’t matter when you eat, eating late at night can lead to over-eating because of the types of foods associated with after dinner or late-night snacking. When you’re tired and your guard is down, overeating and unhealthy choices are more likely to happen. In addition, one study showed that fasting between dinner and breakfast can help with weight loss.1 To avoid overeating, check in with yourself before you reach for that late night snack. Are you physically hungry, or are you simply bored or looking for comfort? If you determine you are actually hungry, choose something light, like a cucumber salad with marinated mushrooms or a 100 calorie snack.

3. Problem: Stocking up on tempting food.

Solution: Go out for treats instead.

Having tempting food and beverages in the house may cause you to indulge simply because they are conveniently accessible. Try not to keep these kinds of foods around the house (out of sight, out of mind), but if you do, limit yourself to a single portion indulgence. Most people have a few “red light foods,” foods you can’t stop wanting or eating! Don’t buy them –eat them out in single servings instead or find a healthier substitute.

4. Problem: Eating when you’re not hungry, or emotional eating.

Solution: Reconnect with your body and emotions.

Before eating, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry. If an apple doesn’t sound appetizing, but a bag of chips makes you salivate –you’re probably not really hungry. There are a lot of reasons why we eat other than hunger: boredom, sadness, stress, and anxiety to name a few. Instead of feeding your feelings, try to cope with them in non-food related ways:

  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths
  • Go for a walk, run or bike ride
  • Take a hot bath
  • Work out to a sports game or shoot some hoops
  • Call a friend or family member while stretching or walking
  • Take a yoga class (men that includes you too!)
  • Treat yourself to a massage or a mani/pedi

5. Problem: Eating too fast.

Solution: Savor each bite.

It takes at least 15 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full. If you eat too fast, you can easily overeat before your brain gets the message. Also, the longer you take to enjoy your food, the more satisfied you’ll feel – so if you take the time to savor each bite, a little can go a long way.

6. Problem: Skipping breakfast or other meals.

Solution: Eat when you are moderately hungry.

You may think skipping meals is a good way to cut calories, but it can backfire, causing you to eat more throughout the day. Letting yourself get too hungry can lead to binge eating and unhealthy choices. Nourish your body throughout the day and fuel up when you are hungry

7. Problem: Eating while distracted.

Solution: Designate meal time.

Turn off the TV, close the computer, and put the phone away. Focus on your food and enjoying each bite. If you get a lunch break at work, take it. When you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to overeat

8. Problem: Not drinking enough water or filling up on high calorie beverages.

Solution: Sip no-calorie beverages throughout the day.

Sometimes thirst is mistaken for hunger. Sipping on some calorie-free water is healthy and can help keep mindless snacking at bay. Make a glass of tea with your meal. Better yet, brew up a big pitcher of herbal fruity tea or herbal ice tea and drink it throughout the day. Check out these easy sugar swaps for healthier foods and beverages.

9. Problem: Not eating enough fiber.

Solution: Focus on whole foods.

The majority of Americans fall short on fiber recommendations. Fiber helps to fill you up and not out! Fill your plate with fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and legumes. As an added bonus, fiber-rich foods are generally also nutrient-rich and filling. Try this fiber-rich, tasty, & easy assembly veggie party dish.

10. Problem: Not moving enough.

Solution: Find your happy activity.

You should aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. It is important to pick an activity that you enjoy, so that you begin to associate body movement and exercise with positive memories and emotions. Aim to make exercise a part of your healthy lifestyle, not a chore.

view references
Rothschild et al. Time-restricted feeding and risk of metabolic disease: a review of human and animal studies. Nutr Rev 2014 May:72(5):308-18.
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