Do you struggle to lose weight despite eating healthily and exercising regularly? Turns out when you eat, where you eat it and what you use to eat it with could be just as important as what you eat. Discover the surprising ways in which your everyday habits are derailing your diet… and how to turn them around.
1. Skipping breakfast
That doesn’t mean you should skip breakfast altogether, though. Eating first thing in the morning revs up your metabolism and curtails mid-morning snacking. Breakfast skippers are 4.5 times more likely to be obese. But pick the right breakfast: many healthy-looking cereals are packed with hidden sugars, which can cause you to ‘crash’ and succumb to cravings within an hour or two of eating. Instead, eat something packed with protein, such as eggs, to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
2. Eating off large, white plates
We consume up to a third more when we serve ourselves using a larger spoon, eat our dinner off a bigger plate, or guzzle ice cream from a larger bowl. We also tend to eat more when using white or cream crockery, especially when our meal is a similar colour (e.g. white rice, pasta in a white sauce or vanilla ice cream). Experts believe this may be down to an optical illusion caused by a lack of contrast between food and plate colour. So downsize your plates, bowls and spoons, and make them blue (unless bubblegum ice cream happens to be your Achille’s heel, of course). And dish up before you sit down to eat – allow food to sit in serving bowls on the table and you’ll end up eating more.
3. Eating low fat foods
Avoiding fat could induce you to consume more in the long run. Reduced fat foods tend to replace fats with carbohydrates which digest quickly, causing sugar crash-induced rebound hunger. Healthy fats can assist with weight loss, so it’s important not to attempt to cut them out. Nutritionists recommend eating a small serving of healthy fats (e.g. from olive oil, avocado or nuts) with every meal or snack.
4. Drinking fruit juice
Whilst it’s important to stay hydrated, as hunger can often be mistaken for thirst, fruit juice and packaged smoothies can contain as many calories as sugary fizzy drinks, and should be limited to a glass a day. Alcoholic drinks and coffee shop treats also tend to be laden with hidden calories – a grande Starbucks chai tea latte packs 255 calories, whilst a whipped cream-topped hot chocolate packs a whopping 556. Curb your alcohol intake and buy your own spiced chai teabags – brew in hot water with a dash of milk for a sub-50 calorie treat.
5. Drinking diet soft drinks
Diet soft drinks may be calorie-free, but the waistlines of daily diet soda drinkers have been found to expand more quickly than those of non-drinkers. Experts believe that artificial sweeteners may increase appetite, and could even trigger a shift in the body from a fat-burning to a fat-storing state.
6. Eating out
You may forgo dessert, pick a ‘healthy’ main and even opt for a half-portion, but have you stopped to consider how quickly the calories packed into those oil-dipped breadsticks and buttery slivers of garlic bread add up? Next time you decide to order a ‘little something’ to nibble on whilst you peruse the menu, bear this in mind: a Classic Italian Antipasto for 2 at Pizza Express packs in 1,500 calories.
7. Eating at your desk
Scientists believe that the signal sent from your stomach to your brain when you are full can malfunction when you’re multitasking, causing you to overeat. Eating when distracted, whether by work, the TV or your phone, can cause you to eat more both at that meal and at subsequent meals. Learn to eat mindfully and you’ll not only eat less, but enjoy what you do eat more.
8. Eating too quickly
Taking large bites and chewing quickly can cause you to consume 50% more calories in a single sitting, as it takes around 20 minutes for the satiety signal from your stomach to reach your brain. Try to make your meal last for at least 20 minutes – then wait another 30 minutes before reaching for that chocolate bar, to ensure you really want it.
9. Sleeping too much
The detrimental effects of lack of sleep on weight loss are well documented: sleeping for fewer than six hours a night is associated with an increase in belly fat. More surprisingly though, research also indicates that sleeping for more than 8 hours could be almost as bad. Sleep need varies from individual to individual, but 6-8 hours a night should be adequate for most people.
10. Eating after 7pm
The late night eating debate has raged
for years, but, according to new research, avoiding food between 7pm
and 6am can cause you to lose almost a pound a fortnight. The liver
burns stored fat overnight, scientists explain, but ONLY once it’s
exhausted your sugar stash. Eat too close to bedtime and your liver
could be busy burning the sugar you’ve just ingested all night, leaving
your fat stores untouched. Experts recommend allowing a 12 hour break
between dinner and breakfast.
If a late dinner is unavoidable, though, you can minimise its impact on your waistline by following a few simple rules, says nutritionist Ashley Koff:
Make two or three ‘nutritional pitstops’ between lunch and dinner – this means you can
make your final meal of the day smaller. If you can’t forgo dessert, eat
it before dinner to give your liver a chance to burn off the sugar.
Make your final meal of the day easy to digest – your body doesn’t have to work as hard to digest soup as salad, for example. Include magnesium-rich nuts and seeds to dampen the cortisol spike which can result from late-night eating.