By Betty Murray
Weight gain is often tied to the many small choices we make day in and day out, rather than any one main cause. Seemingly “harmless” habits you may not even recognize can throw your whole diet off course, leading to serious weight gain.
If you want to lose weight, incorporate these healthy eating habits into your daily life.
Avoid mindless eating. We’ve all done it at one point or another. Perhaps you sit down in front of the TV and demolish an entire bowl of popcorn without even realizing it, or you zone out during dinner and clean your plate — twice. Mindless eating can lead to serious weight gain. Break the habit by making meals and snack time a priority. Turn off the TV and put down your phone. Focus on conversation and enjoying each bit of your meal. Engage all of your senses during dinner and you’ll be more aware of what and how much you eat.
Eat smaller portions. Studies have shown that the larger the bowl or plate, the more we consume. Eat dinner off of a small salad plate instead of a large dinner plate and you could eat up to 45 percent less! Never eat straight out of a container or package. Instead of eating the popcorn out of a bag, pour it into a small bowl. Portion control is key in losing weight.
Everything in moderation. Rather than making a certain food or food group off limits, eat food in moderation. Remember that eating is how you nourish and nurture your body. Avoiding your cravings altogether may not help your diet. When you crave food, even junk food, take time to identify exactly what it is you are craving. Allow yourself to enjoy those treats in moderation. Eating your favorite junk food once a week may help curb those cravings and help you stick to a healthier diet the rest of the week.
Avoid emotional eating. Eat when you’re physically hungry rather than as a means to soothe your emotions or reduce stress. If you’re prone to eat when you’re feeling gloomy, find an activity to replace your cravings. Go for a walk or run, take the dog to the park, or pick up the phone and call a friend. Eating can be a coping mechanism, and one that causes significant weight gain. Don’t let eating become your comfort. Learning to cope with bouts of depression or gloominess with activity and exercise will be far more beneficial to your mental, emotional and physical state.
Slow down and stop when you are comfortably full. Eating quickly is engrained in us. Our fast-paced culture makes it difficult to slow down to do anything, let alone eat. In order to feel full, your mealtime needs to last at least 15 to 20 minutes. If you consume your meal in less time, you’ll eat more because it takes at least 15 minutes for your brain to signal that you are full. Eating is one thing you can’t afford to rush. Slow down — take small bites, chew every bite thoroughly and sip on water between bites — and stop eating when you are comfortably full.
Eat breakfast. Many of us skip breakfast because we are too busy to eat before heading off to work or school, when breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day. Take the extra time to eat a healthy breakfast balanced with proteins, fats and carbs and you’ll give your body the fuel it needs to get through the day, and keep your metabolism running, too.
Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy foods. Don’t keep junk food or sweets in your home. If you don’t buy unhealthy, high calorie snacks like chips, sweets and soda, you won’t eat them. Instead, stock your fridge and pantry with healthy foods so it will be easier to make healthy food choices when you’re at home.
Differentiate between a “snack” and a “treat.” A snack is what you eat between meals to keep you satisfied. Fruit, raw veggies, and nuts are all considered snacks. Eating a cookie or a piece of chocolate does not constitute a snack. Those are treats, and should be enjoyed sparingly. Healthy snacking can keep your metabolism burning fat at a high rate, but high calorie snacking can lead to spiked blood sugar, slowed metabolism and even an energy crash.
Get plenty of sleep. Being well rested is an essential stress-reducer. The less stressed you are, the less likely you will be to eat mindlessly. It’s in the moments of high stress that you’re more likely to reach for an unhealthy treat, like a bag of chocolates.
Avoid nighttime eating. When you sleep, your metabolism isn’t nearly as active as it is during the day. Your body is meant to consume food during the day, not at night when you should be asleep. Midnight snacking can be the bane of your weight loss plan. When dinner is over, the kitchen is closed. Don’t let yourself be tempted into a midnight snack simply because you’re bored. If you get a craving, drink a glass of water and wait it out. If you’re still hungry 10 minutes later, eat a piece of fruit or a handful of fresh carrots.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.