When it’s time to lose weight and burn fat, not all of it comes down to diet and calories. Some people follow a healthy diet but don’t lose weight, and they feel like nothing works for them. It’s very important to know that in order to lose weight, you need to keep other factors in mind that go beyond diet. There are other daily habits that influence this, and if you don’t control them, it’s possible that they are the reason why your diet fails, and you continue to gain weight.
Habits can be your best friend or your worst master. Good habits will serve you well and bad habits can sabotage your best efforts to lose weight and get fit and healthy. Of course, it would be easy to say ditch the bad ones and replace with good ones. But, because habits are created by regularly repeated behaviours that are performed subconsciously, it is not always easy to identify which habits are bad for you. Here we reveal seven common bad habits impacting weight loss success and give you practical tips to overcome them.
#1 Bad Habit: Mindless overeating
One big mistake while eating dinner, is to do so while watching TV, using your phone, being on the computer, or using any other sort of distraction. According to one study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who eat while distracted typically ingest 50% more calories. It has also been proven that people that eat while distracted feel less satisfied, and might feel the need to eat later on. Essentially, your mind is distracted from the basic need to fuel your body, so you become deaf to the appetite signals of satiety, screaming at you that “you are full, STOP eating!”
Social situations and eating out often tempt you to throw your sensible food choices out the window. Be careful not to fall into the trap of overeating, even in the case of healthy foods, eg. Nuts are a great source of ‘good fats’ but eating too many can lead to consuming more calories than you anticipated and sabotage your weight loss efforts.
Break bad habits by:
✓ Put away your devices while you eat
✓ Chew slowly, enjoy the flavours and listen to your body for that ‘full’ signal
✓ Don’t go to social events hungry to avoid over-nibbling
✓ Know and understand appropriate portion sizes
#2 Bad Habit: Not eating enough or skipping meals
This could be due to a lack of time in the morning, or by believing that this helps with weight loss, but not eating breakfast is a bad habit. Even though you might not believe it, it does also lead to weight gain. By skipping breakfast, you are removing an entire meal’s worth of calories. You may be unduly excited to find an initial loss of weight (which mostly tends to be water and muscle), but the hard truth is that you will always hit a brick wall. There are many studies that associate those who eat a regular wholesome breakfast with better weight loss results than those who don’t. Consuming a nutritious balanced breakfast made up of protein, fibre and healthy fats, will help you feel full for longer. This in turn leads to less overeating later in the day.
Severely restrictive and low calorie diets dramatically slow your metabolism; can cause serious fatigue, diarrhea, nausea; and even difficulty thinking clearly. Eventually your body goes into ‘survival mode’, where you retain calories as fat to conserve energy, which is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
Break bad habit with:
✓ Don’t skip meals. FULL STOP!
✓ Prepare meals and snacks in advance to save time
✓ Change your idea of weight loss solutions from being a ‘restrictive diet’ to a ‘healthy choice’
✓ Fuel adequately for the day ahead, so that you feel full for longer.
#3 Bad Habit: Your eyes are too big for your stomach
When was the last time you really felt hungry, beyond a little tummy rumble? Most people are very lucky to have an abundant supply of food and often you eat for so many other reasons than pure hunger.
Perception of hunger is often based on foods appealing to your other senses of smell and sight. Just thinking about that big piece of chocolate cake, smothered in rich ganache and topped with a dollop of cream will make you start to salivate (produce saliva) and send signals to your body to prepare for food. This, as you can imagine, leads to food cravings. These images are hard to avoid, but you can also easily replace them with buying richly coloured, healthy foods and preparing them to look just as appealing.
A study conducted at Deakin University found that simply having too much food on your plate is contributing to the growing obesity problem. It sounds obvious, but, interestingly, they looked at the effect of serving food onto smaller plates and found that there was a 20 to 25% reduction in food consumed from smaller plates than when larger plates were used. Hence, you are satisfying your hunger and your eyes, so you avoid over-eating and consequent weight gain.
Break bad habit with:
✓ Choose a smaller plate size and fill it with less food or select the smaller meal when eating out.
✓ Make your meals ‘look’ just as appealing as they taste. Show I your healthy creations by tagging @healthy.weightloss.diet on Instagram.
#4 Bad Habit: Failing to fill up on water
We can’t stress enough how important hydration is for you and how necessary water is for optimal functioning of the human body. Plus, the added benefits of detoxifying, clearing and plumping your skin and making you feel full to avoid overeating. Many people use diet soda’s in replacement of water. While they may contain few calories, they offer no nutritional value. In addition, the artificial sweeteners trick your body into thinking there are calories on the way. When this doesn’t happen, your metabolism slows and messes with your natural ability to regulate your appetite.
Break it with:
✓ Invest in a funky drink bottle to maintain regular water intake
✓ Set an alarm on your phone and add a little water emoji next to it to remind you to have a sip, swig or gulp of water!
✓ Keep a diary of your water intake
#5 Bad Habit: Torturing self-talk
I speak a lot about this at WelfredHealth, but never underestimate how powerful the effect of your self-talk is. Your thoughts drive your actions, so if you want to achieve your fitness and health goals eg. losing weight, getting toned, finishing that marathon, you want to avoid letting that little voice in your head get out of line.
Beating yourself up and negative talk will not help you. Whether the negative voice comes from a place of self-doubt, excuses, pressure or fear, you can overcome these thoughts by simply replacing them with positive ones. But, the trick is to ‘state it as you want it’. Instead of saying “I don’t want to be fat” state “I want to be lean, fit and toned”. This will create a positive cycle of your thoughts gearing your actions towards the results of weight loss/ increased fitness/ healthy living that you desire.
Break bad habit with:
✓ Pretend you are encouraging your best friend. Would you speak negatively and mean to them or would you encourage and support them with what you say?
✓ Have a ‘go to’ mantra of strong, inspiring words that you repeat
#6 Bad Habit: Finishing a meal with dessert
Your mind and the relationships you have with food play a significant role in what you eat, when you eat and why you eat. Humans no longer ‘feed’ to merely satisfy hunger and provide our bodies with energy for survival as our ancestors did. Learned behaviours around foods are often associated with a reward mechanism from childhood and can be a precursor for overeating. For example, do you remember your mother or grandmother offering you a treat for finishing all your dinner? Similarly, you eat certain ‘comfort’ foods because of the way they make you feel, not for their nutritious value.
Bad dessert choices can be found almost anywhere and it’s pretty easy to fall into the temptation. There are also desserts that are marketed as âlightâ or â100 calorieâ desserts that are still a bad idea to eat on a regular basis. By getting rid of these desserts, you can save 100 to 200 calories or more every day, which adds up to 36,000 to 72,000 calories every year (one pound of fat has anywhere from 2,800 to 3,700 calories). So the calories from a daily dessert are certain not insignificant, and it’s even worse when you eat the prepackaged desserts or other desserts that aren’t âlightâ. If you do want to have dessert every day without weight gain, try natural fruits or smoothies and sorbets that don’t have added sugar. You might have to make them on your own, but you’ll know exactly how many calories you’re eating and you can control the sugar content and avoid artificial sweeteners.
Break bad habit with:
✓ Listen to your body, are you still hungry and is dessert the answer?
✓ Choose to reward yourself with something other than food
#7 Bad Habit: Kidding yourself with diet foods
It is understandable to think you are doing the admirable thing when you choose foods labelled as ‘diet’. But realistically, reaching for pre-packaged, processed ‘so-called’ diet food is a deceptive little trick your mind plays to justify these foods. Apart from processed foods typically containing all sorts of additives, preservatives, artificial flavours and sweeteners, they rarely satisfy your appetite and you end up reaching for more food, more often.
A study in Food & Nutrition Research journal discovered you burn nearly 50% more calories when metabolizing whole foods than you do when you eat processed foods. Read that again – 50% more calories burned when eating wholefoods that are better for you anyway! Again, it is just a matter of being informed and prepared to overcome the convenience of these foods by having a selection of snacks at your work place, around your home and even in your handbag. Choose a piece of fruit over a muesli bar, oats instead of diet cereals, chee cheong fun or steamed red bean buns or a handful of nuts and seeds instead of milk chocolate.
Break bad habit with:
✓ Prepare and portion your own snacks in advance
✓ Read the label. If the carbohydrate source is mainly from ‘sugars’ then it is not likely to be good for you
✓ Aim to eat foods that your grandmother would have snacked on
Finally, the more intricate solution to replacing bad habits with good ones is re-wiring your mind around the concept of weight loss. Avoid thinking of weight loss as a one-off end point. I absolutely support you having weight loss or a lean, toned body as a goal, but you can achieve (and maintain) it as the ‘beneficial side effect’ of living an active, healthy lifestyle, forever!