Shedding pounds and maintaining your weight involve more than just eating the right foods…how you eat them also matters. Breaking these common “fat habits” can help you whittle down your waistline and become a more mindful eater in the process.
FAT HABIT: You eat while standing up.
Studies show that people who skip sit-down meals in the interest of saving time may be costing themselves unwanted calories. Canadian researchers asked one group of people to eat food out of plastic containers while standing over a kitchen counter, while a second group ate an identical meal off of a plate sitting down at a table.
At their next meal a few hours later, the “standers” downed about 30 percent more calories than the “sitters.” The researchers theorized that eating on your feet doesn’t register psychologically as a “real meal”, and as a result people may subconsciously grant themselves permission to eat more later in the day.
SKINNY SOLUTION: Take a seat.
Pull up a chair and stay awhile. You’re more like to pace your eating when you pause to sit down and enjoy your food, and eating more slowly can translate to fewer calories, so get in the habit of eating meals only while seated at the table.
FAT HABIT: You eat in front of a screen.
It’s incredibly easy to polish off a whole bag of chips or entire row of cookies when you’re mindlessly snacking while watching television or typing away on your laptop. Your electronics keep you distracted, so you’re less apt to listen to your body’s fullness cues and keep portions in check.
Unfortunately, eating under the influence of your television screen can translate to hundreds of extra calories at a meal.
SKINNY SOLUTION: Power down the distractions.
Make a conscious effort to only eat meals in the kitchen (not camped out on the couch), without a computer or a TV playing in the background. When your meal is your only focus, you’re far less likely to eat past the point of fullness.
FAT HABIT: You grab bites from your kids’ or spouse’s plates.
As long as it’s not on your plate the calories don’t count, right? Wrong! Frequently “borrowing food” from someone else’s plate is a fast way to pack on the pounds, especially since we tend to “forget” these bonus bites and typically don’t account for the calories. Consider this: just three forkfuls of your toddler’s mac and cheese can add an extra 150 calories to your meal, while a few mouthfuls of your husband’s cheesecake can tack on 200 forgotten calories. Add up all these extra tastes and nibbles over the course of a week, and you could be talking about thousands of extra calories!
SKINNY SOLUTION: Take ownership of your food.
Only eat food that originates from your own bowl, plate, and cup. If you want a few bites of a shared dessert, cut off your own slice (instead of picking here and there) so you can take note of the portion and mentally account for the calories.
FAT HABIT: You eat straight out of the package.
Going directly from container-to-mouth when munching on crackers, chips, cookies, ice cream, and cereal is a major trap for over-consuming calories. It’s nearly impossible to gauge how much you’ve eaten when you’re grabbing out of a seemingly bottomless pit, and you’re likely to underestimate how much food you’ve actually put away.
SKINNY SOLUTION: Plate it, then eat it.
Portion out 1 to 2 servings of the food into a bowl or onto a plate, and put the package safely back in the cupboard before sitting down to eat your share. By rationing out your snack beforehand, you’re less likely to keep going back for “just one more handful.”
FAT HABIT: You overindulge on the weekends.
So many dieters tell me they eat like a saint during the week, when their days are very structured, but then go off the deep end once Friday night rolls around. Weekends are a time to unwind and de-stress, and we often do that with heavy comfort food and caloric cocktails. Plus, there are more opportunities for splurging when you’re dining out and socializing with friends on days off. And sadly, 48 hours of rich eating can undo all of your hard work during the week and then some.
SKINNY SOLUTION: Plan selective weekend splurges.
To let loose and enjoy without sabotaging your weight loss, allow yourself one “off” meal each weekend when you can be a bit more liberal with your food choices. The rest of the time, try your best to stick to your regular meal/snack schedule. And, use your days off to squeeze in longer workouts to compensate for some of the extra treats.
FAT HABIT: You fall for impulse items in the checkout line.
When you’re twiddling your thumbs waiting for your turn at the register, those tempting displays of candy bars and coolers of soda can be very hard to resist. According to a survey conducted by IHL Consulting, a global research and advisory firm, women report consuming 14,300 extra calories per year from impulse purchases in the checkout line—and that can translate to 4 extra pounds a year!
SKINNY SOLUTION: Don’t shop hungry and opt for self-checkout.
Try to do your food shopping soon after eating a healthy meal or snack—if you’re not hungry, you aren’t as likely to fall prey to the peanut butter cups looming over the conveyor belt. Also, use self-checkout if available. A separate survey by IHL Consulting found that impulse purchases among women dropped by 32.1% when they scanned and bagged their own groceries.
FAT HABIT: You use food as comfort.
To quell stress or relieve boredom, people often turn to food that’s high in calories, sugar, and fat. Using food to dull emotions or provide temporary distraction is a common coping technique among people who struggle with their weight.
But overeating isn’t the solution: it does nothing to resolve negative feelings and the heavy, bloated aftermath and guilt ultimately leaves you feeling even worse.
SKINNY SOLUTION: Find more productive (non-food) ways to cope.
The best way to stop using food as comfort is to get at the root cause of your sadness, anger, or stress. In the long-term, you’ll need to address the issues that are triggering your emotional eating, whether a troubled relationship, job dissatisfaction or something else entirely, if you want real relief. In the short-term, the best solution is to distract, distract, distract. Choose an alternative activity that is both pleasurable and convenient, such as calling a friend, taking a walk, reading a book or magazine, watching TV, or doing a hobby that relaxes you. Over time, these activities—not food—will be the first things you think of when you’re blue and in need of a pick-me-up.