It’s common knowledge that what we eat affects our weight – but did you know that how we eat can make a significant difference to how much we eat, which, in turn, influences our weight?
Here are four common eating habits that we need to steer clear of if we’re trying to lose weight.
1] Eating Too Quickly
You may have heard that it takes our brain twenty minutes to realise that we’re full. During this relay, our body releases the hormones that increase satiety, and suppresses the hormone that makes us hungry (called ‘ghrelin’).1-4
Simply slowing down our eating speed will make us end up consuming comparatively less by the time the brain receives the signal that we’re full.
Since the suppression of ghrelin simultaneously reduces our appetite, you can see how slowing down our pace would help curb overeating. Another great advantage is that it can prolong the mastication of our food, which goes on to aid digestion.
2] Eating While Watching Something
It doesn’t exactly have a direct impact on our weight, but watching or reading something while eating can prevent us from noticing the amount of food that’s being consumed.
Studies have shown that people who are distracted at a meal can eat about 10% more in a sitting. Evidence also indicates that “attentive eating” (paying attention to what and how much we eat) is likely to aid weight loss and weight maintenance, without the need for conscious calorie-counting.5
“That which is measured, improves”.
3] Following Every Meal with Dessert
In many regions, it’s a time-honoured tradition to eat dessert after every meal – but it can be more than just an inconvenient habit when trying to lose weight.
Avoiding the unnecessary calories from these high sugar foods is difficult for two main reasons:
i] It’s Addictive.
Sugar is generally addictive because it releases a feel-good hormone called dopamine, which affects the ‘reward and pleasure’ centres of our brain. This ‘rewarding’ sensation, especially when triggered by intense sweetness (like in desserts), is proven to be more addictive than drugs like cocaine.6, 7
ii] We can actually make more room for dessert
A very interesting study explained how people have room for sugary desserts even after a filling meal. The phenomenon called “dessert stomach” says that the anticipation of sweet foods stimulates a reflex that expands your stomach, making room for more food.8
So how do we kick this habit? One way is to gradually reduce one’s consumption, starting with just a taste of something sweet (a list of healthy options can be found here), and continue to decrease the quantity until one doesn’t crave sweets anymore.9
4] Eating Forcefully Every Two Hours
You may have heard that when you don’t eat, your body goes into “starvation mode” – or, if you prefer the more scientific term, ‘adaptive thermogenesis’ – which is the body’s natural survival mechanism, where it begins to conserve energy by reducing the amount of calories being burnt.
Although this is true, adaptive thermogenesis doesn’t take place when your body doesn’t get food for just a few hours.
It happens over time (the exact amount varies from person to person), which is also why, as you may have noticed, weight-loss seems to plateau after a few weeks of following a diet that drastically restricts one’s calorie intake.10
The most plausible reason that the eating-every-two-hours pattern works for some people is because it helps them control their meal size. As most people would agree, it is very difficult to exert willpower and consciously eat less (or even healthy) when you are starving.
However, those who force themselves to eat every two hours, even when they’re not hungry, may just end up increasing their daily calorie intake, which defeats the purpose. Eventually, an eating routine that fits in with your daily schedule is the most sustainable to follow.
And when a healthier habit is easy to sustain, you wake up one day realising that you haven’t just reached your weight goals, but you’re also living a healthier lifestyle.
1. Leong SL, et al. J Am Diet Assoc 2011, 111(8): 1192-1197.
2. Kokkinos A, et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2010, 95(1): 333-337.
3. Galhardo J, et al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2012, 97(2): E193-201.
4. Bewick GA. Biochem Med (Zagreb) 2012, 22(3): 283-297.
5. Robinson E, et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2013, 97(4): 728-742.
6. Avena NM, et al. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews 2008, 32(1): 20-39.
7. Lenoir M, et al. PLoS ONE 2007, 2(8): e698.
8. Berstad A, Valeur J. Tidsskrift for Den norske legeforening 2011, 13.
9. Yang Q. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 2010, 83(2): 101-108.
10. Rosenbaum M, Leibel RL. International journal of obesity (2005) 2010, 34(0 1): S47-S55.
11. Mattson MP, Wan R. J Nutr Biochem 2005, 16(3): 129-137.
12. Antoni R, et al. Research in Endocrinology 2014.