It’s common knowledge that the food we consume affects our weight. But did you know that our eating habits and how we eat our food can make a significant difference to the amount of food we eat, which, in turn, influences our weight?
Here are four of the most common eating habits that we must 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 . Simply slowing down our eating speed will make us end up consuming a comparatively smaller amount of food by the time our brain receives the signal that we’re full [2, 3, 4].
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 while eating a meal can eat more food in a sitting . For instance, according to a study, people watching TV while eating, ate 36% more pizza and 71% more mac and cheese as compared to when they ate without a distraction .
Evidence also indicates that “attentive eating” (paying attention to what and how much we eat) is likely to aid weight maintenance, without the need for conscious calorie-counting. And when we pay attention to our food, its flavoursy become more pronounced, making the meal more enjoyable as well [7, 9].
Making food more appetising while controlling appetite – pretty remarkable, right?
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.
That’s mainly because sugar activates the feel-good hormone dopamine, which motivates our brain to repeat its consumption . Another reason: the fascinating concept of ‘dessert stomach’, where sugar stimulates the stomach to expand by tricking our brain into thinking we have space for more food [11, 12]!
Now what can we do to avoid it?
Change the environment
It’s said that a good way to help break your old habits is to create new ones. Whenever there’s an urge to eat extra sweets, we can try removing the temptation by changing our environment – for example, sitting in a different room, going for a walk, or even reading a book and letting our imagination fly [13, 14].
A good night’s sleep matters a lot, because sleeping plays a vital role in regulating our hormonal levels, including those that are integral to hunger and appetite. Inadequate sleep triggers an imbalance in these hormones, leading to increased hunger and appetite [15, 16, 17, 18].
Apart from this, the lack of sleep may lead to overeating for a simple reason as well – the more we stay awake, the more eating opportunity it creates .
Gradually reduce your consumption of it
Going cold turkey on sugar intake or completely stopping it at one go may not be sustainable, as that makes us likely to experience withdrawal symptoms – it’s better to gradually reduce our consumption of it instead.
A good start is to decrease the amount of sweet consumed while trying to satisfy a craving (a list of healthy options can be found here), and to continue to decrease its quantity until the cravings themselves reduce.
4. Late Night Snacking
The time at which we eat our meals matters. That’s because our body has a natural biological clock (known as our ‘circadian rhythm’), which drives our sleep patterns, our hormone levels, how we respond to medications, and many other fundamental processes.
Research has shown that our body is programmed to burn fat, with a focus on digestion and repair, when we sleep at night. Late-night munchies can, over time, lead to the accumulation of fat, by delaying the body’s ability to break down fat, and causing it to break down carbohydrates instead. To add to that, studies also show that people are more likely to make poor food choices while snacking at night [20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26].
The best way to curb those munchies is to go to bed earlier. It not only helps with these cravings, but is also a way to get into your body’s natural rhythm/clock.
While avoiding the common habits we’ve covered here, it’s also important to focus on our nutrition and to stay hydrated, eat healthy, and eat enough in the day. Because when a healthy 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. 🙂