1. You eat when you’re not hungry
Stuck in a weight-loss plateau? These surprising factors may be preventing you from reaching your goal weight. Here’s how to outsmart these weight-loss roadblocks, from the book Stop & Drop Diet.
A lot of us are slaves to the clock. When I was growing up, my mother had dinner on the table promptly at six o’clock. Even if I wasn’t especially hungry then, you can be sure I ate—and I cleaned my plate, because that’s what we did in our house. Who knows how many extra calories I ate that way?
I’m not saying that your meals should be unplanned.
In fact, it’s best to make sure you eat regularly to keep from getting so ravenous that you lose control and can’t stop eating.
But if you’re in the habit of eating when the clock says to, instead of when you’re actually hungry—which researchers at the University of Minnesota found is one of the main reasons people eat when they do—you tend to lose touch with what “hungry” feels like and eat more than you really need.
Keep your schedule flexible if possible and listen to your tummy.
On weekends, for example, I find that two main meals is all I need or want. I’ll linger over coffee (or go for a run), then find it’s 11, sometimes 12 o’clock before I’m hungry enough to want to eat.
Or I’ll have a healthy breakfast, then get caught up in my day and have what I call an “afternoon dinner” at 3 or 4.
2. You eat when you’re distracted
Do you see crumbs or smudges on your computer keyboard, the touch screen of your phone, or your TV’s remote control? That’s a telltale sign that you’re doing other things while you’re eating. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for multitasking, and I definitely have days when I eat in front of the computer. Here’s the problem. Ask me how it tasted and I might not be able to tell you, because I was preoccupied by my work.
Researchers in Ireland interviewed a group of 66 adults on what made portion control difficult. One of the main factors, they reported, were elements of the eating environment—socialising with friends and family, watching television, or working on a computer or phone—that diverted their attention away from what they were eating.
Focus on what you’re eating, and I bet you’ll enjoy your food much more—and you’ll also enjoy knowing that you haven’t stuffed yourself with empty extra calories.
3. You dine out for every meal
Occasional indulgences are not the problem.
What is: We are eating out more and more often—over a 40-year period from 1970 to 2010, we nearly doubled the percentage of calories we get from food away from home. And we are all too often unaware of how many calories are in the dishes we eat. A study of fast-food eaters in Philadelphia and Baltimore in the United States found that they underestimated their meal by up to 400 calories!
Restaurant meals tend to be higher in calories, saturated fat, and sodium than homemade meals, and lower in calcium, fibre, and other weight-friendly nutrients. I’m not saying you should never eat out—far from it—but one of the kindest things we could do for our waists and our overall health would be to eat out less often.
If you’re in the habit of always grabbing a bagel on the way in to work, stock up instead on pre-made bagels.
If you like a big sandwich for lunch, bring your own turkey sub. You get the idea. And when you do eat out, look for entrées that are grilled or baked, not fried or smothered in sauce, and for side dishes that pile on the veggies (again, you’re looking for steamed, sautéed, or otherwise simply prepared vegetables).