By Katie Rosenbrock
Sometimes we skip out on the gym, accept extra treats at work, or just downright indulge in high-calories foods despite knowing their lack of nutritional value. It’s OK to do these things every now and then, but most of us know that if they become a part of our regular routine (aka, a habit) we'll eventually start to gain weight.
So, if we avoid these behaviors that most obviously contribute to weight gain, then maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight should be easier than wasting an entire hour on Buzzfeed quizzes, right? If only it were that simple.
You know that your weight relies heavily on exercising and eating right, and for the most part you make both a part of your regular routine, yet maybe you're still struggling to achieve your weight loss goal. While habitually incorporating both is pivotal for success, it could be that your progress is being hindered by typical tendencies that aren't as obvious. After all, according to Dictionary.com a habit is an acquired behavior that’s followed regularly until it becomes almost involuntary.
Whether you're aiming to maintain an already healthy weight or your goal is to shed a bit of extra body fat, your success not only relies on creating and maintaining good habits, but recognizing and breaking the bad ones, too.
We talked to five experts including personal trainers, dieticians, and lifestyle coaches, to find out about the most common behaviors that cause weight gain; things you might do, probably without even realizing, that cause your body to store extra fat despite the fact that you’re trying to get rid of it.
Of course, we all know that old habits die hard, which is why we also asked how to break them. Keep your progress on track and focus on what you’re doing right by avoiding these 12 habits that you might not realize are causing you to gain weight:
"Anytime you are doing two activities at once, one is being compromised and your waist line is what suffers," says Lisa Reed, M.S., a NCSA certified strength and conditioning coach. "The hot word these days is being mindful. When you are not paying attention to your food intake and instead focusing on talking on the phone, watching television, or driving a car, you are not mindful of the task at hand."
How to Break It: Just like Whitfield, Reed recommends that you always measure portion sizes. Never eat straight from the package or while standing in front of the fridge or pantry. "Do not rely on estimation. All boxes and food manufacturers are different. Read, measure or weigh food on a scale. You will never stay lean and lose weight if you are mindlessly eating."
"The simple act of drinking one soda (or any other sugary drink) every day can lead to substantial weight gain over the course of the year,” says Josh Anderson, an AFAA Certified Personal Fitness Trainer and the owner of Always Active Athletics. His example: one can of classic Coke a day, which is about 140 calories. "That can add up to over 51,000 calories a year or over 14.5 pounds worth of calories. That's serious weight gain!"
How to Break It: Swap sodas, fruit juices and any beverages that contain excessive amounts of added sugars for water or unsweetened teas. Try adding real fruit, lemon or lime to water or seltzer when in need of a flavor fix.
Anderson says that this is a simple habit that many people never think twice about. "Using a larger plate when eating can lead to over-consumption because you’re always apt to clean your plate.” Siting a 2005 study by Wansink & Kim, he mentioned that researchers found large packaging or dish sizes led to overeating even if the food didn't necessarily taste good.
How to Break It: Anderson says it's simple, "Use a slightly smaller plate at each meal."
Artificial sweeteners have the advantage of being calorie-free, but some of the negative side effects associated with their consumption could potentially lead to weight gain. "Artificial sweeteners like Splenda and those found in some chewing gums can lower the amount good stomach bacteria," says Dan Flores,RTSm, a master trainer and lifestyle consultant from New York City. "Studies have shown that lower levels of good stomach bacteria are often associated with obese populations."
How to Break It: Flores recommends avoiding these sweeteners all together. “People often use them to substitute for sugar but the chemicals often cause more harm than good. Stick with the real stuff like raw sugar or agave, just use less of it."
"This is a challenge most of my overweight clients had to learn to overcome," says Flores. "Drinking can often cause you to make poor eating choices, which typically leads to consuming too many calories. The compounding effect is what causes weight gain."
How to Break It: Flores suggests that when you want to indulge in a few drinks, do it on a full stomach. "You'll be less prone to combine the two bad habits and you'll probably have lowered the desire to drink as much, too."
"If veggies aren't at least 30 percent of your diet, chances are you're filling up on foods that are more calorically dense, which leads to over consumption and weight gain," says Flores.
How to Break It: Instead of trying to overhaul all of your eating habits, slowly add more vegetables into your regular diet. For example, during the first week try incorporating them just at lunch. Flores also suggests eating them at the beginning of a meal. "Fill up on those first so that you don't have room to overeat the breads and pastas. You'll end up eating less calories and losing a few pounds."
"Often parents will finish the last couple of bites of their child's mac and cheese or eat the last scoop left of a dessert at a work party, or maybe you’re a chef who has to taste-test foods all day; whatever the case, without realizing you’re over-consuming, these 'BLTs’ can add up fast and lead to weight gain," says Kim Ferreira, M.S., a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist.
How to Break It: Keep a food diary. It will help hold you accountable for everything that you eat. "If you bit it, write it. This will help you figure out where your extra calories are coming from," says Ferreira.
"From such an early age, we have been conditioned to eat based on a schedule or what is in front of us, rather than eating when we are physically hungry," says Ferreira. "Unlike many of the other body signals we frequently ignore our hunger signals." You may be more susceptible to weight gain if you have trouble responding to hunger cues or are unable to assess your satiety. Ferreira says this is especially common for chronic dieters.
How to Break It: “Prior to eating, assess your hunger on a scale of 1-10; 1 being ravenous and 10 being stuffed or over full. Focus on a 5, neither hungry nor full. Waiting too long to eat (say, feeling like a 1 or 2) may cause you to overeat and reach an 8 or 9 too quickly," says Ferreira. "This concept may take time to learn, so patience is important. However, once you begin to pay attention to your body’s needs, weight gain should cease."
For the complete list of the 12 habits that you might not realize are causing you to gain weight, go to TheActiveTimes.com.
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