Unhealthy eating habits contribute to many health complications. The chances are that if you’re not conscious of your eating habits you might end up overeating, which leads to weight gain or even obesity. If you want to break your unhealthy eating habits, you first need to acknowledge why it is important for your overall well-being. Try to figure out why you overeat and make unhealthy food choices. This will help you be aware and change your mindset so you can eat the right kinds of food that will improve the quality of your life. Most people don’t acknowledge that they have unhealthy eating habits. Dr. Phillip Calvin, a psychologist, author and an American TV personality based in California, notes that it can be difficult to change what you don’t acknowledge. Here are 7 ways to help you avoid making unhealthy eating habits:
#1 – Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
While a healthy snack or two between meals is good to keep your blood sugar steady, consuming foods with artificial sweeteners can lead to overeating. In reference to Tara Gidus, R.D., spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, most snacks which contain artificial sweeteners, such as cookies, chips and pretzels, are not nutritious or satisfying and most people tend to overdo them. Gidus recommends that if your goal is to keep hunger at bay without losing energy, focus on eating snacks that feel like real foods, such as whole-grain crackers with cheese, nuts, yogurt or baby carrots with hummus.
#2 – Eat Mindfully
Do you eat while watching your favorite TV shows? Most people with this habit are prone to “spaced-out” or unconscious eating. It is estimated that those who eat in front of a screen (TV or computer) tend to consume 20% to 60% more than they would if their focus were on the food alone, according to Brian Wansink, a marketing professor at Cornell University. Wansink, who is also the author of Mindless Eating, says, “By figuring out the situations that results in mindless eating, you can make some effort to eat consciously when you are fully engaged.” If you like snacking, always ensure that you set your limits on the amount to be consumed. Alternatively, eat a meal prior to sitting on the couch, or avoid snacking until you pay close attention to what you’re putting into your mouth.
#3 – Don’t Eat Fast
A New Zealand study conducted in 2011, concluded that people who wolf down their meals are at an increased risk of becoming obese or overweight. Ian McDonald, professor of metabolic physiology at Nottingham University, says, “Eating too fast overrides the mechanism that tells your brain you are satisfied. Nerves send signals to your brain that your stomach is expanding while a hormone called ghrelin is produced when your stomach empties, triggering a hunger message.” While it takes around 20 minutes for a message to reach your brain to stop eating, eating too quickly will likely overfill your stomach which results in overeating. To avoid eating fast, take your time chewing every bite and take at least 20 minutes to consume your entire meal. You can stand up at some point during your meal to assess whether you are full to avoid any discomfort that comes with overeating.
#4 – Avoid Late Night Snacking
Most people find late night snacking as the best way to enjoy their favorite foods when it is quiet, and no one is around to monitor or judge what they eat. Unfortunately, you must avoid this habit if you want to lose weight permanently. Consuming more calories at night when your body is not expending too much energy is a direct ticket to weight gain. It is worth noting that it’s not the specific time you eat at night that leads to weight gain but the kind of foods you tend to eat at night. Most people prefer chocolate, desserts, potato chips or ice cream, most of which are packed with high calories, carbs and sugars. To avoid unhealthy eating habits at night, go for low-calorie snacks, such as cottage cheese, a handful of nuts, vegetables or a protein shake.
#5 – Never Skip Breakfast
Many people who skip important meals like breakfast find it difficult to keep their weight in control. If you skip breakfast, there this a higher chance of eating more food than usual at the next sitting. You are also more likely to opt for high-calorie snacks to keep hunger at bay. Several studies have shown that people tend to add more body fat if they eat fewer, larger meals than if they consume the same number of calories in smaller but frequent meals during the day. Skipping breakfast has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, excessive alcoholism, smoking and inadequate exercise. Breakfast is essential in jump-starting vital functions in your body. A nutrient dense meal in the morning fuels your brain and body which makes you more efficient when undertaking your regular tasks during the day.
#6 – Surround Yourself With Healthy Foods
Surrounding yourself with healthy foods is a great way to avoid the temptation of reaching out for unhealthy choices when hunger strikes. Choose from a wide range of foods to ensure that your body gets all of the essential nutrients it deserves. Base your meals on nutrient dense starchy carbohydrates that should constitute about a third of the foods you consume. Go for whole grain varieties containing more fiber to keep you satisfied for longer. Keep plenty of fruits and vegetables in the kitchen to ensure a regular supply of vitamins and minerals to your body. Limit the intake of saturated fat and sugar to avoid cholesterol build up in your blood. When grocery shopping, remember to read food labels to check the calorie content and other information for important macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat).
#7 – Manage Stress
Pam Peeke, MD, MPH, and author of The Hunger Fix, says, “Stress reduction is extremely important when it comes to weight loss.” When stressed, most people resort to self-destructive habits like emotional eating, even when they are not hungry. It’s very common to opt for comfort foods, such as French fries, pizza or other junk foods, which interfere with a healthy diet and lead to weight gain.To avoid emotional eating, learn healthier ways to view food and adopt better eating habits. Figure out the triggers of engaging in this behavior and develop a plan to prevent and cope with stress. Exercise can be helpful in dealing with stress as it dampens the production of brain chemicals that lead to anxiety and depression. Other ways to deal with stress include refraining from drugs and avoiding excessive alcohol, making positive lifestyle changes and undergoing stress management counseling. If you’re stressed and unable to cope, always seek professional medical attention.
These are just a few ways to help you avoid unhealthy eating habits if your goal is towards leading a better life without packing on those extra pounds. It is evident that unhealthy eating habits can compromise any successful weight loss program. Luckily, these seven ways listed above are helpful in maintaining your weight within the healthy range and to avoid health complications that may come with being overweight or obese. Apart from making healthy food choices, you must be more active if you want to lose weight and maintain a fit physique.