Weight Loss: 4 Harmful Habits That Get in Your Way

Do you skip meals or snack late, then give yourself a hard time?

If you’re hoping to lose weight, don’t let problematic eating habits can get in your way. Four behaviors can prevent you from making any progress:

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1. Skipping meals

Do you skip breakfast and/or lunch in an effort to lose weight?

That can backfire. Your hunger won’t go away; it will bide its time until you finally allow yourself to eat.

“At that point, your hunger can be uncontrollable and you can spiral into an eating frenzy,” says Julia Zumpano, RD, LD.

Another good reason to try to break the habit: Inconsistent meal times can trigger blood sugar fluctuations, which put you at greater risk for impaired fasting glucose, prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

2. Eating at night

“Most meal skippers don’t eat all day. They wait until evening,” says Ms. Zumpano.

Adds Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, “I often tell patients that in the world of weight loss, no good can come of eating after 7 p.m.”

In fact, when you eat after dinner, it’s easier to gain weight and harder to lose it.

“If you don’t eat during the day — when you’re more active — you burn fewer calories,” explains Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD.

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“Then if you eat a large meal and snack at night — when you’re more sedentary — you have very little time to burn calories before bed.”

Once you go to sleep, just like a bear going into hibernation, your body will store calories instead of using them for energy.

Ironically, “most people who eat at night aren’t hungry. They’re trying to combat boredom. It’s a habit while they watch TV,” says Ms. Kirkpatrick.

3. Rarely cooking at home

Are homemade meals the exception, rather than the rule, for your family?

Perhaps you’re pressed for time. Or you haven’t learned how to cook. Or differing dietary preferences make your head spin when meal-planning.

“But when restaurant food, frozen entrees and meal replacements are the foundation of your diet, you dump excess calories, added sugar, sodium and saturated fat into every meal,”  says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDE. “And you miss out on the fiber and phytonutrient benefits of whole foods.”

Over time, relying on processed foods can cause weight gain and likely worsen chronic diseases, she says.

Occasionally eating out or heating a frozen entree is fine, she says. But embrace homemade meals, and you’ll see a real difference in your health — and weight.

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“Relying on restaurant and processed food takes the control away from you and puts it into the hands of that business,” she says. “And they are not likely to be invested in your long-term health.”

4. Negative self-talk

We all talk to ourselves in our heads. But we’re not always aware of negative messages about food and nutrition.

“Clients often tell me they ate ‘bad’ this week — or they ARE bad because of how and what they ate,” says Dawn Noe, RD, LD, CDE. “People with diabetes say their blood sugar numbers are ‘bad’ because they ate food they ‘shouldn’t have.’”

Negative self-talk can damage your self-esteem and get in the way when you’re trying to take care of your health, she says. It can keep you from enjoying food and can increase your stress level. And who needs that?

“In reality, your weight and your blood sugar numbers are just data that give you information,” says Ms. Noe. “And the food choices you make every day are just that – choices.”

You’ll always have another opportunity to make a different choice next time, she says.

So don’t let problem behaviors and attitudes derail your diet. Keep these tips in mind as you plan, cook and eat meals, and reflect on your progress.

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