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5 bad eating habits

Are you trying to lose weight but not seeing the scales budge? It could be down to unhealthy eating habits - some of which you may not even be aware of. 

In this article, we’ll highlight five common bad eating habits that you should learn to break to keep you on track.

5 Bad eating habit examples - what you should avoid

It goes without saying that junk food is best avoided, especially when it can be so high in sugar and fat, but even when you think you’re eating well, you could be making these food mistakes which are holding you back from reaching your goals:

1. Skipping breakfast

Not eating a meal means less calories, and therefore, weight loss…right? Wrong! This isn’t necessarily the case. Breakfast is an important meal of your day because it gives you energy as well as important vitamins and nutrients such as calcium, fibre and iron. It even helps you to think more clearly, so it’s fuel for the brain as much as it is fuel for energy.

Moreover, eating breakfast will also help to fight off hunger later in the day, preventing you from reaching for unhealthy snacks. If you find it tricky to find the time in the morning to eat before you head out for work or get the kids ready for school, here are some quick and healthy breakfast ideas for you to try:

  • Greek yoghurt - low in calories but rich in nutrients, this is a perfect choice for those looking for a quick breakfast…why not top it off with some fresh berries?
  • Scrambled eggs on whole grain toast - eggs are a great source of protein, helping to keep you fuller for longer.
  • Smoothies or protein shakes - smoothies and shakes are another quick and easy option. If you workout in the morning, drinking a protein shake (protein powder mixed into a smoothie) will help you to get the protein and nutrients you need for a post-exercise recovery.
  • Fruit - a bowl full of fruit can be made to be very exciting. Not only is this a low-calorie option, but different fruits have different benefits for your body (for example, oranges are great for skin health).

For more healthy breakfast ideas (as well as other tasty meals), download the Easy Meals app.

2. Emotional eating

Many of us find comfort in eating when we’re not feeling our best selves, and research indicates that around twenty-seven percent of adults emotionally eat to manage their stress. The types of foods people tend to reach for when they comfort eat are usually processed foods such as cake and crisps which are high in sugar and fat - which will definitely deter weight loss. In fact, you may not even be aware of your comfort eating habits and snack more often than you think. Whilst eating may initially make you feel better, it’s not going to help your weight loss efforts, and you could end up in a cycle of comfort eating. A typical cycle involves eating to relieve unpleasant feelings (such as stress and anxiety) but then feeling guilt or shame for this eating and continuing to feel bad.

Read our blog on how to stop comfort eating for tips on managing your emotions in a healthier way.

3. Eating late

There has been a lot of dispute over whether eating late is bad for us or not. Unless you’re working night shifts and have a different sleep schedule, research suggests that midnight munching is best avoided.

In a study by the University of Pennsylvania involving two groups eating the same amount of food but at different times, researchers found that participants in the group who ate later (up until 11pm) burned less fat and gained weight compared to the group who ate earlier (up until 7pm).

It’s still not 100% clear why eating late can be unhealthy for us, but it’s been suggested that it could partly be down to the body's biological clock which tells us when we’re awake and when we’re tired (this is known as our circadian rhythm). So, it can be argued that our body is naturally primed to digest and metabolise food in earlier hours of the day. It’s also worth paying attention to the types of foods you eat in the evening as many of us can be tempted to snack on junk foods when we’re tired and trying to relax.

4. Snacking too much or eating mindlessly

Snacks aren’t always filling, but we crave the taste of foods such as chocolate and crisps, which leads us to eat unnecessarily. If you struggle with snacking, try to keep tempting foods out of the house and switch to healthier alternatives.

Healthy foods to snack on include:

  • Mixed nuts
  • Sliced apples dipped in peanut butter
  • Cucumber or carrot sticks dipped in hummus or cottage cheese
  • Fruit (you might lille to enjoy this with nuts or yoghurt)
  • Roasted chickpeas 

As mentioned earlier, if you often find yourself munching away without much thought, you could be an emotional eater. Try and pay attention to your eating habits so you can find a solution to snack when you don’t need to.

5. Eating too quickly and overeating

Wolfing down your food can have several consequences for your health, this includes:

  • Overeating and weight gain as you’re not giving your stomach enough time to digest foods, leaving you hungry for more. According to WebMD, it can take around twenty minutes for your brain to recognise that you’re full, so try to eat slower and allow your body to process what you’re eating. 
  • High blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar (BMC Public Health).
  • Metabolic syndrome which can lead to many health conditions such as increased risk of developing heart diseases, strokes and type 2 diabetes (Healthline).

A good way to stop yourself from overeating is by getting your portion sizes right. When you don’t have lots of food to get through, you’ll be encouraged to enjoy the food that you do have on your plate. You should also try to take your time and chew your food - you could try and put your fork down between bites to savour each bite.

How to break out of bad eating habits

Breaking your eating habits won’t be an easy ride, especially if you’ve been eating in a certain way for a long period of time. That said, we have a list of tips that will help you to combat these habits and create new, healthier ones. 

1. Be mindful of your eating habits

The first thing you should try and do is pay close attention to what and how you’re eating. Perhaps you snack as you watch TV and don’t realise the quantity of food you’re consuming. We recommended keeping a diary, noting down what you’re eating, the times you eat and how you feel. By doing this, you'll be able to spot a pattern and work towards breaking these habits.

If you recognise that you’re eating too much at meal times, you’ll know that portion control will help you, and if you’re overeating as a result of snacking too often, you can work out what the cause is so you can tackle it.

Ready to learn more about your eating habits? Try out this handy habit hacker tool to get your journey started.

2. Get enough sleep

Not getting enough sleep could prevent you from reaching your weight loss goals. It’s recommended that adults get at least seven to nine hours of sleep each day (NHS) as this time allows your brain and body to rest and recover. According to the Sleep Foundation, people that don’t get enough sleep are more likely to overeat and opt for unhealthy foods which have a high calorie count. 

3. Make an action plan, but don’t dive into the deep end

You’ll want to set small, realistic goals and gradually make changes to your lifestyle so that it’s more accomplishable (see our advice on setting SMART goals). If you make changes that are too drastic, your body may struggle more to adjust. Smaller changes, such as ensuring you get 8 hours of sleep and reducing your portion sizes little by little is a great way to ease yourself into a healthier routine.

As you reach each goal and start to feel more comfortable, set new goals and stay persistent. 

4. Avoid keeping unhealthy snacks in your home

When temptation lies a few feet away, you’re more likely to indulge yourself. Stock up on healthier alternatives for snacks, such as fruits and vegetables and avoid shopping on an empty stomach (if you’re feeling hungry, you may pop unhealthy foods in the trolley or buy more than you need).

5. Learn new ways to manage your emotions

Having a healthy mindset will help you to keep your emotions in check and avoid comfort eating. Some things you could try to relax are:

  • Practising your hand at yoga and doing light stretches.
  • Exercising more - just a short walk during a lunch break could help to calm your nerves.
  • Learning deep breathing techniques to calm your nervous system down.
  • Meditating to get in touch with your body and refocusing your mind on something else.

6. Get support

Finally, look to get support - you don’t have to make lifestyle changes alone. You could let friends and family know that you’re being more mindful of your eating habits, find a support group of likeminded people or you could speak to a healthcare professional. Here at Livewell Dorset, we have a friendly team of coaches and advisors on hand to help you eat better and lose weight. You can register for our services or get in touch if you'd like to find out more. Not only can we help Dorset residents change their relationship with food, we can point you in the right direction of others who can help.

Ivan

I drank too much alcohol and had unhealthy eating habits. Pastry is such a bad thing, it's all those pies, pasties and sausage rolls!

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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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