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10 Surprising Eating Habits That Are Making You Gain Weight

Why are you still gaining weight despite eating healthy, exercising regularly and limiting your treats? While a little indulgence now and then won't hurt, some behaviors may pack on the pounds — even when the rest of your lifestyle is in line. 

It might surprise you to know that the pace at which you eat, your meal schedule and where your calories are coming from can all be reflected on the scale. Here are some eating habits that might be sabotaging your weight-loss efforts – and how to change them. 

1. Eating too quickly

It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you’re full, so you’re more likely to consume too many calories before you realize it’s time to stop eating.

Tip: Use physical strategies to slow down at mealtimes. Put your fork down between bites, eat with a loved one and make conversation, or have a glass of water with your meal, taking sips after chewing and swallowing. 

2. Not drinking enough water

If you feel hungry often, it’s possible you’re dehydrated. When you feel thirsty, your body may perceive the signal as hunger. This is because we experience cravings for water, just like we do for food.

Tip: Drink enough water to ensure you’re hydrated and to curb your appetite. The rule of thumb is about half of your body weight in ounces — so if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be drinking about 100 ounces of water per day.

3. Eating in social situations

It's easy to eat mindlessly during parties or informal gatherings, when there are trays of food and snacks available. And if you're feeling anxious or uncomfortable, you may eat more calories than you realize.

Tip: While socializing, sip on a glass of water. Eat with intention and pay attention to your hunger signs. Making yourself a plate and only eating from it — instead of grazing from the snack table — is a good way to manage your portions.

4. Using large plates

Dishing your food onto a big plate rather than a small one impacts how satisfied you’ll be after a meal. Smaller portions on a large plate look less satisfying to your brain than the same portion on a smaller plate.

Tip: Save calories by using a smaller plate. As your brain registers that you’ve filled it, you’re less likely to feel hungry afterward. Wait 20 minutes before having a second helping to give the “fullness signal” time to travel to your brain.

5. Mindless eating

When you’re distracted, you won’t pay attention to when you’re satisfied or to your portion size. This can happen while you’re watching TV, scrolling through your phone or working during lunch.

Tip: Avoid distractions when you eat so you can be present during the meal. Switch off screens like your phone, step away from your desk and try to eat at a table, even if you’re alone. Mindful eating — simply paying attention to what you’re eating while you’re eating it — can make a big difference. 

6. Drinking your calories

Because liquids don't make you feel as satisfied as food, calories from beverages are sneaky. Some culprits include alcoholic drinks, sweetened iced tea, sodas and even seemingly healthy beverages like fruit juice.

Tip: Limit these high-calorie drinks, which often have hidden sugars. Opt for water, green tea and homemade green smoothies instead.

7. Not eating enough protein or fiber

Macronutrients like fiber and protein keep you fuller for longer, so if you don’t eat enough of them, you may feel hungry more often. Both protein and fiber take longer to move through the digestive system, and the energy they contain is absorbed more slowly, meaning you’ll remain energetic for longer after eating.

Tip: Increase your fiber intake with foods such as beans and legumes like lentils, broccoli, apples and whole grains. Try to eat a portion of protein with every meal, including lean meats, eggs, nuts and yogurt.

8. Eating too many "healthy" fats

Nuts, avocados and fatty fish like salmon are packed with healthy fats like omega-3 and monounsaturated fats, but they are also high-calorie foods. That scoop of guacamole is a great source of healthy fat, but keep it to a smaller portion size to avoid consuming too many calories.

Tip: Moderation is key when it comes to healthy fats. This could look like one serving of fats per meal. Two tablespoons of avocado or 1.5 teaspoons of peanut butter are examples of one serving.

9. Too many condiments

A few teaspoons of sugar or milk in your coffee, sauces and salad dressing (especially creamy ones and those with cheese as an ingredient) can easily exceed your daily calorie count. Healthy foods can take a caloric turn when these additions come into play without measurement.

Tip: Try to cut down on how much you’re adding to your drinks and foods. For instance, if you usually have three sugars in your coffee, add less until you only take one. Use less dressing and sauces on your foods, or better yet, measure out how much you’re using. Try salad dressings and sauces that aren’t cream- or cheese-based.

10. Not having a meal plan

Eating at random times without a plan can lead to impulsive eating, including aimless eating, late-night snacking, not eating for long periods and bingeing. Research shows that simply knowing what you’re going to eat and when you’re going to eat it leads to better weight management and even aids in weight loss.

Tip: Create a regular eating schedule and stick to it. Additionally, set aside some time on the weekend to think about the week ahead. Make a schedule outlining what you’ll eat, when you’ll eat it and how much of you’ll consume. 

Moderation and mindfulness are key when it comes to managing your diet. Talk to your doctor about developing an eating plan that works best for you.

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