We all have them – bad food habits that have evolved over time and are preventing us from reaching our dietary goals. Some of these habits you will be aware of, others may surprise you, but identifying them is the first step in making sustainable lifestyle change. So here are the worst food habits reported by clients, and the easy ways to take control and change them.
This is unlikely to be one that surprises you but skipping breakfast remains one of the worst dietary habits when it comes to optimising metabolism and supporting weight control. Not only does skipping breakfast leave you vulnerable to high calorie snacking later in the day, but it generally means that you are eating the bulk of your calories in the second half of the day, the time when we tend to be far less active. So if the only change you make to your routine is to factor in a protein rich breakfast, it will be one habit you are far better off for.
Break your breakfast skipping habit by planning a quick, yet protein rich breakie the night before. A green smoothie, Greek yoghurt and fruit or a protein meal bar can be consumed quickly or picked up on the run and will help to keep you going until lunchtime.
There is nothing healthy with the scenario which sees the health conscious among us live a purist lifestyle until Thursday before spending the next 3-4 days drinking copious quantities of alcohol. Binge drinking not only makes weight control extremely challenging thanks to the huge number of calories, but writing off several days of healthy eating and exercise makes no sense whatsoever as you deal with the after effect of large volumes of alcohol.
Break your binge drinking cycle but firstly becoming more aware of how much you are actually drinking. What you may think is a few glasses may be much, much more. Next establish some reasonable limits – you may like to have a night each week in which you indulge a little more than others but a couple of glasses are likely to be more than enough on the other nights of the week.
Late night eating
Busy lifestyles mean late nights as we try and cram the gym, long working hours, socialising and commuting into an already jam packed schedule. Unfortunately when it comes to our metabolism, consuming the bulk of our calories in the second half of the day means that we are far less likely to burn them off, and also far less likely to wake up hungry the next day for breakfast. As a general rule of thumb, the later you eat your dinner, the smaller it needs to be, which may mean that eating a larger meal in the day and enjoying a snack if your dinner is regularly consumed after 8 or 9pm may be the answer.
Break your late night eating cycle by eating more during the day on days you know you will get home late. Enjoy dinner at lunchtime and a snack of soup or salad later in the evening.
Of all the bad food habits, mindless eating would have to be up there with the worst – the little extras that slip in without us even noticing on a daily basis. A biscuit here, a few lollies there and a piece of office cake and before you know it you have consumed an extra 300-400calories, which could be the very reason that you are gaining or not losing weight. The tricky thing about mindless eating is that we are often completely unaware that we are doing it, so as a starting point, spend a day or two keeping a record of everything that goes into your mouth – you may be surprised of how much or how little that is.
Break the mindless eating cycle by developing some simple food rules that limit the times when you do eat. Avoid eating outside meal or snack times or when you are distracted by other things, like when you are driving. Another option is to keep track of your eating via an electronic diary such as ‘myfitnesspal’ which can help to keep you accountable.
No lunch break
Not often spoken about, skipping lunch is almost as bad as skipping breakfast and is also extremely common for individuals used to putting in long hours in workplaces in which taking a lunch break is almost frowned upon. Skipping lunch, or consuming it at 2 or 3pm each day again leaves you vulnerable to over eating as your blood glucose levels have dropped significantly by this time in the day, and ravenous hunger and sugar cravings often result. Taking a lunch break, no matter how brief by 2pm at the latest is absolutely crucial if you are to keep in control of your cravings and your calorie intake overall
Break the no lunch break cycle by prioritising a quick break late morning if you know that you are unlikely to stop again until mid-afternoon. Another trick is to keep a backup option of meal bars or tuna and cut up vegetables at your desk so if you really cannot leave your desk; at least you have something nutritious to nibble on until you can take a proper break to enjoy a proper meal.
Silly snacking does not refer to the trail mix you have specially put together, or the Greek yoghurt and fruit you routinely pack each day, silly snacking refers to the fundraising treats, the dip and chips at work functions and the dodgy cakes at work birthdays. The extra foods that you would never usually eat, but you do simply because they cross your path. A little like mindless eating, silly snacking can sneak into our day, and equate to many, many extra calories. And again like mindless eating, the secret is to simply become more aware of where the silly snacks creep in so that you can make the decision as to whether you really want to eat them
Break the silly snacking cycle by always keeping a supply of protein rich snacks on hand for times when you do get hungry. Nut bars, cheese and crackers or protein based snack bars are all good choices and the good news is that when you are full and satisfied with your own snacks, it is far easier to say no to the silly ones that cross your path on a daily basis.