An extra bite here, a lunch at your desk there—who would’ve thought that even the smallest actions could impact your body’s number on the scale? While single actions alone will not be the impetus behind your climbing weight (splurging on a cupcake for your coworker’s birthday is totally fine), it’s when these little actions become habits that you’ll start to see a problem.
An even worse problem? It’s likely that because you’ve been committing these habits for longer than you can remember, you’re probably overlooking the fact that they’re some of the reasons why you haven’t been able to lose weight.
But don’t worry; any of these fattening habits can easily be turned into a slim move—and you don’t have to completely overhaul your life. You just have to recognize your habit and redirect your action to a healthier choice. And guess what? We did all of that for you. All you need is a little determination and the willingness to make some changes and a slimmer you will be here in no time. Speaking of making little changes, you can speed up your weight loss by following these Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.
You stay up late working
Not only do solid sleep hours keep you energized throughout the day, they also help keep you slim, too. Researchers at Wake Forest proved that maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is crucial for keeping your tummy tight. In fact, they found that dieters who sleep five hours or fewer gain 2.5 times more weight than those who sleep between seven and eight hours. Overdoing it can also be bad: Those who slept more than eight hours packed on only slightly less than those who slept fewer than five. Shoot for an average of six to eight hours of sleep per night, which is the optimal amount for weight control.
Forget sheep; eat lamb or turkey for dinner. Both, are high in Tryptophan, an amino acid that has demonstrated an impressive sleep-inducing effect. In fact, in a study, insomniacs were able to get a better night’s rest after consuming just ¼ of a gram, which is what you’d find in a skinless chicken drumstick. For healthy food to get you closer to your goal weight in no time, try these 51+ Easy Weeknight Dinners You Can Throw Together in Minutes.
You often skip meals
You may think that skipping meals will help you reach your weight loss goal, but contrary to popular belief, that is not the case. And you’re not alone in thinking so. In fact, nearly 20% of Americans skip meals to lose weight. Surprisingly, skipping meals actually increases the likelihood of packing on some extra pounds, especially when it comes to breakfast. The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study, which explained that people who cut out the most important meal of the day were 4.5 times more likely to be obese. According to research exposed in Zero Belly Breakfasts, skipping meals slows your metabolism and boosts your hunger. That puts your body in prime fat-storage mode and increases your odds of overeating at the next meal.
Make your breakfast the night before. Overnight oats, pre-portioned granola with some Greek yogurt, or hard boiled eggs and fiber-rich crackers make a protein- and fiber-packed breakfast. Options like these are delicious, yet nutritious, and easy to make.
You drink alcohol regularly
Leaving wine for the weekend is better than having a glass a day, but it’s still not the smartest move if that pour has become a tradition. In fact, in a report found in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics researchers claimed that drinking alcohol can cause people to eat an extra 384 calories a day. This is most likely because it makes us more responsive to the scent of food and less likely to resist indulgent fare.
Make it a seltzer wine spritzer! By diluting that Pinot Grigio with a splash of sparkling water, you’re saving yourself some major calories—from both the drink and later-on munchies—and it’ll help fill you up and keep you hydrated. You can also make it easy on yourself and buy any of hte 19 Best Healthy Canned Cocktails, Seltzers, and Wines.
You rush through your meals
Fun fact: it takes 20 minutes for your stomach tell your brain it’s full. So chances are, you may be joining the clean plate club before your body tells you it’s satiated. A study in Appetite explained that because of their mindfulness, slow eaters consumed 66 fewer calories per meal, but compared to their fast-eating peers, they felt like they had eaten more. Although 66 calories may not seem like a lot, if you can do that at every meal, you’ll lose more than 20 pounds a year!
Start your meal with two glasses of water, which is a natural appetite suppressant that can help you feel full. Then, when your food comes, put your fork down in between bites. By following this simple trick, you can slow down your eating pace, which will allow your body extra time to digest your food and give you the signal that you are satisfied.
You binge watch TV
Time spent on Netflix as opposed to at the gym is obviously not a flat-belly move. But it’s more than just a lack of gym time that’s packing on the pounds; a study conducted at the University of Vermont found that overweight participants who cut back half of their normal TV time saved an additional 119 calories a day on average. Watching just one less show (if you only watch two) would be an automatic 12-pound annual loss!
Make the most of your TV time by multitasking while you watch—fold some laundry, or plank and wall sit during commercial breaks. An easy load of chores can further bump up your caloric burn. And if your hands are busy washing the dishes or making your kids lunch, then they won’t be in the popcorn bag! Mindlessly snacking is a tummy trap during this sacred time. Check out these 31 No-Gym Workouts to get inspired.
You always eat out for lunch
If your lunch break is consistently you running out to a local spot or out the door to meet a delivery guy, then chances are you’re eating up more calories, salt, and sugar than if you just ate a lunch from home. Restaurant options are often spiked with diet-destroying sauces and belly-bloating sodium. And when you eat out, you often say “yes” to more than you need. And your local place is just as to blame as the McDonald’s down the block. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that restaurant food is as caloric as fast-food. Researchers found that 92% of meals gathered from both large-chain and local restaurants three cities contained on average 1,205 calories—nearly 60% of the FDA’s daily recommended intake of 2,000.
To stay away from those unwanted calories, brown bag it. With these 25 Super-Healthy Lunches Under 400 Calories you’re set to make an awesome week’s worth of lunches.
You never keep a glass of water around
Your stomach makes some noise. You’re hungry, right? Maybe not. A study in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that 60% of the time people confused hunger for thirst. Drinking water is a simple trick to stay on track with those weight-loss goals. This may simply be because water is filling, but researchers note the added H2O may well be displacing calories otherwise spent on calorie-laden beverages. “If all else fails, have a cup of tea, which has almost no calories,” recommends Kelly Choi, author of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse. “Tea can help hydrate you and calm down cravings!”
Even if you’re sure those rumbles are for hunger, preloading meals with some good ol’ calorie-free H2O can shave some calories. And if plain water sounds boring, you can add some practically calorie-free fresh citrus to create a health-boosting (and flavorful!) detox water.
Your celebrations always involve food
… or a drink! But just because your BFF got a promotion, or you finally moved into your new home, doesn’t mean you need to overload on champagne and cookies. In fact, you should do the opposite. Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN explains that rewarding yourself, or your friend, with food is a very slippery slope: “Often times, I see my patients reward a weight loss by indulging in foods they know aren’t the best for their goals. Instead, I suggest using things like manicures, SoulCycle classes, and workout gear as a reward for all their hard work. Using junk food will only contribute to weight gain and lead to unhealthy yo-yo dieting.”
There are plenty of ways to celebrate these achievements without the junk. If you went on a congratulatory trip to the beach three times a year instead of devouring a fancy dinner out, you could keep nearly 4,000 calories out of your mouth. That sums up to a little more than a pound of fat!
You’re always sitting
If you’re like most Americans, you sit at a desk all day. On average, we sit 67 hours a week and spend just 7 hours out of every 24 moving. Doesn’t that sound alarming? It gets even worse: thanks to the popularity of desk jobs, we now burn 100 fewer calories a day at work than we did 50 years ago, according to a 2011 study published in the journal PLoS ONE. That itself equates an extra 10 pounds packed on in a year! Compounded with a study published in the journal Food Policy, which found that there has been a 4.3% rise in calorie intake globally, you’re looking at some serious weight gain hurdles.
Take a break. Just two minutes every hour can offset the predicted pounds, according to a Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology study. Even more convincing, a British study explained that that standing at work burned 50 more calories per hour than sitting. If that sounds like nothing, check this out: If you stand for just three hours of your day, in one year you’d expend more than 30,000 extra calories, which amounts to about 8 lbs of fat! Invest in a portable standing desk to reap the benefits.
You change up your diet constantly
Allowing your cycle of good days and bad days dictate your eating habits can set your diet up for failure. We’re not saying that a cheat meal isn’t allowed. In fact, quite the opposite: “Occasionally indulging can aid weight-loss efforts by warding off feelings of deprivation and bouts of overeating,” explains dietitian Cassie Bjork, RD, LD of Healthy Simple Life. “It can make it easier to stick with your healthy eating regimen for the long haul.” Rather, it’s when you let your emotions dictate your eating routine or when one diet slip-up causes a cascade of poor eating decisions where you can run into a problem.
We have two suggestions for you: Either keep your hard work in line by picking your cheat meal in advance and be sure to jump right back on the healthy eating bandwagon afterward, no matter how good a second greasy meal may sound. Or, choose a meal plan that’s realistic. If you’re a dairy lover, day’s without cheese, yogurt, and ice cream will be quite painful. Instead, allow yourself one meal a day with a little bit of the good stuff. That way, you never feel deprived.
You purchase low-fat products
When you’re trying to shed a few, most people think to buy the foods marketed as low-fat or even fat-free. But that’s not the move. Typically, those options only save you a few extra calories, and they replace the harmless fats with slow-performing carbs. The replacers digest quickly, leading to a sugar rush and, immediately afterward, rebound hunger. Alarmingly, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham discovered that meals that limited carbohydrates to 43% were more filling and had a milder effect on blood sugar than meals with 55% carbohydrates. That means you’ll store less body fat and be less likely to eat more later.
Don’t let fat scare you! Go for the 2% Fage yogurt, or the Sharp Cheddar from Sargento, not their reduced-fat rendition.
You still sip soda
Not only are you guzzling down blood sugar–spiking sweeteners, but you’re also drinking unnecessary calories. And don’t think diet is any better: A study in the journal Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that subjects who drank two or more diet sodas a day over the course of 10 years saw their waistlines increase five times faster than non-soda-drinkers.
Go for water. Need flavor? Add in some fruit to satisfy those taste buds. And if you really need some bubbles check out La Croix, or Spindrift: sparkling options we approve of!
You eat at your desk
You may think it’s beneficial for your hourly pay, or to prove yourself to your boss, but eating your lunch at your desk isn’t doing your waistline any favors. And you’re not the only one doing this. According to research conducted by NPD group, roughly 62% of working American professionals dine “al-desko.” The issue is that you’re eating distractedly, which can cause you to consume up to 50% more calories than you intended, according to a 2013 review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Invite a colleague, take a walk to the salad shop, and eat it there! Taking a break will help you refresh your mind and give you control over your caloric intake.
You prefer potato chips
If you’re a sucker for a packaged, salty kick, chances are that’s part of the reason for your widening belly. And it’s not all water weight, either. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition discovered that salt actually confuses the biological processes that tell you when you’re full.
“Our body has biological mechanisms to tell us when to stop eating, and fat activates those mechanisms in people who are sensitive to the taste of fat,” lead author Russell Keast said in a statement. “However, when salt is added to the food, those mechanisms are blunted and people end up eating more food. This can cause you to eat more fatty foods, and over time, your body adapts or becomes less sensitive to fat, leading you to eat more to get the same feelings of fullness.”
Cooking at home? Use fresh herbs instead of salt. When dining out, scan the nutrition info at home before you head out and pick a low-cal dish with about 1,000 milligrams of sodium or less. And make sure to avoid worst orders at popular restaurants.
You still buy white bread
Ask any diet expert what they think about fiber, and they’ll likely explain that it’s an imperative part of any weight-loss goal. So, if you tend to skimp on the nutrient by purchasing white bread products, it could explain why you’ve been packing on the pounds. Refined wheat flours, such as white bread, pizza, pasta, and bagels, have been stripped of their slow-digesting fiber, which means your body can break down what you just consumed very quickly.
And the faster your body digests these foods, the faster your blood sugar levels rise, which leads to spikes in your insulin levels and ends with fat accumulation.
According to multiple studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those who consume the most refined grains have the most amount of belly fat and largest mean BMI and waist circumference, whereas those who eat the most high-fiber, whole grain foods have the lowest amounts of belly fat.
We know change is hard, but making the switch to whole grain is well worth it. Find fiber in all of your foods. Adding berries such as raspberries and blueberries to your morning oats is a smart move. These fruits carry over 6 grams of the belly-filling stuff per cup. Not to mention, they’re low in sugar and filled with flavor. “According to research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, eating foods rich in soluble fiber, like oatmeal (one of the best carbs for weight loss), apples, and beans, can reduce belly fat,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Jennifer McDaniel.
You hit up the add-ins station after ordering your coffee
If your coffee tastes like ice cream, you’re doing it wrong. Adding packet upon packet of sugar will ultimately cause your blood sugar to spike and crash—which makes you crave unhealthy food—and can ultimately lead to weight gain. And it’s not just sugar you have to be worried about if you’re looking to save calories. According to a 2017 study published in the journal Public Health, researchers found that nearly 70% of coffee consumers drink coffee with caloric add-ins (including sugar and creamers); out of those people, close to 16% of their daily caloric intake came from sipping on their coffee concoction. That 16% translates to an additional 70 calories a day more than non-coffee drinkers.
Try using other flavor boosters to make up for the sweet stuff, such as cinnamon or cocoa powder, both of which are often available at your local coffee shop. And if you crave that sweetness, go for the less processed stuff. Stevia, which is now available at Starbucks (just ask if it isn’t out) was proven to help minimize spikes in blood glucose and insulin according to a study in the journal Appetite.
You dive into the bread basket
When you’re starving, those complimentary breadsticks or chips and salsa appear to be quite the lifesaver. But while they might be free, that doesn’t mean you won’t pay for it. Just one of Olive Garden’s free breadsticks is an additional 150 calories to your meal. And let’s be honest, you’re probably eating more than one. What’s worse, none of these calories come with any redeeming nutritional value.
Don’t ever go to a restaurant starving. Before you head out, grab a handful of nuts or berries. Their fiber, healthy fats, and protein will help tide you over through the breadbasket period. No time to nosh? Kindly ask your server to shrink your bread basket size or let him or her know you don’t need it at all.
You order the healthiest-sounding menu item
If you think you’re doing yourself a favor by ordering a lighter fare, you may be surprised to learn you’re not. That’s because when you are under the impression you chose the better option, you tend to let up on restraint. In fact, consumers tend to choose beverages, side dishes, and desserts that contain up to 131% more calories when they ordered a “healthy” main dish, according to a study from the Journal of Consumer Research.
A separate Babson College study even found that the mere presence of healthy meals on a menu can actually cause people to select a less nutritious meal. Experts believe that people end up splurging because they take the fact that they count the consideration of ordering a healthy item as being virtuous, so it leads them to make poor food choices down the line. Plus, not all lighter fare dishes are as healthy as they sound.
To keep your slim-down plans in line, take a peek at the restaurant’s menu options in advance. Many chains have nutritional facts readily available, knowing what you take in will rid off any guilty feelings later as long as you stick to your plan. If you’re considering ordering lunch, placing an order ahead of when you’ll start to feel hungry can also help you cut down on calories, according to research published in the Journal of Marketing Research.
You order the meal as is
Restaurant chefs tend to soak their meals in deep, treacherous puddles of oil, cream, butter, and sugar—all of which are calorically dense and offer little to no nutritional benefits. By asking for your veggies and meat to be cooked dry, and leaving sauces on the side you could save loads of calories. Simple renditions like this on your order can lead to major weight loss success.
If you’re not already making this request when you dine out and order in, it’s time to start. Ask for your chicken and broccoli dish steamed, leaving the sauce on the side. When you order, ask for a side of fruit with your veggie-filled omelet rather than going for the oil-drenched potatoes.
You love a combo meal
Research in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing explained that compared to ordering à la carte, the average order picks up a hundred (or more) extra calories when you opt for the “combo” or “value meal.” Why? Because when you go for the dish that’s 2-in-1, chances are you’re getting more food than you actually need. You’re better off ordering yourself a single dish. That way you won’t be influenced by pricing schemes designed to hustle a few more cents out of your pocket.
Stay fresh and stay simple. Choose one meal, and stick to it. When it comes to watching your figure less is always more.
You always order last
The trick to making flat-belly choices when you’re out with your friends? Order first. A study conducted at the University of Illinois concluded that groups of people tend to order similarly, especially when forced to say it in front of others. The researchers attribute their findings to the fact that people are happier making similar choices as their peers.
If you’re the friend who can never decide on what to eat, we’ve got you covered. Follow these steps: check out the menu at home, decide on a dish, and ask the waiter if you can order first.
You get chatty over dinner
Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing bad about having plans with your friend group; but, if grabbing food together is your go-to, you could be setting yourself up for weight gain. According to a study published in the journal Nutrition, a meal consumed with just one other person is typically 33% larger than a meal enjoyed alone. But that’s not all; third-wheeling means you’re looking at a 47% bigger meal. And dining with four, six, or more than eight friends can lead to meal enlargements of 69, 70, and 96%. It’s true: part of this has to do with the hours we spend at the table. And when you’re with friends, the meals tend to go on for a longer duration of time.
There are plenty of ways to see your friends, so it’s time to shake things up. Hit up the movie theater, venture to that new art exhibit, try a new workout class, or go for a hike. With any of these options, you’re sure to save money and calories.
You love the food network
Chopped, Top Chef, Chef’s Table—these appetite-enhancing shows are doing more than making us hungry, they’re making us fat! “Television recipes often contain more calories, protein, and fat than the experts recommend,” says Mary Hartley, RD, MPH a consulting nutritionist from Rhode Island. “According to a study from Cornell, watching cooking shows and then cooking from scratch is associated with a higher body mass index (BMI). However, cooking show viewers who watch but don’t cook do not have higher BMIs.” So feel free to watch, but sorry Ina, we can’t cook up the food.
Watch the shows, let them inspire you, but make them flat-belly friendly. Change one fattening ingredient to one of these 40 Best-Ever Fat-Burning Foods and enjoy.
You’re always stressed
If your Sunday consists of dreading Monday, you’ve got something else to worry about besides your job. The constant surges of cortisol, a hormone that helps the body respond to stress, can mess with your hunger hormones and cause you to reach for comforting calorie-dense snacks.
Spend your weekends at ease. Sweat out any nerves you may have at the gym.
You always take the elevator
Your office or even apartment is on the fifth floor. You always take the elevator. Big mistake! Using the stairs burns twice as many calories. Still not convinced you should change your ways? A 150-pound person could lose about six pounds per year just by climbing up two flights of stairs every day, according to the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. Bump that up to six, and you could drop 18 pounds without ever hitting the gym.
Not only should you be ditching the elevator upon your arrival, but find another excuse to take the stairs. Use the bathroom one floor below or the microwave that’s down two. It may be tough at first, but sooner or later you’ll see results and it’ll be well worth it. For more ways to burn calories, try these easy ways to burn 100 calories without a gym.