Everyone who is looking to lose weight has likely heard that it is a simple process and has been encouraged to cut certain macronutrients or calories. The reality is that our habits are often the driving force behind whether or not we are able to lose weight. Eating is complex- it is emotional, cultural, religious, social, celebratory and even can be an addiction. With all of this said, the real question is why do we choose to eat when, how, and what?
Recognizing your current eating habits and realizing how they could be contributing to your weight gain or weight plateau is the first step to gaining control over your body. The second step is adjusting those habits and gaining new, healthy, and food-conscious habits that will help you reach your weight loss goals. Here are some good places to start when creating new eating habits.
1.) Focusing on the timing of your meals. Many people tend to skip meals when life gets busy. Not eating enough can stall weight loss and slows your metabolism. A meta-analysis published in Nutrition Reviews notes that “feeding frequency was positively associated with reductions in fat mass and body fat percentage as well as an increase in fat-free mass”. Following an eating plan that focuses on eating smaller, balanced meals throughout the day also helps blood sugar stay steady and helps keep you full leading to weight loss.
2.) Manage your stress. A review published in Obesity Reviews in August 2017 concluded that the adverse effects of stress impact food intake, weight gain, abdominal obesity, and the effects of weight loss interventions. The review also notes that stress leads to eating more foods and reaching for higher calorie foods. Focusing on managing stress levels may be key to helping you lose belly fat. Making self care a habit can help ensure your weight loss is more successful.
3.) Add exercise to your routine. A systematic review published in Obesity Reviews in 2020 found that while both aerobic and anaerobic exercise is beneficial “current evidence supports that aerobic exercise remains the most effective strategy for improving anthropometric measures this intervention decreases body weight, fat mass and promotes fat-free mass in individuals with obesity in many age groups.” Making exercise a habit can also help with weight loss.
4.) Be sure to include fiber in your meals. Eating fiber-filled meals will not only keep you full but it helps keep your digestive system happy and working properly. So load up on those veggies, fruits, and whole grains but don’t forget to increase your water intake as you increase your fiber intake.
5.) Put down your fork or spoon between bites. Doing this helps you eat at a slower pace which gives time for your appetite-suppressing hormone, leptin to let your brain know you are full.
6.) Eat nutrient-rich foods. Many diets focus solely on reducing your calorie intake, however a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2022 found that focusing on the quality of your food in addition to the quantity of your food may be key for weight loss. The study concluded that a high nutrient quality and energy restricted (lower calorie) diet induced more weight loss than a low nutrient quality and energy restricted diet alone. The high nutrient quality diet was enriched with monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, plant protein and a decreased intake of fructose, so go ahead and include foods like olive oil, nuts, avocado, legumes and seeds in your diet.
Recognizing what habits you already have that are impacting your food choices can make all of the difference when it comes to seeing success in weight loss. Once you recognize which habits may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts is when real change can begin. What habits will you be changing? What healthy habits will you now be making?