50 Worst Habits For Belly Fat
When you first start dieting and exerting, the kilograms seem to melt off. But, we all hit that stagnant point where the last few pounds of belly fat just don’t want to leave. Turns out, there could be a few factors contributing to that last layers of fat without you even realizing it. Try kicking these bad habits to the curb, and then check out 36 Things to Do Today for a Flat Belly to shrink your waistline for food.
YOU’RE NOT SLEEPING ENOUGH
According to Wake Forest researchers, dieters who sleep five hours or less put on 2 ½ times more belly fat, while those who sleep more than eight hours pack on only slightly less than that. Shoot for an average of six to seven hours of sleep per night the optimal amount for weight control.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests seven to eight hours of sleep for most adults.
YOU’RE DRINKING DIET SODAS
It’s a logical assumption: Switching from a sugar-based soda to a non-sugar-based soda should help your health. While calorically speaking that might be true, diet sodas contain their own dangers and side effects, in a shocking study, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center monitored 475 adults for 10 years and found that the participants who drank diet soda saw a 70 percent increase in waist circumference compared with those who didn’t drink any soda. So much for the diet soda helps you get rid of belly fat!
That’s not all: The participants who drank more than two diet sodas a day suffered a 500 percent waist expansion. Yikes! The same researchers conducted a separate study on mice that indicates it might be the aspartame that causes the weight gain. Aspartame raises blood glucose levels to a point where the liver cannot handle it all, so the excess glucose is converted into fat.
Tip: Drink black tea instead, for a caffeine buzz without the weight gain.
YOU EAST MOSTLY WITH BIG GROUPS
When we eat with other people, we consume, on average, 44 percent more food than we do when dining alone. Research published in the journal Nutrition found that a meal eaten with one other person was 33 percent larger than a meal savored alone. It gets scarier from there. Third-wheeling with two friends? You’re looking at a 47 percent bigger meal. Dining with four, six, or 8+friends was associated with meal increases of 69,70 and 96 percent, respectively. Though part of this has to do with the amount of time we spend at the table when dining with company, another study from the journal Appetite found people who spent longer eating because they are simultaneously reading didn’t eat significantly more, meaning time isn’t the only factor at play here.
Tip: You can still hand out with your friends. Just vary the activity once in a while, and include short runs or walk-and-talks. You’ll save money and calories that are inflating your belly.
YOU FOLLOW A RESTRICTIVE DIET
If you’ve just hopped on the Paleo or low-carb bandwagon, proceed with caution! “Often diets that cut out entire food groups do not allow for the balance and moderation we need to follow a healthy, lifelong eating plan”, warns Zanini. “Plus dieters who follow these plans may be prone to potentially dangerous nutritional deficiencies. Or they may simply get bored with their restricted plan and end up overeating down the road”, warns Zanini.
Tip: You don’t have to go too hard too fast. If you’ve finally reached a weight loss plateau and haven’t lost any more belly fat, consider taking a break from your diet. According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity, dieters who took a two – week break from their low-calorie meal plan lost more weight than those who dieted consistently.
YOU EAT OFF LARGE PLATES
One Cornell study found that when given an option, a whopping 98.6 percent of obese individuals opt for larger plates. Translation: More food, more calories, and more belly fat.
Tip: Keep your portion in check by choosing smaller serving dishes. If need be, you can always go back for seconds.
YOU SCROLL THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA IN BED
Keeping you cell phone around and your TV on is only going to keep you up later and cause you to mindlessly eat while you stare at you screen. A study by Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that the light emitted from tech gadgets actually suppress melatonin production in the brain. This is the main sleep hormone for your body, so when you don’t have enough of it being produces you can suffer sleep complications. Plus, a study in Pediatric Obesity found students with access to one electronic device in their bedrooms were 1.47 times as likely to be overweight as those with no device in the bedroom. That increased to 2.57 times for kids with three devices.
Tips: Turn your bedroom into a no-technology zone and opt to read a book while in bed if you’d like to wind down before hitting the hay.
YOU DON’T EAT MINDFULLY
Be mindful about eating mindfully. The practice has ancient Buddhist roots. It is, in fact, a form of secular meditation, asking us to experience food more intensely, paying close attention to the sensation and purpose of each bite. Mindful eating is not a diet – and it doesn’t ask you to eat less – but the approach is gaining traction as a successful weight – loss mechanism. In fact, recent studies have shown that mindful eaters respond less to emotional stress, consume significantly fewer calories, and, perhaps most importantly, have an easier time maintaining a healthy BMI compared with those who are unaware, according to a PLOS One study.
Tip: To eat more mindfully to keep belly fat off your frame, chew slowly. Tune in to the texture, the smell, and the complexity of flavors. Keep chewing. Swallow. Take a sip of water. And for a few moments, resist the urge to take another bite. Continue this way throughout the course of a meal, and you’ll experience the pleasures and frustrations of mindful eating.
YOU’RE DISTRACTED WHILE EATING
‘We eat for many reasons, but the main prompt for mindful eating is physical hunger”, says registered dietitian nutritionist Leslie Schilling, MA, RDN. “It’s hard to be present if you’re eating at your desk, cyber-loafing, or watching television. When your mind is focusing besides your food, you don’t realize things like “Was the food actually good?” and “Am I getting full?’ this often leads to “do-over eating”, which isn’t so mindful. Eat with purpose and presence!” This distracted eating also leads to consuming more calories that turn straight to belly fat.
Tip: A University of Vermont study found that overweight participants who reduced their TV time by just 50 percent burned an additional 119 calories a day on average. “Minimize distractions as often as possible” says Schilling. In other words, that episode of Game of Thrones can be watched after dinner.
YOU’RE NOT SENSE-IBLE
The warm smell of cinnamon, the charred stripes on a grilled chicken breast, the crunch of apple…Experts say paying attention to the sensory details of food is a simple way to start eating mindfully and start dropping kilograms. In fact, a study in the journal Flavour found that participants who took time to appreciate the aroma of a meal ate significantly less of a dish that smelled strongly than a mildly scented one. A second study found that people served a monochromatic plate of food – like fettuccine Alfredo on a white plate – ate 22 percent more then those served a more visually appealing meal that provided more colour and contrast. Texture also comes into play. Researchers in Florida found that people tend to eat more of soft, smooth foods, which tend to be higher in fat, than hard, crisp ones. In one study, participants consumed more soft brownie bits than hard brownie bits until they were asked to focus on calorie content.
Tip: Just being mindful of how things like aroma, mouthfeel, and food presentation can influence how much we eat can help increase the satisfaction we get from a meal and also prevent overeating.
YOU EAT TOO QUICKLY
If your body has one major flaw, this is it: It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s had enough. A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that slow eaters took in 66 fewer calories per meal, but compared to their fast-eating peers, they felt like they had eaten more. What’s 66 calories, you ask? If you can do that at every meal, you’ll lose more than 20 kilograms a year!
YOU EAT WITHOUT DRINKING WATER
Adequate water intake is essential for all your body’s functions, and the more you drink, the better your chances of staving off belly fat. In one Virginia Tech study, dieting participants who were instructed to drink two cups of water before each meal lost 30 percent more weight than their thirsty peers. And you can magnify the effect by adding ice. German researchers found that six cups of cold water a day could prompt a metabolic boost that incinerates 50 daily calories. That’s enough to shed five kilograms a year!
YOU EAT WHEN YOU’RE EMOTIONAL
A Journal of the American Dietetic Association study found that emotional eaters those who admitted eating in response to emotional stress – were 13 times more likely to be overweight or obese. If you feel the urge to eat in response to stress, try chewing a piece of gum, chugging a glass of water, or taking a walk around the block. Create an automatic response that doesn’t involve food, and you’ll prevent yourself from overloading on calories.
Tip: “Eat mindfully with intention and attention”, says Michelle May, MD, founder of Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Programs. “Eat with the intention of feeling better when you’re finished eating than you did when you started, and eat with your full attention on the food and your body for optimal enjoyment and satisfaction”.
You Always Take The Elevator
Your office is on the fifth floor. You always take the elevator. Big mistake! Using the stairs burn 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. But that up to six, and you could drop 18 pounds without ever hitting the gym.
YOU SLEEP TOO MUCH
Unfortunately, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. While skimping on sleep is associated with weight gain, researchers at Wake Forest found that those who sleep more than eight hours a night packed on more on more belly fat, the dangerous kind that’s associated with heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
Tip: Shoot for an average of six to seven hours of sleep per night – the optimal amount for weight control. And burn calories overnight with these 30 things to do 30 minutes before bed to lose weight.
YOUR FFOD IS ON DISPLAY
Our homes are filled with hidden eating traps, and simply being aware of something as simple as the size of a bowl can influence how much you eat. For example, a study conducted at Google’s New York office found that placing M&Ms in opaque containers as opposed to glass ones and giving healthier snacks more prominent shelf space curbed candy consumption by 3.1 million calories in just seven weeks. So what does that mean for your weight? The lesson here is clear: Clear junk food off your countertops to start losing weight and to make better choices
Tip: Bottom line: It’s easier to change your environment than to change your mind. Employ simple strategies like removing junk food from your line of sight to keep belly fat off your frame.
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 percent of coffee consumers drink coffee with caloric add-ins (including sugar and creamers); out of those people, close to 16 percent of their daily caloric intake came from sipping on their coffee concoction. That 16 percent translates to an additional 70 calories a day more than non-coffee drinkers.
Tip: 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 stud. Stevia, which is now available at Starbucks (just ask if it isn’t out) was proven to help minimise spikes in blood glucose and insulin, according to a study in the journal Appetite.
YOU EAT DINNER LATE
Eating late in the evening is a great way to go up a couple of pant sizes. Research published in Obesity Society shows that eating dinner earlier in the day can help with weight loss because you have more time to burn off the calories. Remember that the next time you’re hankering for a slice of pizza late night.
YOU’RE ALWAYS BORED
According to a study published by Frontiers in Psychology, people have the tendency to eat when they’re bored.
YOU SLEEP WITH ALL THE COVERS ON
Adjusting the temperature in your room is a simple fix to a smaller pants size. According to research published in Cell Press, regular exposure to mild cold can actually boost weight loss. The researchers noted that a Japanese study found that participants who stayed in colder temperatures (around 62 degrees) for six weeks saw a significant decrease in body fat.
Tip: Make sure to turn your thermostat down and take off any extra blankets when the weather starts to get warm. Because your body temperature naturally falls when you begin to fall asleep, the colder room will help you sleep soundly and keep belly fat off your frame.
YOU BUY WHITE BREAD
Ask any diet expert what they think about fibre, 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.
YOU ALWAYS CELEBRATE WITH 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.”
YOU WATCH 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.
YOU LOVE TO 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!
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 percent of meals gathered from both large-chain and local restaurants in three cities contained on average 1,205 calories—nearly 60 percent of the FDA’s daily recommended intake of 2,000.
YOU’RE OD’ING ON PROTEIN
A high-protein, low-carb diet may help your extra pounds fly off initially, but it can actually cause weight gain in the long term, according to a recent Spanish study. Researchers had more than 7,000 participants fill out questionnaires about their eating habits over the course of six years. After analysing the data for commonalities, they found that those who ate high-protein diets had a 90 percent greater risk of gaining more than 10 percent of their body weight during the course of the study than those who ate less of the stuff. Yikes!
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.”
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 favours. And you’re not the only one doing this. According to research conducted by NPD group, roughly 62 percent of working American professionals dine “al-desko.” The issue is that you’re eating distractedly, which can cause you to consume up to 50 percent more calories than you intended, according to a 2013 review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
YOU ALWAYS THINK IT’S HUNGER
Your stomach makes some noise. You’re hungry, right? Maybe not. A study in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that 60 percent 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!”
YOU SKIP MEALS
In a 2011 national survey from the Calorie Control Council, 17 percent of Americans admitted to skipping meals to lose weight. The problem is, skipping meals actually increases your odds of obesity, especially when it comes to breakfast. A study from the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who cut out the morning meal were 4.5 times more likely to be obese. Why? Skipping meals slows your metabolism and boosts your hunger. That puts your body in prime belly fat-storage mode and increases your odds of overeating at the next meal.
YOU ORDER THE HEALTHIEST-SOUNDING MENU ITEM
If you think you’re doing yourself a favour 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 percent 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.
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.
YOU EAT THREE MEALS A DAY
Despite diet experts and new research constantly telling you otherwise, many people still consume the bulk of their calories in two or three large meals each day, often—in an attempt to slim down—going for hours at a time eating nothing in between. Sure, you can lose weight on a reduced-calorie three-meal plan, but you can’t make your body burn fat more efficiently, which is key to long-term weight loss.
YOUR DIET DEPENDS ON THE DAY
Allowing your cycle of good days and bad days to 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.
You Ignore Nutrition Advice
Good news here: By reading this, you’re already forming habits that can help you shed belly fat. When New Zealand researchers sent diet and exercise advice to 491 people, they found that the recipients began eating smarter and working more physical activity into their daily routines. Not surprisingly, the habits of the non-recipients didn’t budge.
YOU EAT ‘LOW-FAT’
It’s time to get fat—not around your waist, but on your plate. Stop buying foods marketed as low-fat or fat-free. Typically, they save you only a few calories, and, in doing so, they replace harmless fats with low-performing carbohydrates that digest quickly—causing a sugar rush and, immediately afterward, rebound hunger. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that meals that limited carbohydrates to 43 percent were more filling and had a milder effect on blood sugar than meals with 55 percent carbohydrates. That means you’ll store less belly fat and be less likely to eat more later.
YOU’RE NOT NUTS
The UCLA Center for Human Nutrition researchers divided study participants into two groups, each of which was fed a nearly identical low-cal diet for 12 weeks. The only difference between the groups was what they were given to eat as an afternoon snack. One group ate 220 calories of pretzels while the other group munched on 240 calories’ worth of pistachios. Just four weeks into the study, the pistachio group had reduced their BMI by a point, while the pretzel-eating group stayed the same, and their cholesterol and triglyceride levels showed improvements as well.
YOU SIT TOO MUCH
Ideally, we sleep about eight hours for every 24. Most people spend an extra seven to 10 hours sitting at their desk. That means most of us spend the overwhelming majority of our time sedentary. Our bodies weren’t designed for this level of inactivity. Most of human evolutionary history has involved being active, searching for food and fuel. Nutritionist Lisa Jubilee, MS, CDN says that one way to burn more calories daily is to stand more and sit less. She cites a British study that found that standing at work burned 50 more calories an hour than sitting. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider this: If you stand for just three hours every day, in one year you’ll expend more than 30,000 extra calories—which amounts to about 8 pounds of fat.
YOU DON’T PREGAME
Your dinner, that is. While it may sound counterintuitive, eating before going to a work dinner or happy hour can actually take off pounds. A series of studies out of Penn State found that noshing on an apple or a broth-based soup prior to sitting down to a restaurant meal can reduce total calorie intake by 20 percent. With the average restaurant meal weighing in at 1,128 calories, saving 20 percent once a day could help you lose up to 23 pounds this year.
You Never Step on the Scale
Abandon your habit of stepping on the scale completely, and research has shown your weight is likely to creep up. University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing researchers found that people who never weighed themselves or only stepped on a scale once a week did not lose weight in the following year. However, dieters who weighed themselves every day a week lost an average of 1.7 percent of their body weight in 12 months.
YOU’RE BREWING THE WRONG TEA
A steaming cup of tea is the perfect drink for soothing a sore throat, relaxing at night, or binge-watching your favourite TV show. But certain teas are also perfect for doing something else—helping you lose extra weight. Pu-erh tea, for example, can literally shrink the size of your fat cells! To discover the brew’s fat-crusading powers, Chinese researchers divided rats into five groups and fed them varying diets over a two-month period. In addition to a control group, there was a group given a high-fat diet with no tea supplementation and three groups that were fed a high-fat diet with varying doses of pu-erh tea extract. The researchers found that the tea significantly lowered triglyceride concentrations (potentially dangerous fat found in the blood) and belly fat in the high-fat diet groups. It’s a natural fat blaster, along with barberry, rooibos, and white tea.
YOU EAT FREE RESTAURANT FOOD
Breadsticks, biscuits, and chips and salsa may be complimentary at some restaurants, but that doesn’t mean you won’t pay for them. Every time you eat one of Olive Garden’s free breadsticks or Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits, you’re adding additional calories to your meal. Eat three over the course of dinner and that really starts to add up in calories. What’s worse, none of these calories comes paired with any redeeming nutritional value. Consider them junk food on steroids.
YOU ORDER THE COMBO MEAL
A study in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing shows that compared to ordering a la carte, you pick up a hundred or more extra calories by opting for the “combo” or “value meal.” Why? Because when you order items bundled together, you’re likely to buy more food than you want. You’re better off ordering your food piecemeal. That way you won’t be influenced by pricing schemes designed to hustle a few more cents out of your pocket or the extra calories you didn’t need to consume that are adding to your belly fat.
YOU LET OTHERS SERVE YOU
Whether it’s at a family dinner table or at a restaurant, when you don’t have control over how much food you put on your plate, science shows you’re more likely to eat more calories—putting you at a higher risk of developing belly fat. In fact, a study published in The Journal of Nutrition showed that when college students were given larger portions than what they served themselves, significantly greater amounts of food were consumed.
YOU’RE EATING OUT OF CANS
Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, can negatively impact fertility in both men and women and has also been been linked to obesity. Don’t believe it? The science doesn’t lie: A 2011 Harvard study found that adults with the highest concentration of BPA in their urine had significantly larger waists and chance of being obese than those in the lowest quartile. Another study by Harvard researchers published the same year pointed some blame at canned soup. The researchers found that subjects who consumed a serving of canned soup each day for five days had a 1,000 percent increase in urinary BPA concentrations compared with those who consumed fresh soup daily.
YOU’RE ALWAYS SCROLLING THROUGH INSTAGRAM
It’s actually a scientific fact that scrolling through delicious and perfectly arranged foods on your Instagram feed can actually lead to weight gain. Research published in the journal Brain and Cognition found that regular exposure to virtual foods might be exacerbating our physiological hunger way too frequently.