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The truth about your eating habits

Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Mandy recently moved to Flagstaff to pursue a career in pediatric nursing. She attends Northern Arizona University and spends most of her free time with friends and family, hiking, running, and studying...

watch the clock

Dieting is hard. Do you ever feel like all that exercise and calorie counting just isn’t cutting it? The solution may be simpler than you think. The timing of meal consumption can actually play a significant role in weight loss.
Don’t just watch calories...
Woman raiding fridge at night

You just got home from a long, hard day. Maybe your boss yelled at you or you got in a fight with your significant other. Now, all you want to do is unwind.

With a pantry full of cookies and chips, and a freezer with cookie dough ice cream, temptation is everywhere. Before you crack open that bag or pop that lid, take some time to learn about what your eating habits could be doing to your health.

Skipping breakfast

Remember when your mother told you how important it was to eat your Lucky Charms and drink orange juice every morning? Well, turns out she was on to something. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who skip breakfast are more likely to become obese, which can lead to other health problems including diabetes mellitus and coronary heart disease.

Still not convinced? Registered dietitian Katherine Zeratsky explains that eating breakfast may reduce your hunger later in the day, which may make it easier to avoid overeating. Skipping breakfast can make you feel especially hungry throughout the day, and bingeing may result. Eating first thing in the morning is also a great way to get your metabolism going. Without this signal, your body will try to conserve energy and you will burn fewer calories throughout the day.

I don’t know about you, but I will definitely be reaching for the oatmeal and juice in the morning.

Woman eating breakfast

Tip: If you are not used to eating breakfast, there are a few easy ways to develop the habit:
  • Make sure to give yourself enough time in the morning to prepare and enjoy a healthy meal. Many people say they skip breakfast because they are too rushed in the morning. Try setting your alarm about 15 minutes early.
  • Surround yourself with tasty options. Don’t buy yogurt if you’re not a fan of sour cream.
  • Get your blood pumping before breakfast. A bit of exercise can do wonders for your appetite.

Skipping dinner

Well, if it’s bad to skip breakfast, avoiding dinner can’t be good either, right? Actually, the answer may surprise you. Studies conducted by researchers at Tel Aviv University have concluded that a "high-calorie breakfast with reduced intake at dinner is beneficial and might be a useful alternative for the management of obesity and metabolic syndrome." The study concluded that eating a large breakfast, an average lunch and eating a small dinner or skipping it altogether may result in weight loss and a decrease in waist circumference.

So how does it work? Getting all your calories in well before bedtime gives your body plenty of time to start digesting while you are still active. In addition, a lot of people benefit from focusing on eating only two main meals per day, because it prevents grazing. Allowing yourself to snack all day, even if somewhat healthy options are chosen, usually results in a higher overall daily caloric intake.

Quick and easy dinner recipes >>

Woman eating wrap

What to do:

  • Plan your meals ahead of time. To successfully eat only two main meals per day, they must be packed with nutrients.
  • Don’t overlook fiber. Foods high in fiber, such as bran cereal, oatmeal and beans, will make you feel fuller longer, so you are less likely to be tempted by random snacking.
  • Make sure to get plenty of protein. This is the nutrient responsible for all the building and repairing that constantly goes on in your body.

Midnight snacks

Why are sweets oh so much sweeter after dark? Whatever the reason, we’ve all been tempted by late-night snacks. Unfortunately, the disadvantages to this one are endless. Not only can the obvious weight gain result, but giving in to the late-night munchies can also cause heartburn, insomnia and loss of motivation. In addition, the snacks we choose to eat in the middle of the night normally don’t include carrots and broccoli. Snacking after dark is an easy way to add an extra 500 to 700 calories to your day.

Nutrition specialist Shereen Jegtvig says that "night-eating syndrome patients tend to also suffer from depression, low self-esteem and obesity.” The loss of motivation may stem from a feeling of guilt that accompanies the late-night eating, which is often characterized by overeating. Overall, it is best to stop eating at least an hour before bed.

Curb late-night eating

It is important to determine the cause of late-night eating and direct the solution accordingly. Often, late-night eating is a result of boredom or stress. If this is the case, the solution can actually be fairly simple. Developing hobbies, such as knitting or playing sudoku, can be a stimulating way to curb those cravings and relieve any tension from the day at the same time. Another way to break the habit is to fill your last meal of the day with fiber; this should make you feel fuller and less tempted to eat.

Just one more bite

Tbrownieshis is a tricky one, and we are all guilty of it. You see that office birthday cake in the break room and tell yourself you will have only one sliver. Well, pretty soon that one sliver turns into half the cake. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the areas in the brain triggered when we eat certain foods are similar to those stimulated by addictive drugs. So although willpower definitely has a lot to do with overeating, physiology is partly to blame.

The foods we usually overeat are normally not so good for you. It is usually the sugar or salt that drives you to those extra bites. Unfortunately, this is a sure-fire way to add lots of calories to your day and a serious increase to that number on the scale. By continually eating uncontrolled portions, we are usually not even aware of this food intake overdose. Reviewing serving sizes and not eating directly from the bag are two great ways to combat this eating habit.

How to avoid overeating

A great way to avoid eating more than anticipated is to remember how you felt last time you binged. After you eat an appropriate amount, take a minute to decide if that one more bite is really worth it, and recognize that one more bite is often not just one more bite.

Remember, although it is important to monitor your eating habits the majority of the time, it is perfectly OK to splurge every now and then. A little indulgence is actually a great way to keep you on track.

See you at breakfast!

More on eating habits

6 Reasons you can’t win in the healthy eating game
Is it OK for kids to have dessert every day?
Why a big breakfast can boost fertility

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