Here are the most common hidden triggers for weight gain.
- Boredom. Lots of people eat when they don’t have anything to do. You absentmindedly inhale a bag of chips while watching reruns and the pounds pack on fast. And, the constant assault of commercials for fast food and soda doesn’t help either. Solution: Turn off the TV and computer and engage in a hobby, go for a walk with a friend, or volunteer somewhere.
- Feeling sad, lonely, stressed. Emotional eating is the No.1 cause of overeating (and weight gain). You turn to food for comfort and consolation after a bad day, an argument with a friend or are feeling blue about life. The problem often lies in your hormones. When you’re under stress your body releases powerful hormones that intensely increase your cravings for comfort foods. These hormones block the effectiveness of insulin, compounding your hunger. They even send out chemical messengers telling your body to store fat. If that’s not bad enough, stress hormones also interfere with serotonin, causing you to feel blue. No wonder you’re battling the bulge and feeling bad about it too!
Solution: Take time out for yourself. Go for a walk, have lunch with a friend, have a spa day. For the moment, leave your worries behind and focus on what’s right with your life. Seek professional help if needed.
- Overscheduling. If you hit the ground running and don’t stop till you tumble into bed, when you do finally eat, you’re likely to overdo it because your body is starved and you don’t know when you’ll eat again.
Solution: Pack healthy snacks to take along with you, and consider a good multivitamin to supplement your hectic lifestyle.
- Low energy. When you’re feeling lethargic, it’s natural to turn to food to energize you. Unfortunately, that often means raiding the vending machine not reaching for an apple or orange.
Solution: Determine when you feel tired. Is it a 3PM slump or after dinner? Plan for it by having healthy snacks ready or going for a walk during this time. Sometimes taking a 10-minute break will put some pep in your step when you thought all your steam had run out.
- Lack of sleep. You should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night, but few of us do. With less sleep, your body gets out of whack and tends to store fat instead of burning it. In addition, lack of appropriate rest results in less energy to exercise and more late-night raiding of the fridge.
Solution: Practice good sleep hygiene by turning off electronics and tuning out the world at least an hour before bedtime. Whether a weekend or workday, stick to a strict schedule of bedtime and waking.
- Being overeager on the second helpings. Did you know it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that your tummy is full? Give your brain a chance to digest.
Solution: Eat slowly, chew slowly, savor the flavors and give your brain ample time to catch up with your stomach. Studies show that when women eat consciously and mindfully, their calorie consumption drops by over 40 percent!
- Portion size. Twenty years ago bagels were three inches in diameter with 140 calories. Today they’re 5-6 inches with 350 calories. Two slices of pizza used to be 500 calories, today they’re larger in size with a whopping 850 calories. Anymore it’s hard to know exactly what a “portion” really is as manufacturers have discovered that for Americans bigger size means a bigger value. Even plate sizes have increased from 10 to 12 inches over the last two decades. Unfortunately it also means expanded waistlines.
Solution: Be more mindful of what a “portion” is. For example, a piece of meat should be about the size of your palm, not your hand, with the thickness of a deck of cards. Simply swapping out your large dinner plate for a smaller one can shave up to 200 calories off every meal.
- Negative self-image. From looking at magazines and watching TV, you’d think the idea of a “perfect 10” is an anorexic body with large breasts, a tiny waist and slim hips. Fortunately, more celebrities are now coming forward to reveal what they really look like before make up and photo airbrushing. Real women come in all shapes and sizes.
Solution: Stay focused on what you like about your body, not perceived flaws. If you’re concerned about your weight, consider a nutritionist to help you determine a diet that’s right for you. For more serious body image issues, seek professional advice from a counselor or psychologist.
Recognizing your triggers is the first step to overcoming weight gain and preventing the pounds from adding up. Take control today! Fight weight gain!