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April 29, 2015 4 min read

There are lots of things we do, often without even know it, that are preventing us from dropping fat. One way to correct this to change the six eating habits listed below. But one small caution, don't try to change them all at once. Recent studies have shown that we only have so much willpower which is why breaking several bad habits at one time can be overwhelming. "Target just one or two behaviors at first—ones that you can make the most difference by changing," says Jennifer McDaniel, R.D., of St. Louis University. Take a slow and steady approach and you will find yourself sculpting a thinner, fitter physique in a way that is sustainable for a lifetime. Ready to start your change? Let's go:

Skipping meals or snacks

Not eating can screw with your body's ability to control appetite. It can also screw with your willpower. Not good. Because your brain runs on glucose, skipping meals means it doesn't have the fuel to avoid us pigging out later on. Your brain is starving. Break it: Spread your calories out into three meals of about 500 calories each, and two snacks of 100 to 200 calories each, says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of California at Davis. More importantly, change your mindset. Tell yourself you are starting a new eating routine as opposed to restricting yourself. Restricting easily leads to overeating. LPRkiVIOHMsrqX4k3BGFng8CKJttfYdWXeHx4_LM4iI

Speed eating

Take a more mindful approach. You aren't denying food, you are just eating it more slowly. Savour it. Allow your body time to tell you when it is full. In an experiment published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 17 healthy men ate 11/4 cups of ice cream. They either scarfed it in 5 minutes or took half an hour to savor it. According to study author Alexander Kokkinos, M.D., Ph.D., levels of fullness-causing hormones (called PYY and GLP-1), which signal the brain to stop eating, were higher among the 30-minute men. In real life, the scarfers wouldn't feel as full and could be moving on to another course. Break it: Slow down and enjoy your food, says Dr. Kokkinos. Put away the newspaper, turn off the television. Listen to your body, it is trying to tell you something so give it a chance. Try this trick from The Yoga Body Diet: Inhale while counting slowly to five; exhale and count slowly to five; repeat three to five times before eating. A study in a 2009 issue of Journal of the American Dietetic Association shows that yoga increases mindful eating and results in less weight gain over time.

Pigging out on weekends

We've all been guilty of this at one time or another. Weekends are not free for alls. In a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers used rats to examine the effects of palmitic acid on leptin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite. Palmitic acid is found in saturated fat, which is usually in high doses in your weekend chow fests. "We found that within 3 days, the saturated fat blunts or blocks the ability of leptin to regulate food intake and body weight," says study author Deborah Clegg, Ph.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern medical center. This means that a weekend of eating fries, burgers and whatever you can get your hands on, primes your brain to overeat on Monday. Break it: McDaniel suggests that your reward for a healthy week should be one cheat meal, not an entire weekend of them. Remember, having an all you can eat weekend is like the same as eating poorly for 30% of your week. You're only being healthy for 70% of the time. That is not enough. -xPE3cFGPP_mvhgKdwjxIbnR3Kjc-3wQZCF-S37Ekm4

Gorging on salty snacks

Sodium is insidious. It causes us to eat without even thinking. And, it adds up fast. Break it: Salt cravings go away after a couple of weeks on a reduced-salt diet, says Thomas Moore, M.D., an associate provost at Boston University medical center. Not many of us can replace our favourite salty snacks with celery or carrots but it is worth a shot. The crunch may be what you're craving. Or you can try small amounts of low sodium chips or pretzels. When you're preparing dinner, skip the salt and add it at the table instead (if you need it at all). "Salt added to the surface of a food item is far more noticeable than the same amount of salt cooked into a recipe," says Dr. Moore. A slow reduction of your salt habit pays off in fewer cravings, he says.

Drinking

Write down the number of alcoholic beverages you have in the course of a week. It might surprise you. Then, total the calories. Another shocker. A reasonable-sounding two beers a night can mean more than 2,000 calories a week—almost an extra day's worth. It can take more than 2 hours of running to burn that off. Besides the empty calories, booze undermines your willpower, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Which can lead to impulse food orders like fries or nachos. Break it: try quitting for just one week. See how you feel and how your clothes fit. When you do drink, switch to lower-carb dry red wine (about 4 grams of carbohydrates compared with almost 13 in a regular beer) or low-carb beer.

Eating in front of the TV, then dozing off

This is a trap many of us have fallen into, I'm sure. You are taking in calories (while burning none) and sabotage your secret weightloss weapon: sleep. Research has found that people who eat in front of the tube consume more calories (nearly 300, in one study) than those who don't, and that the more TV they watch, the less active they are. And University of Chicago researchers found that people who lost 3 hours of sleep ate about 200 more calories the next day in snacks than those who slept 81/2 hours. Break it:  Donald Hensrud, M.D., medical editor-in-chief ofThe Mayo Clinic Diet, says, "If you want to watch TV, be active at the same time or go work out and come back—then you can treat yourself with some TV." Use your DVR so you can get to bed on time. Sleep is a habit worth keeping if you do it right! Time to spill it! Are you guilty of any or all of these mistakes? Where will you start your corrections?

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