6 Common Habits That Could Be Destroying Your Diet

Bad eating habits can sneak back into your life while you aren't looking. If you know the worst offenders and how to avoid them, you're less likely to be disappointed the next time you step on the scale.

Pretty lovers watching for television on a sofa at studio apartmentPhoto: Shutterstock / pixinoo

Losing weight is hard to do. Keeping it off is even harder because you can fall back into your old ways without even knowing it. Whether it’s dashing out the door without a healthy breakfast, snacking on chips while watching TV or stopping for fast food on the way home from work, it can make a big difference on the scale. Don’t let these bad eating habits edge back into your everyday routine and ruin your diet.

1. Skipping Breakfast

Skipping breakfast might seem like an easy way to cut calories, but studies show you’ll probably overeat at lunchtime. The American Heart Association even suggests that eating breakfast might help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

What to do instead: Breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate or take much time to prepare. It can be as simple as whole grain toast with peanut butter and a piece of fruit before you head out the door.

2. Emotional Eating

Cues for emotional eating hit us from all angles like commercials that tell us we “deserve” a chocolate bar after work or friends that show up at your door with a pint of ice cream after a bad break up.

What to do instead: If you’ve had a bad day, call a friend, write in a journal or try going for a walk instead of turning to food. Recognize stressful times for what they are and find healthier ways to let off steam.

3. Drinking Your Calories

When you decided to make healthier choices, skipping sweetened drinks was probably a no-brainer, but sometimes those cravings come back. Stick to your guns! Studies show we don’t get the same feeling of fullness when we drink calories compared to when we eat them. As a result, we add those calories to our day instead of using them to replace calories that we eat.

What to do instead: If you’re getting bored with plain water, try other non-calorie options. Infuse plain water with mint and berries, go for plain tea or coffee, or join the sparkling water revolution. After all, with flavors like orange cream, mango and Unicorn Kisses (yes, that’s an actual flavor), you’re bound to find a seltzer that you like.

4. Dining Out

You probably made a point to bring a lower-calorie lunch to work and skip the drive through on the way home when you started your diet. But when time gets tight, it’s easy to fall back into the old routine and grab something on the go. But, when a once-a-week splurge becomes routine, it’s time to take a step back.

What to do instead: Take healthier shortcuts. Buy pre-cut veggies and ready-to-eat packages of brown rice to save time making dinner. Cook a double batch so you can have leftovers at work the next day. Try a meal of “snacky” foods that don’t need much prep like yogurt, fresh fruit, whole grain crackers and veggie with hummus.

5. Mindless Eating

Do crave soda and chips during long car rides as a way to pass the time or maybe you get the munchies when watching TV? Brian Wansink, a leading researcher in mindless eating, described watching TV as a “triple threat” because people who watch a lot of TV tend to eat more, exercise less and weigh more. One of his studies showed people who watched 60 minutes of TV ate 28% more than those that watched just 30 minutes.

What to do instead: First, recognize what’s going on: You’re eating just to eat, not because you’re hungry. If TV time is your trigger, find something else to do while you watch your favorite shows like flipping through a magazine or painting your nails (wet nail polish + popcorn = bad manicure). If that doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to consider less TV time (gasp!).

6. All-or-Nothing Thinking

Finding balance is the only way to succeed with long-term weight loss and healthy eating goals. Just because you had an unplanned piece of totally-worth-it birthday cake at the office doesn’t mean you get a free pass for the rest of the day.

What to do instead: Don’t allow yourself to negotiate “days off” because you’ve splurged. All foods can fit, even cake at the office.

Like they say, old habits die hard and that’s true for bad eating habits, too. It’s important to step back once in a while to see if you’re old ways are sneaking back into your life. But, remember, healthy eating is about making nutritious choices most of the time, but not all of the time. So, go ahead and eat the birthday cake at the office, then make an easy wholesome dinner when you get home.

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Peggy Woodward, RDN
Peggy is a Senior Food Editor for Taste of Home. In addition to curating recipes, she writes articles, develops recipes and is our in-house nutrition expert. She studied dietetics at the University of Illinois and completed post-graduate studies at the Medical University of South Carolina to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Peggy has more than 20 years of experience in the industry. She’s a mom, a foodie and enjoys being active in her rural Wisconsin community.