Breaking Bad Habits That Lead to Obesity

By Melody Foster

Your health is a direct reflection of your habits—the choices you make day in and day out. To hit the drive-thru or cook a health meal at home. To skip your workout or make time for exercise. To stay up late watching your favorite show, or go to bed early so you get enough sleep.

It’s not easy breaking bad habits, but it is necessary, especially if those habits are causing you to gain weight. Obesity has become a dangerous epidemic in America. More than two-thirds of adults are considered to be overweight or obese and more than one in 20 have extreme obesity. Reversing this dangerous trend means making daily choices to live a healthy lifestyle and breaking the habits that lead to obesity.

Recognizing bad habits is the first step to breaking them. Here are some tips to help you break bad habits that lead to obesity:

Spend less time in front of the screen. Whether it’s the TV or your computer or tablet, screen time could be leading to your weight gain. Researchers at the Milken Institute in California found a direct link between increased technology usage and a spike in obesity rates. The more time you spend in front of a screen, the less time you’re spending being active. Limit your technology usage and you’ll reduce your risk of becoming obese. While you’re watching your favorite show, be active. Try a bodyweight circuit during commercials. If you must be in front of the computer for work, get up and move every 20 minutes to keep your metabolic engine running.

Avoid mindless eating. Make your meals and snacks purposeful. If you sit down on the couch with a bag of chips and flip on the TV, you’re likely to consume much more than the recommended serving size, without even realizing you’re eating too much. Sit down at the table for meals, and if you do want a snack while watching your favorite show in the evening, grab an appropriate portion of a healthy snack, rather than taking the whole bag with you.

Get more sleep. Ever noticed that you are more hungry or crave unhealthy foods when you’re sleepy? Lack of sleep decreases secretion of the hormone cortisol, which helps regulate appetite. Sleep loss also increases fat storage in your body. On the flip side, too much sleep can also lead to weight gain. Adults should be getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Get into a routine of going to bed at the same time each night, and power down electronics about an hour before bedtime to help your mind relax for a good night’s rest.

Skip the after dinner treat. Late night snacking is big when it comes to weight gain, and it’s no secret that after dinner treats are often sweet. Rather than that bowl of ice cream, sip a sparkling water or make a cup of hot tea. Make a rule in your home that when dinner is over, the kitchen is closed.

Watch those “empty” calories. Beer, liquor, wine, sodas and even your favorite Starbucks drink are packed with calories that can quickly add up. Calories in drinks are considered “empty” because they don’t satisfy hunger. Skip sugary drinks altogether and stick to sparkling water; toss in some fresh fruit for a little extra flavor. Consume alcohol and coffee drinks in moderation to avoid backing on that extra belly fat.

Don’t skip breakfast. Even if breakfast isn’t your favorite meal of the day, it’s important to eat something to jumpstart your metabolism for the day. Quick and healthy breakfast choices include whole-grain cereal and fresh fruit. If mornings are a blur in your house, take some time to prepare a breakfast casserole with eggs (leave out the bread) on Sunday night and you’ll have it to enjoy all week long.

Manage your portions. Your mom may have taught you to clean your plate at dinner, but the truth is, we should stop eating when we begin to feel full. Portions have become out of control. Reduce your portion size by using a smaller plate, and don’t feel the pressure to clean your plate if you you’re feeling full.

About the Author

Melody Foster is a Dallas-based freelance writer and contributing author to the Nicholson Clinic blog. Melody researches and creates content for clients in industries ranging from health care, fitness and nutrition to interior decorating, legal and social good.