Five ways you're unknowingly sabotaging your diet

Find out if these common habits are standing between you and your weight loss efforts.

Woman eating lunch at her desk, chinese food

(Photo Masterfile)

Stop committing these acts of sabotage when it comes to finally achieving your fat-loss goals. Use these tips to eat more mindfully and speed up your efforts — just in time for the new year:

1. Eating lunch at your desk
While it may help you meet your deadline, it certainly won’t help you reach your personal goals. By avoiding any distractions while working you also won’t be connected to your true hunger cues.

A 2011 study split participants into two groups. The first group ate a nine-item lunch while playing solitaire on the computer, while the other group was free from all distractions (while eating the same amount of food). The card players were less full after lunch and ate significantly more. They also had difficulty recalling what or how much they ate.

Bottom line: This study shows us why it’s so important to take your time to enjoy your lunch and save the distractions for later.

2. Bumping up the heat as it gets colder
Chances are you’ve turned up the heat as the weather’s gotten colder. The problem with keeping your room too warm is it will also increase your appetite. In the winter, when we’re exposed to less sunlight and cooler temperatures, our serotonin levels naturally decrease and eventually seasonal depression sets in. When we feel cold or depressed, we experience cravings for carbs to compensate for both the dropping temperature and a decline in this “happy hormone.” Shivering expends calories, and indoor heating can put the brakes on that. When you turn down your thermostat it forces the body to generate more body heat, therefore burning more calories.

Bottom line: I recommend getting outside during the day to expose yourself to light and using a portable light therapy device, such as YumaLite, for 20 minutes each morning upon rising. This jump in serotonin will keep your appetite in check and your waistline from expanding.

3. Eating too late in the day
If you don’t prep your food and ensure you’re eating enough protein, fat and carbs every three to fours hours during the day then you’ll likely find yourself munching late at night.

This undermines your diet two-fold because along with blunting the fat-burning hormones normally released during deep sleep — growth hormone and melatonin — your body is also focusing on digesting instead of cooling down and preparing for your slumber.

Bottom line: Be wary. Night eaters are much more likely to suffer from depression, low self-esteem and insomnia. Night eaters wake up on average 10 to12 times more often than a control group without the condition (average 3.6 times per night, compared with 0.3 times nightly in non-affected individuals).

4. Not going to the grocery store with a list
The old adage, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail, rings true when it comes to grocery shopping. A little hunger en route to the grocery store may just cause your cart to fill up with snacks that don’t belong on your list (or in your kitchen).

Researchers from Cornell University found that people who hadn’t eaten all afternoon chose more high-calorie foods in a simulated supermarket than those who were given a snack just before online food shopping. The study found that the hungry participants purchased six higher-calorie items versus just four in the group that was satiated.

Bottom line: Have a smoothie or protein bar if you’re in a rush and ensure you bring your healthy food list with you (and stick to only that!).

5. Snacking while you watch
Similar to eating at your desk, eating while you’re watching a movie (or TV) means you’re less likely to notice how much you’re eating.

A Dutch study published this year found that people eating or drinking while distracted reached for sweeter and saltier foods in order to satisfy their appetite. If you’re concentrating, a sweet or sour dish may hit the spot when the same meal can fail to entice your taste buds when your attention is divided.

Bottom line: Remember that the process of getting and feeling full begins the moment you take the first bite.  Think of it as talking on the cellphone while driving – certainly not permitted and for good reason. When it comes to meal time, keep multi-tasking to a minimum for maximum results.

Natasha Turner, N.D., is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She’s also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique and a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.