You work out regularly and watch what you eat. So why do you have to lie down to button your pants? Research suggests that the things around you, from the temperature of your house to the style of your candy dish, may be setting you up to overindulge. It seems a bit unfair to have your diet sabotaged by an unknown adversary — but take heart. If you identify the external forces that may be influencing what you buy and eat, you can avoid the pitfalls. Here’s how to spot — and sidestep — several common diet traps that mess with your appetite.
Diet trap: Eating slowly
Mom has been telling you for years to stop shoveling in your food, and you know that this bad habit makes you consume more calories. But leisurely eating can also backfire. The longer you sit at the table, the likelier you may be to reach for a third glass of wine or dinner roll. If you’re having a leisurely meal with company, sip water instead of continuing to nibble.
Diet trap: Low-fat labels
When a food — even chips or cookies — is labeled “low-fat,” we may think it’s healthy and go overboard. Take a look at the serving size, and portion that amount into baggies. By preparing your own 100-calorie packs of baked chips and whole-grain crackers, you’ll save money while learning what a serving size actually looks like.
Diet trap: Meals in front of the TV
Fess up: How many times this week did you dine under the influence of TV? Distracted munching often leads to extra calories, as you may lose track of how much you’re eating. Turn off the tube to enjoy your food fully — or tape your favorite shows and watch them as a virtual “dessert” after you’ve finished dinner.
Diet trap: Mouthwatering aromas
Can’t muster the willpower to keep walking past the bakery once you get a whiff? Simply smelling a food may increase appetite and possibly result in your eating more if you do indulge. Distract yourself so you won’t follow your nose. Check voicemail or send a few texts when you walk past the cafe, and you may find the craving passes you by.
Diet trap: Family-style dinners
A serving bowl of fluffy mashed potatoes on the table is just begging you to take a second (or third) helping. Portion out one serving in the kitchen and leave the rest on the counter. Better yet, put the leftovers in the freezer immediately after serving to decrease temptation. The same is true for wine — leave the bottle in the kitchen.
Diet trap: Group outings
You may be more likely to consume more in the company of friends, as the celebratory atmosphere means you’re more likely to let your dietary guard down. Practice crowd control by sitting next to the smartest eater, sharing with her or reaching for the same foods she does.
Diet trap: In-your-face goodies
If candy is in a clear container rather than an opaque one, we may eat almost twice as much, research shows. Keep treats under cover. Banish a tempting block of cheese to the bottom of the fridge, and keep treats out of sight so you’re less tempted to reach for them.
(Fitness is fuel for women who are serious about being healthy and staying strong. Online at www.fitnessmagazine.com.)