Big Bad Habits (Bad Habits That Can Make You Fat)

Everybody does it.
That’s right. Everyone.
No one is excluded here.

What am I talking about? Bad habits. We all have them. We all fall victim to them. Whether they are considered a typical vice or not, everyone has partaken in a bad habit or two. Some people more than others. Some people are actually addicted to bad habits. Unhealthy activities can help people simplify their lives and cope better in the short term. Every other thing they do may be considered bad or unhealthy. At the same time, there are others who are more aware of what is considered “bad.” They avoid these so called “bad” activities or actions for the most part. But still, even these individuals sometimes break the rules. Sometimes being perfect all the time just doesn’t work.

I know this. Perfection might be what some of us pursue, but it’s not attainable.

So where does that leave us?

Well, it depends on what boat you’re in. If you are one of the people who indulge every whim and never think of the negative consequences, then the main idea is to start to get a grasp of what those things are, and how to start limiting them. By the same token, if you are pretty good at keeping yourself on the straight and narrow then the idea is to stay that way. The key for both groups is to realize that we all have tough days or stress or things we want to eat or things we want to do that may not be great for us. Just being more aware of our overall lifestyle is the first step. Becoming more in tune with what we need to do to change is the second. Ultimately though, don’t beat yourself up if there are things you need to work on. Change comes better when you coax it – not when you force it.

A lot of times when we are trying to make changes we look for things that we can start doing that will help us. In this post I wanted to throw out a few things that a lot of people already do that hurt them. The key then of course is to try to limit these activities. Case in point: if you are already smoking cigarettes, well, the key is to quit. ( I know, easier said than done) Don’t think that since you’ve been wanting to take up drinking Green Tea that you will start that and not bother kicking the nicotine habit. Cigarettes will kill you faster than Green Tea will save you. Quit the cancer sticks and than think about increasing your antioxidants – not the other way around.

Makes sense, right?

Here are a few big little bad habits:

The After Work Veg Fest
Who hasn’t done this? I know I have. It’s to easy to do – that is the problem. You get home, throw your stuff on the table and then you see the couch. It beckons to you. It calls out your name. Once you flick on the TV, you’re doomed. If you don’t find something you like immediately, well, it’s a lot easier to stay on the couch and channel surf than it is to do just about anything else. And when you’re tired, you’ll put up with a lot more re runs than when you’re bright eyed and bushy tailed. Chilling in front of the TV every now and then is ok, but the science is there. Do it too much and you increase your risk of putting on weight, suffering heart disease, etc. So remember, limit the tube time each day, or risk getting soft in the cage.

The (not so) Happy Hour
I’ve always wondered why people love happy hour so much. It’s pretty simple though. For them, it’s a stress reliever, a way to relax. Other people prefer a more natural antidote for stress: working out. Everyone has their own preferred form of stress relief. And that’s ok. What’s not OK is when the drinking gets to be too much. Anything beyond 1 – 2 drinks per day is considered unhealthy. Not only will consuming copious amounts of booze increase your total calories consumed for the day, but it will also contribute to a host of other mortality risks such as heart disease and cancer. Definitely not two fellas that you want to have around. Another thing to keep in mind: if you are literally only drinking for a one hour period but are consuming more than 2 drinks you are getting drunk. Plain and simple. Doesn’t matter if you were the Beer Bong champ in college, the alcohol will hit you hard. To top it off, if you aren’t hitting the bar, but instead slamming beers on the couch in front of the tube after work, not only will the drinking increase the amount of time you stay zonked out in front of the tube, but the act of watching TV itself while drinking will make you drink more. Ouch.

Pop and Smokes
I don’t actually call soda “pop.” I don’t call cigarettes “smokes.” And really it doesn’t matter because I don’t talk about either very much because I avoid both like the plague. But for some people it’s not so easy. If you’ve been making these two items part of your daily ritual for any extended period then it’s very tough to quit. While cigarettes won’t exactly make you fat themselves, they will affect your metabolism. While most people think this is a good thing ( and that it will zap their appetite so they will eat less) it’s just not the case. While not eating will cause you to lose weight, it won’t help with body composition. Losing fat and muscle is what happens when you don’t eat. And the result is that you are thin, but have little muscle definition – also called being “skinny fat.” Not a good thing. And if that doesn’t sell you, think about this. Out of the people that smoke who supposedly do take in enough calories, how many of them take in good calories? The number is small. If you’re not concerned about the cancer risk (and other risks) from smoking, then you probably aren’t very concerned about what else you put into your body.

Which brings us to soda. I can’t think of a more common combination then diet coke and cigarettes. At least among women, this seems to be practically cliche. I’m sure they make a nice pair. Honestly. The boost you get from a little caffeine and sugar, combined with the stimulation from nicotine is nothing to scoff at. (another example is coffee and cigarettes) It’s a powerful one-two-punch. Again, part of the reason it’s a hard habit to kick. So what’s the solution? Well, if you can kick cigarettes, than you can kick soda. And although diet coke might be low in calories, it’s still probably flooding your system with undue amounts of sugar. Consuming anything that is high in sugar tends to spike insulin levels. After insulin levels spike, they tend to come crashing down below where they were before. What does this do? It puts you in a vicious cycle where you are constantly trying to spike your low blood sugar all day. It makes you consume one soda after the next and it never really does your body any benefit. Basically it wreaks havoc on your metabolism. Not ideal for weight loss. Not ideal for maintaining muscle. And not ideal for your overall health.

Carbs Before Bed
Oh man. Cue the Jaws theme music. Here comes the hurricane. We’re talking about carbs here. What could be worse, right?

Well, really, I’m exaggerating – they’re not that bad. In fact, we need them. Even though the media demonizes carbs one month and then relents shortly after, they do have a place in our diet. And, while people disagree on how much we need or what type we may need, I’m not going to talk about that right now. What I want to focus on is why you shouldn’t eat them before bedtime. And why that can habit can make you fat.

The key to kicking carbs at night is in realizing just how bad it is to consume them at that time. And understanding why they’re bad isn’t the tough part. What’s hard is reminding yourself how much damage that cornbread will do to if you eat it late at night. When faced with a delicious bundle of bread or pasta, it takes a lot of will power to turn and walk away.

But here’s what you need to know. Carbs are energy. Plain and simple. When you consume them, they are either utilized for energy right then and there, or they are stored as fat. While carbs do get shuttled into some other areas of your body, they are a huge contributor to body fat. So, let’s imagine this scenario. You shuffle through the fridge late at night after feeling a few hunger pangs. Now, although you may say that you are starving, you really aren’t. Not even close. In fact, maybe your body fat levels are about average. Maybe they’re higher. The point though, is that you aren’t a skeleton and you do have some meat on your bones.

Could you go to sleep and wait until the morning to eat? Sure. Do you want to? No. Now, if you aren’t trying to lose weight, then it isn’t as crucial to avoid carbs at night. While they won’t have the best effect on your metabolism at that point in the day, it matters more if you are trying to lose weight. From personal experience I’ve know tons of people who do everything right in order to lose weight. They workout. They eat relatively well during the day. But then at night, they load up on carbs. While sometimes it can become a compulsion or a way for some people to cope emotionally, it’s not the way to go.

Not Bringing a Healthy Snack while Shopping
This is a tough one. What I really mean is that once you get yourself into the situation, it’s hard to find your way out. But if you plan ahead, the solution is simple. But some of you must be wondering what exactly I’m referring to. I mean not bringing a snack while shopping couldn’t be that bad, right? I mean, what is wrong with that?

Here’s the problem. Well, there are two problems actually.

Number one: You go out and do your normal shopping on the weekend. You almost always stay out for three or four hours at a time. And it’s the weekend, so you might think that you can slack off a little bit with your eating habits. But if you’re trying to lose weight, or stay lean, managing your bad habits all the time is crucial. So what is problem one? Not eating. That’s right. If you are trying to lose weight and keep blood sugar levels relatively stable throughout the day to allow you to do so, than you can’t go for hours without eating. This is actually bad for your weight loss goals. Reducing the overall number of calories you consume is one thing. Starving yourself and not giving yourself a chance to consume the calories you do need is totally different. What’s worse is that it can lead to problem number two…

Number two: You haven’t brought a snack with you and now you are hungry. You can either:

a. Decide to continue to “starve” yourself, thus slowing down your metabolism and making you more prone to make bad food choices when you do get a chance to eat or:

b. Look around for a place that serves healthy faire. Only problem with this option is that there aren’t a lot of places that are healthy. Most places that would allow you to make healthier selections tend to either take longer to dine at or cost more. Two things that a lot of Americans like to avoid – especially while shopping. Out of the dozen or so “fast food” places that I can think of, only one that could be viewed as at all healthy comes to mind. Subway. So, if you can’t depend on finding one of those and sticking with one of their low fat choices, pack a snack when you head out for the day. Or, at least do some research and find the scant few healthy options at other places.

Grocery Shopping while Hungry
This is a crime that I will admit to having committed. And that’s why I know it’s bad. Going grocery shopping while hungry has two major drawbacks. For one, you end up spending more money buying foods you don’t need. Secondly, the foods that you don’t need tend to be just that – foods you don’t need in your diet. I’m not talking about extra bananas here. A monkey might grab a couple extra of the yellow fruit when hungry, but us humans, well, we have a more complex palette. We tend to buy things that we typically wouldn’t buy and thus eat foods we typically wouldn’t eat when we go grocery shopping while hungry. If you’re trying to lose weight or avoid putting it on, don’t go grocery shopping while hungry.

So there you have it, a few bad habits that can hurt your weight loss goals. Don’t be afraid to make some changes if it’s what you need!