Big fridges, cranking the heater and loud music are just some of the unexpected hazards that could be wreaking havoc on your waistline.
When you’re making healthier choices and getting your 10,000 steps (most days) but those pesky scales still refuse to budge, it can be disheartening. Dietitian Melanie McGrice says when it comes to healthy eating, little things definitely add up – and it’s not always what you “eat”.
“One of the other most common sabotages is liquid calories,” says Melanie. “Drinking juices, vitamin waters, coffees containing syrups, alcohol and soft drinks significantly increases our kilojoule intake without helping us to feel full.”
And who you’re with might be a problem too. “Research shows that we tend to eat what our friends eat. So, by spending time with people who don’t eat healthily means that we’re less likely to eat healthily.”
Here are 5 more not-so-obvious ways you might be hindering weight loss – and how to tackle them.
1. Beware the big fridge
We love our stainless steel appliances with modern features but there are consequences to having all that extra space. A study by Brian Wansink, a professor of nutritional science and consumer behaviour at Cornell, found families with more food in the house eat more food. “In general, the larger the refrigerator, the more we tend to keep in it,” Wansink explains. “And the more food options there are, the more likely something is to catch your eye as being tasty.” Further adding ahem, weight, to his theory, is his second study: when asked to prepare meals from their refrigerators, owners of a big fridge made larger meals than those with smaller refrigerators. He particularly recommends steering clear of side-by-side models. “With these you tend to open both doors at once, looking for something to eat,” he said. “And since foods in the freezer side tend to be less healthy – ice cream and the like – you’re more likely to make a bad choice.”
2: Lost in music
A new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science reports the louder the music played in food outlets, the unhealthier our food choices. Which may explain why it’s actually impossible to resist the burgers in that super-cool hipster hangout pumping out AC/DC. Results of three experiments showed that low volume ambient music nudges consumers towards more healthful food choices.
3. Size is everything
As our tableware’s got bigger, so have our portions. Think quality over quantity: swapping side plates for main courses and cereal bowls for pasta. Wine glasses have also increased in size from a capacity of 65ml 300 years ago to 450ml today – which adds significantly to our kilojoule intake if you enjoy a tipple at the end of the day. “An extra 500 kJ from that extra pre-dinner glass of wine may not seem like much, but when you add those 500 kJ by seven nights per week, 52 weeks per year, over 10 years…all of a sudden we’re talking about 260,0000 kJ!” Melanie explains. While Theresa Marteau, director of the behaviour and health research unit at Cambridge University says smaller tableware would “reduce how much we consume by up to 16 per cent in adults per day”.
4. Telly vs Belly
Mindful eating is a thing – for good reason. It’s just too easy to overeat when your focus is on the TV or tablet, rather than what’s going into your mouth. Not to mention the added temptation TV brings - one study found people who watched a cooking program while snacking ate 34 per cent more than those tuning into a nature show. We’re not suggesting rationing Nigella, but you could try adding shows to your IQ planner to eat outside trigger times or consuming a protein-rich healthy snack before switching on. “When we eat in front of the TV, we often hoover down our meal, instead of slowly enjoying it, and we ignore the messages of our appetite hormones telling us that we’ve had enough to eat,” says Melanie. “It’s amazing what a difference sitting at the table with friends or family and slowly and mindfully eating a meal can do to the amount and type of foods that we choose to eat.”
5. Turn it down
Yes, it’s winter but think twice before cranking up the reverse cycle air con. Research published in the journal Obesity Reviews suggests a toasty home could be contributing to your weight loss plateau. You see, shivering causes our muscles to contract to generate heat, which in turn burns up kilojoules. The cold also activates something called brown fat, which works as a fat-burning furnace. “It’s kind of ‘use it or lose it,’ ” says Dr Fiona Johnson, a research fellow at University College London. “If you’re not exposed to cold, you’re going to lose your brown fat, and your ability to burn energy will be affected.”