Our habits—the things we do day in, day out, sometimes without thinking—are at the root of our lifestyle. We all know that good habits like regular exercise and eating fruits and veggies are the key to a healthy lifestyle, but bad habits might creep up on us and throw us off track. Below are 4 common unhealthy habits that could be making you gain weight.

The habit: Skipping breakfast
Why it’s bad: Assuming you didn’t have any midnight snacks, your stomach is empty when you wake up. By not putting any calories into your body, you give your metabolism nothing to burn and it slows down. This leaves you feeling sluggish, irritable, and ravenous come lunch time.
How to break it: Most breakfast-skippers do so because they don’t have time to make and eat a meal in the morning. If you have this problem, try to put something together beforehand. On Sunday, take a little time to make a batch of granola bars so that you’ll have a healthy grab-and-go breakfast all week long. If you don’t eat breakfast because you don’t have an appetite first thing in the morning, pack something easy to carry like an apple and some nuts so you can eat it when you arrive at work.

The habit: Drinking your calories
Why it’s bad: While sodas, fruit juices and energy drinks might be refreshing and delicious, there’s a major problem with sugary drinks: they’re full of empty calories. There’s little (if any) nutritional value, and sipping on these drinks throughout the day can really add up. Worst of all, they don’t fill you up, so you’re likely to still eat the same amount of calories from food. Water is your best bet (you should be drinking at least 8 full glasses a day), but if you just have to drink something else, limit yourself to just one sweetened beverage. Don’t forget that alcoholic drinks have a lot of calories too, so try to resist that third cocktail.
How to break it: Bring your own refillable bottle of water with you to work and set a goal to not have any other drink until you’ve finished the bottle. This is a great way to make sure you’re getting enough water too. Seltzer water with a little bit of lemon or lime (or any other fruit) is also a great calorie-free alternative to soda.

The habit: Eating too quickly
Why it’s bad: When you’re really hungry, it’s easy to gobble down everything in sight within about five minutes. I used to do this all the time after being stuck in 3-hour dance rehearsals and trust me; it was not a good thing. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to process that your stomach’s been filled, so if you finish your meal in less time than that, you’re still going to think you’re hungry.
How to break it: Hard as it may be, try to pace yourself. Be conscious of chewing your food instead of basically inhaling it (as I often did). Cutting or breaking your food into small pieces will also help you slow down a little bit. Most importantly, make sure to take a full 20 minutes or more to finish your meal, if at all possible.

The habit: Snacking in front of the screen
Why it’s bad: You sit down to watch your favorite TV show and open up a bag of chips. You’ll just have a few, no big deal, right? Before you know it, the show is over and the bag is gone…what happened? Eating while your attention is fixed elsewhere tends to make you forget how much you’re actually consuming, and that you probably weren’t even hungry in the first place.
How to break it: The easiest way is to just not bring food with you in front of the TV or computer. But if you are actually hungry and feel like you need a eat something, portion it off and put the rest away (as in, cleaned up and back in the fridge or pantry, not out on the counter where you can easily go back for seconds) before you sit down. That way, you’ll still be able to enjoy your snack and stay in control of how much you’re eating.

It takes as much time and patience (maybe even more) to break bad habits as it does to form good ones, so don’t get discouraged if it’s tough at first! Keep at it, and before you know it, your new healthy habits will be second nature. 

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Image courtesy of fimoculous on Flickr (CC BY 3.0) 

Have you ever had to break an unhealthy habit? How did you do it? Tell us!