We all know that it doesn’t just happen overnight; you don’t wake up one morning looking bloated. It starts creeping in slowly, so you ignore it at first. When you have a proper paunch to deal with, you finally decide to do something about it. In this blog post I have discussed some common habits people have that cause belly fat, contribute to weight gain by throwing you further out of balance, increasing your stress levels and messing with your hormones.
1. Eating Too Late at Night
The rule of not eating too late might seem quite obvious, but we all listen to the appeal of late night ice cream too many times and go to bed with a full tummy. When we eat too late in the evening, we are breaking the fragile hormonal balance once again.
You should know that sleep is a prime metabolic time. That is, if we don’t burden the body with a meal heavy on carbs and fats just before going to bed. If you must eat consider what you’re putting in your body very carefully.
If you get a good night’s sleep, the body will burn a portion of your excess fat while you dream. That’s right! This usually starts about nine hours after you’ve had your last meal of the day.
The best fat-burning time is nine to twelve hours after dinner. The body then accesses the resilient fat in your buttocks, thighs and STOMACH. If you eat before going to bed, you miss out on this ideal fat-burning opportunity; and that’s a bit of a shame.
Ideally, in order to give the body a break from insulin and let it enter the rest & recuperate phase, you should resist eating about three hours before bed.
2. Eating Too Big Portions Too Quickly
It’s amazing how much food people can gobble down in a few minutes. You’d think this is their last chance to get food for the next month or so. In our times of nutritional abundance, there is no need to eat so fast and in such quantities.
Again, it comes down to hormones. When we eat fast, we don’t give hormones and stomach’s stretch receptors enough time to let the brain know we’re full.
It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register we’re satiated. For most people, this is around the time when they’re already on their third helping, which could easily be skipped if they ate a tad slower and felt full already after the first serving.
For all the hormone enthusiasts, the hormone that plays a role in feeling satisfied and free of cravings is called leptin. When its levels are high, there is no desire to eat. Leptin follows a 24-hour cycle and is at the highest at night, which means that – if the body is in balance – we shouldn’t be feeling hungry at night. Night was intended for other things.
So, if you want to feel less hungry and give leptin time to do its magic:
- Eat slowly
- Chew thoroughly (which will slow you down anyway)
- Drink water
3. Forgetting To Drink Water
Believe it or not, we often mistake the feeling of thirst for the feeling of hunger. We are a bit dehydrated, but our upside down body and brain interpret it as an imminent need for a (sugary) snack.
On average, a person needs at least 8 to 10 glass of water daily. If you are exercising and sweating, you’ll need to replenish more. If you weigh more, you’ll need more water as well. And no, coffee and soda don’t count. Caffeine does the opposite of what you want.
How Do You Know If You Are Drinking Enough?
The simplest way is to look at your urine. Clear urine is a sign that you’re drinking enough. People who are dehydrated have a very strong and concentrated urine – it is dark yellow and can have a potent smell.
4. Not Eating Enough Protein
Proteins are in the same team as hormones, so to speak. If hormones want to run their show successfully, they want proteins to be there. By increasing your protein intake, you can balance out your blood sugar and reduce insulin levels. This promotes a faster metabolic rate.
Proteins also control your so called “hunger hormones” – the hormones that influence appetite. One of them is our friend leptin, which works as the appetite suppressor. Ghrelin has an opposite function and is a hormone that increases appetite. If your plan is to lose weight, ghrelin is the one you really don’t want to be producing in high levels. A diet high in proteins suppresses ghrelin.
You should consume at least 20 to 25 grams of protein in each meal, although this depends on your activity levels and body size. In other words, when you’re filling up your imaginary plate, a quarter should be reserved for protein. The recommendation is to go lean with the protein.
5. Emotional Eating
We all sometimes find ourselves eating when we are not really hungry. We are feeling sad, angry, upset, or stressed and we find a momentary refuge in food. We might forget our woes while munching on a tub of chocolate chip ice cream, but in the long run it doesn’t really solve the problems. In fact, it can make them bigger.
Emotional eating involves food cravings. You’re longing for your comfort foods, which unfortunately don’t involve healthy greens and natural yogurt. We crave fatty and sugary foods that will provide us with an instant rush.
“Give me that cheese cake!” or “Oh, I need a pizza!”
Not surprisingly, it again comes down to hormones. When we feel stressed (stress comes in many forms), this increases secretion of hormones called glucocorticoids. They influence your food choices and make you reach for the forbidden fruits (which are always the sweetest).
The instant sugary high culminates in a very heavy low. This is usually accompanied with feelings of guilt and some extra luggage around your waist. In turn, this may cause you to start the process all over again. You really don’t want to go there!