Most studies try to tell us what we should be eating or doing. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed top habits that rack up the pounds. See if the top “bad” habits are some of your own.
Understanding Bad Habits
The obesity epidemic is costing us our health and money. More than one-third of adults and close to one-fifth of kids in the U.S. are obese. These folks are at a much higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, and certain forms of cancer. It’s estimated that it costs the U.S. nearly 10 percent of its medical spending to treat these diseases – that’s equivalent to $147 billion a year!
Top Bad Habits
The study examined ways to prevent obesity before it starts. Researchers followed over 120,000 men and women for 20 years. These folks started at a healthy weight. Their habits (specifically foods, activity, and sleep) and weight were tracked every 4 years. Here are the top habits that caused weight gain:
- Food: Eating potato chips, potatoes, sugary drinks, unprocessed red meat (like steak), and processed meat (like deli meats) every day caused the most weight gain.
- Activity: Watching an hour of TV per day racked up one-third of a pound over 4 years.
- Sleep: Folks who got less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours of sleep a night were more likely to gain weight.
Top Good Habits
The study revealed the top habits that these habits help pounds from creeping up.
- Food: Eating minimally processed foods and more fruits, veggies, nuts, and whole grains resulted in either weight loss or maintenance of a healthy weight during the study.
- Activity: Increasing physical activity resulted in less weight gain.
- Sleep: Folks who slept between 6 to 8 hours of sleep were less likely to gain weight.
Turning Bad Habits Around
The point of this study is not to banish potato chips and red meat from your diet. Overindulgence leads to trouble (like eating potato chips every day). Start making small changes in these bad habits. For example, eat red meat once a week instead of every day. Replace potato chips with fresh fruit salad, veggies and dip, or a trail mix. Or if you do get a craving for chips, make your own baked crisps rather than buying a bag from the store. Over time, these small changes make a world of a difference.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »
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