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5 surprising ways to prevent weight gain

Stay alert to bad habits that can cause weight to creep up on you

Published: March 2013

Does it sometimes seem like those extra pounds just sneak up on you? Here are five common ways that happens—and what you can do to keep the extra weight at bay.

1. Don't fall for “diet” food

Low-fat products entice people to eat more than they should. That’s because they assume that low-fat food has fewer calories, which isn’t always true. People underestimated the calorie content of “low-fat” chocolates by about 50 percent, on average, according to a study in the Journal of Marketing Research,. So it’s important to read the Nutrition Facts labels on products.

2. Sleep more

A lack of shut-eye can cause an increase in the hormone ghrelin, which tells your brain that you’re hungry. It also causes a drop in leptin, the hormone responsible for signaling when you’re full. That dual reaction might be stronger 
in people who are dieting, which can sabotage weight-loss efforts, according to a new review of studies in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Bottom line: Make sure you get at least six hours of sleep a night. See our advice on preventing and treating insomnia.

3. Sit less

The more you sit, the more you’re likely to gain weight, even if you get the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Office jobs often require lots of desk time, so take “walking” breaks and cut down on after-work and weekend use of your television and computer.

4. Hide your food

Leaving food on counters where you can see it increases the chance that you'll consume it quickly, according to another study in the Journal of Marketing Research. So store your food away in cabinets.

5. Use smaller plates

Larger bowls, packages, and servings can lead you to eat more than what’s appropriate, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Consumer Research. To eat and drink less, try using smaller plates, bowls, and glasses, along with smaller serving dishes and utensils. Take one serving at a time from large packages, then remove the packages from sight. When dining out, share dishes with your dining companions. Most important, though, downsize snacks and fast food. (See our guide to fast food restaurants.) A study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior had moviegoers eat from either a medium or large tub of popcorn. Those with the larger tubs ate 45 percent more.

Editor's Note:

This article first appeared in the monthly newsletter Consumer Reports on Health. 



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