5 surprising reasons you gain weight

Staff - msn.com - 03/06/2012
Weight Loss Theories

Rarely does a complicated problem have a simple answer. And for America’s 36 percent national obesity rate, the answer is sandwiched between nutritional obfuscation from the people who sell food and the bad diet habits of those of us who eat it. So in Eat This, Not That! 2012, I took a hard look at the eating habits of America. Here I present to you the surprising reasons you gain weight, plus examples of the restaurant meals that encourage the bad habits.

Reason #1: Eating a Carb-Heavy Breakfast

Perkins Berry Blueberry Pancakes: 1,140 calories, 29 g fat (12 g saturated), 2,150 mg sodium, 200 g carbohydrate, 110 g sugars, 20 g protein

Sugar equivalent: 7 Klondike ice cream sandwiches!

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that meals that limited carbohydrates to 43 percent were more filling and had a milder effect on blood sugar than meals with 55 percent carbohydrates. With that in mind, this pancake platter is 70 percent carbs—a full 800 calories worth—making it a dangerous way to start your day. The best breakfast is one heavy on protein, and eggs make that incredibly easy. In one study published in The International Journal of Obesity, dieters who ate eggs instead of bagels for breakfast lost 65% more weight and a 34% greater reduction in waist circumference.

Eat This Instead!

Perkins Build-Your-Own-Omelette with Swiss Cheese, Bacon, Mushrooms, and Spinach: 430 calories, 29 g fat (13.5 g saturated), 530 mg sodium, 8 g carbohydrate, 1 g sugars, 35 g protein

Feel-good fuel: Food is powerful, and the wrong kind can leave you depressed, tired, and anxious. Instead, instantly brighten your day with these 11 Foods That End Bad Moods.

Reason #2: Eating Excessive Amounts of Sodium

P.F. Chang’s Pork Double Pan Fried Noodles: 1,652 calories, 84 g fat (12 g saturated), 7,900 mg sodium

Sodium equvalent: Nearly 9 cans of Pringles potato crisps!

Forget bloating and parchedness—these salt-soaked noodles pose a larger threat. Salt has been shown to produce an addictive effect similar to that of opiates. Researchers in Florida found that when opiate-dependent subjects went off a drug, they increased their intake of sodium-rich foods, ostensibly to stimulate those same opiate receptors in the brain. Salt, say the researchers, often “feels good” rather than “tastes good.” The subjects in the study, during opiate withdrawal, saw an average weight gain of 6.6 percent. Protect yourself by swearing off The 8 NEW Saltiest Foods in America.

Eat This Instead!

P.F. Chang’s Garlic Noodles: 712 calories, 16 g fat (4 g saturated), 1,440 mg sodium

Reason #3: Ordering foods because the name sounds healthy

IHOP Chicken & Spinach Salad: 1,600 calories, 118 g fat (32 g saturated, .5 g trans), 2,340 mg sodium

Calorie equivalent: 3 McDonald’s Big Macs!

IHOP’s egregious salad is a prime example of what researchers call the “health halo” effect. This is the psychological phenomenon in which people perceive unhealthy meals as healthy when those foods are associated with good-for-you buzzterms or foods. Words like “natural” or “multigrain” can be misleading, and any time a restaurant serves something on a salad, people automatically assume it’s good for them. The so-called health halo also makes us more likely to overeat. Restaurants like IHOP know and exploit this, which is how salads with 100+ grams of fat continue to make it onto menus.

Eat This Instead!

IHOP Take Two Combo, 1/2 Double BLT Sandwich and Seasonal Fresh Fruit: 470 calories, 28 g fat (6 g saturated), 1,180 mg sodium

Related link: Which is the superior snack: a granola bar or a chocolate pudding cup? The answer could surprise you. Find out, courtesy of The Ultimate Snack Scorecard.

Reason #4: Ordering combo meals

McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese Value Meal (with Large Fries and Large Coke): 1,550 calories, 67 g fat (23 g saturated, 3 g trans), 1,750 mg sodium, 95 g sugars

Fat equivalent: 17 bowls of Kraft Easy Mac!

A study in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing showed that, compared to a la carte orders, value meals pack an extra hundred calories or more. And in some cases, as seen here, that number can be much, much higher. Part of the problem is that restaurants bundle items together so that they can pawn off cheap calories, like those found in french fries. So they earn more profit, and you earn more inches on your waistline. Piece together your own meal to be sure you’re not being stuck with any freeloading fat calories.

Eat This Instead!

McDonald’s McDouble, 4-Piece Chicken McNuggets, and Large Iced Tea: 580 calories, 31 g fat (10 g saturated, 1.5 g trans), 1,290 mg sodium, 7 g sugars

Related link: Discover the 1,500-calorie combos lurking in the drive-thru line with the 10 Worst Fast Food Meals.

Reason #5: Taking in empty calories

Dairy Queen Banana Cream Pie Blizzard (medium): 770 calories, 28 g fat (17 g saturated, 1 g trans), 83 g sugars

Sugar equivalent: 9 bowls of Cookie Crisp cereal!

Dessert calories are empty, meaning they present your body with lots of energy, but no nutritional advantage for burning it off. Sugar is the primary culprit here, and there’s a direct correlation between the amount you eat and the size of your pants. What’s most shocking is that we develop our propensity toward sugar at very young age. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, today’s kids take in about 16 percent of their daily calories from added sugars, and the main sources are soda, baked goods, cereal, candy, and fruit drinks. This primes us to gravitate toward monstrous, over-sweetened desserts—like Blizzards—later in life. When your sweet tooth strikes, think modesty. It only takes a few bites to satisfy, and if you stop there, you’ve cut hundreds of calories from your diet.

Eat This Instead!

Dairy Queen Banana Sundae (medium), 330 calories, 10 g fat (6 g saturated, 0.5 g trans), 42 g sugars

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