It's no secret that trying to lose weight -- or even maintain your weight -- can be an uphill battle in middle age. Sure, things like lower muscle mass and a slower metabolism contribute to the problem. But you can't just blame aging.
We talked to two registered dietitians about what common habits add to the dreaded middle-age spread.
1. You're dining out all wrong.
People who dine out more frequently tend to have a higher BMI than those who don't, Joan Salge Blake, a professor at Boston University and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) spokesperson, says. So what's a foodie to do?
First thing, mind your company. Salge Blake says we're more likely to overeat in the company of friends who aren't worried about eating healthy. After all, it's hard to order a salad with protein when your friends are chowing down on cheesy pasta. So pick your dining partners wisely.
And if you don't have any friends who are as concerned about their waistlines as you, here's a great tip: go out for lunch instead of dinner. There are a number of reasons why you'll benefit. Lunch specials and lunchtime portions tend not to be as massive as dinnertime plates. There's also typically less alcohol flowing. Plus, you're less likely at lunchtime to be tired from a long day so you're likely to have more willpower compared with the end of the day.
2. You're not drinking enough water.
"People may be eating when in fact they need to drink more water," Wright says.
Studies have shown that drinking around 16 ounces of water before a meal -- that's about the size of a standard water bottle -- can help you less less and lose more.
3. You're drinking too much wine.
You're not going to like this one, wine enthusiasts. Sure, you might like to wind down in the evening with a glass of red wine, but you're probably drinking more than you think.
A serving of wine is 5 ounces. Many wine goblets nowadays, Salge Blake says, are anywhere from 12-20 ounces! You might just be filling up the glass halfway, but with a larger glass, you're getting more servings and underestimating your calories.
An added tip -- the same applies to coffee mugs, regular drink glasses and dinner plates. "Go up to your attic and go get grandma's china," Salge Blake recommends, adding that the size of dinner plates has increased significantly in recent years.
4. You're not eating enough fiber.
With no one pestering you to make sure you eat your fruits and veggies, you might not be getting enough fiber in your diet.
"Fiber is a natural appetite suppressant," Wright says. You can get fiber in your diet primarily from fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Vegetables are usually low-calorie so it's a great way to fill up.
"Half your plate should be fruits and vegetables," Salge Blake says. Not only will this help you feel fuller, the varying colors and textures on your plate will help you feel more satisfied with your meal.
5. You're eating the wrong "health" foods.
Although pretzels and frozen yogurt often are thought of as "healthy" snacks, pretzels aren't rich in protein and won't fill you up, Wright says. And with things like self-serve frozen yogurt, it's hard not to pile on the calories with massive bowls and sugary toppings.
One good rule of thumb for snacking is to pair a fruit or vegetable with a protein. Think pineapple and cottage cheese, or broccoli florets with hummus, or even apple slices with a little peanut butter. The protein-fiber combination will help you feel and stay fuller longer.
And if you must indulge, watch your portions. Who can resist a little ice cream in the summertime? It's OK once in a while as long as you limit yourself to just a scoop.