It seems like every time you turn on the television, there is a new report out telling you that something is bad for your health. And more times than not, it’s something that we were told was originally good for us. There are health journals and books, talk shows and documentaries, all promising you the key to good health but too often contradicting each other. One source says a glass of red wine a day is good for you, while the other tells you it doubles your chances for diabetes. One day eggs are good, the next they’re evil incarnate. And who needs to worry about evil eggs?
There are many health topics that the jury is still out on. For instance, is gluten really as bad as they say, or is it all just hype until the next fad? If Gwyneth Paltrow is doing it, does that mean we all should? The best advice anyone can take is to consult their primary care doctor after getting a full physical and discuss an optimal health plan based on your individual needs, not what someone on the television who has never met you, says works. There are, however, some universal rules of health that ring true for everyone. The jury is long-since in on the smoking issue. We don’t even need to discuss the smoking issue, right? But some things that we know are no good for us, many of us still keep doing. Here are 13 of the worst health habits that we should all stop doing with tips on how to do that
13. You’re Still Sleeping In Your Contacts
Admit it. You’ve had your share of nights where the hours got the best of you and suddenly, you were waking up, bleary eyed with your contacts still in. It happens to everyone occasionally. But for some people, it happens all the time and that’s a big no-no. Why is it so bad? Doctors say that sleeping in your contacts can lead to issues much more serious than just dry eyes, including everything from serious eye infections to cornea scarring, which can result in the need for cornea replacement or even a loss of vision. Sleeping in your contacts also makes you more susceptible to giant papillary conjunctivitis, which basically makes you allergic to contact lenses.
How to change it: Always wash your hands before inserting and taking out contacts, discard used contact solution and replace it with fresh solution every day, take out your contacts every night before sleeping, and stay up to date on your ophthalmologist appointments.
12. You’re Still Not Moving Enough
Many people think that exercising 30 minutes to an hour every day or every other day puts them in the clear for health issues. But this isn’t always the case. Many people with office jobs find themselves sitting stagnant at their desks for upwards of eight to ten hours a day – sometimes even more. Research shows that even with regular exercise, sitting for hours on end increases your risk of heart attack and stroke because being idle for prolonged periods of time affects blood levels of fats and sugars.”Intermittent exercise doesn’t compensate for the time you sit,” says Harmony R. Reynolds, MD, associate director of the Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City.
How to change it: You don’t have to change your job in order to get more movement in, just change your mindset. Stand at your desk when possible, take frequent bathroom or break room breaks and take the stairs when you do so to get in a few extra steps. If you have the luxury of working from home, consider getting a treadmill or stationery bike desk to do your work at. Remember that any movement is better than none at all.
11. You Still Haven’t Updated Your Workout Gear
You consider working out more than half the battle, right? And it is. Good job by you. But if you’re not updating the gear that you’re working out in, you’re causing unnecessary stress to your body as well as putting yourself at risk for injury. Cotton shirts can cause chaffing, all cotton socks can create painful blisters, and wearing out your sneakers can cause a big enough injury to sideline you completely.
How to change it: Treat yourself to a new piece or two of fitness clothing at the change of every season and make sure that you’re buying breathable clothing and socks, wear appropriate sports bras with ample support, and don’t wait until your sneakers look worn out to replace them. Running shoes especially should be updated every 300-500 miles or every 6 months to 9 months, whichever comes first.
10. You’re Still Baking In The Sun
At this point, you’ve probably ditched the tanning booths after being convinced by just how dangerous the direct UV rays can be. And that’s a good thing. But, many people are still allowing themselves to be exposed to high levels of sunlight without proper protection. And if the dangers of skin cancer aren’t enough to smarten you up, then let your vanity change your mind. Exposure to UV rays are known to damage your skin’s DNA which creates sunspots, age spots, wrinkles, sagging skin and decreases elasticity.
How to change it: You don’t have to stay out of the sun in order to practice better and safe sun habits. Just learn how to protect yourself. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying 1 ounce of SPF15 sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection to your entire body, 20-30 minutes prior to going out in the sun and then reapplying every two hours. Don’t forget your scalp, feet and an SPF balm for your lips. If you’re spending prolonged time in direct sunlight, wear a large brimmed hat and bring thin layered clothes or an umbrella to cover up when needed.
9. You’re Still Not Getting Enough Sleep
With long hours spent at work and stresses of home life, falling behind on sleep is one of the easiest habits to develop. Other than being obviously tired, symptoms of lack of sleep don’t tend to manifest themselves right away. But, fatigue can be a much bigger health risk than you realize. You’re not only decreasing your alertness and ability to focus, but you’re also causing great impact to your mood and depression, hormone levels and appetite control. You’re also adding dark circles, wrinkles and premature aging to your face, not to mention driving everyone around you nuts with crankiness.
How to change it: Commit yourself to getting a minimum of 6 – 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, even if it means having to scale back on electronics in the evening. Avoid drinking anything with caffeine in it eight hours before bedtime. Avoid working out within 4-6 hours of sleep. And cut out electronics up to an hour before sleep to allow yourself time to wind down. Do not sleep with the television on or any external light or sound.
8. You’re Still Not Flossing
Didn’t your grandmom always tell you to floss more? She would know, right? Gum disease doesn’t always show its face in your earlier years, but the older you get, the harder it is to fight off. Flossing helps prevent gum disease and that can also help prevent other related complications, including thicker carotid arteries, pancreatic cancer and stroke.
How to change it: Buy one of those floss holding devices that makes the time fly by and super easy. In an Indiana University study, 50% of previous non-flossers still continued to floss regularly 6 months after introducing floss to their routine when using the holding device, compared to 85% of new flossers who stopped within 6 months who were just using the old version of floss without a device.
7. You’re Still Skipping Breakfast
I think we’re past the hyperbole of breakfast being the most important meal of the day. The truth is that every meal is important in order to get adequate fuel, nutrients and vitamins for your body. But breakfast is, nonetheless, important and it’s the meal that Americans tend to skip the most often. The morning can often be a rat race getting out of the door, which is why most people opt for a cup of coffee and a granola bar at best. But by skipping breakfast, you’re throwing your insulin levels off and putting your body into starvation mode, at which point you will probably overcompensate at lunchtime. Studies in the American Journal of Epidemiology show that breakfast-skippers are more likely to be not just overweight, but obese.
How to change it: Make sure you’re eating a well balanced meal within two hours of waking. That’s not as complicated as it sounds. Try a small whole grain bagel with low-fat cream cheese and fresh veggies – it’s healthful, fast and you can eat it on the go.
6. You’re Still Biting Your Nails
If only your mother could see you now. Nail biting is a common habit formed with nervous or anxious people or at the height of stress. But, it’s not as harmless as it seems. You’re putting hundreds, if not thousands, of germs in your mouth by chewing on those fingers. And considering that staph can fester underneath the nail, those aren’t germs that you want to be messing with. Along with upping your chances for illness, nail biting can also lead to nail bed infection and put you at higher risk for developing bruxism, a jaw clenching disorder that causes pain, headaches, recessed gums and tooth loss.
How to change it: Women can keep their nails painted at all times, as people are less likely to chew nails that are nicely manicured. Coating with bad-tasting nail polish can also help for the more extreme cases. You can also keep a nail file hand with you and whenever you get the urge to bite, file instead.
5. You’re Still Slouching
Bad posture might seem like no big deal other than being unsightly. But it does more harm than good. Sure, it’s more comfortable to slouch than it is to stand or sit up straight, but your spine doesn’t agree. Your head weighs approximately 10 pounds. When it’s not sitting squarely above your head, your neck muscles become over worked which can cramp up your spine and manifest itself in back and neck pain and tension headaches. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time and money at a chiropractor fixing it, then learning how to sit up straighter will come in handy.
How to change it: When you feel yourself slouching, try to correct your position by shifting your weight. Leaning back and even crossing your legs can help. Invest in a quality office chair at work and make sure to always sit all the way back in the seat and stay against the back of the chair. It will feel foreign at first but in the long run, will end up being the more comfortable position.
4. You’re Still Inhaling Your Food
Another culprit of being in a rush, the rate at which we eat food can often be too fast. Inhaling food before you even have a chance to taste it does more than create poor eating habits. For starters, it takes your brain 20 minutes to register from your stomach that you’re full. So, if you’re eating too fast, chances are that you’re over eating and thereby packing on the pounds. Rapid eating can also cause acid reflux, bloating, discomfort and gas.
How to change it: Don’t wait until you’re starving to eat a meal. The hungrier we are, the faster we try to pack it in. Eat 3-5 small meals throughout the day to maintain a consistent appetite. When you do eat, pace yourself. Force yourself to take 20 minutes at least to eat each meal. You’ll end up enjoying it more by savoring each bite and more than likely end up eating less even though it feels like you’re eating more.
3. You’re Still Grazing All Day
If you’re someone who skips breakfast and barely ever stops for lunch, but spends the day nibbling off of granola bars, bags of chips, a handful of Skittles and a can of Diet Coke before gorging on dinner, then you’re definitely a grazer. Oh, and an extra nod to parents who finish their kids’ left overs. Grazing makes it so that your body no longer responds to natural hunger signals and instead, is in a constant state of craving food. The pounds pack on easily which puts you at an increased risk for heart disease.
How to change it: Until you’re able to kick the habit, ditch snacking altogether. Stick to five small and balanced meals a day, split up evenly with calories accounted for. Do this for a few weeks and you’ll start to notice increased energy and maybe even a little weight loss.
2. You’re Still Not Strength Training
We’ve been trained to believe that cardio is the only way to lose weight. Cardio burns calories and weight lifting/strength training builds muscle. For that reason, many people -especially women- forego the weights because they’re either more concerned with shedding pounds or they’re scared of bulking up like the Hulk. But, it doesn’t work like that. Women don’t have the necessary levels of testosterone in order to bulk up like a man. All that strength training will do is build up what muscle you do have, get you ripped and keep you in a constant state of fat burning. It increases bone strength and even fights off dementia and diabetes.
How to change it: Add strength training into your workout routine twice a week using hand weights or resistance bands.
1. You’re Still Yo-Yo Dieting
Despite all the information out there on the negative aspects of yo-yo dieting, that doesn’t stop the annual billion dollar dieting industry from booming more and more every year. The roller coaster of crash dieting only to stop and then start all over again six months later, is a dangerous habit that puts your body through a lot and also makes it harder for you to keep losing weight in the future. It’s also a precursor for Type II Diabetes. Tom Hanks was recently diagnosed with the illness and it has been said that it may have something to do with his rapid weight loss and re-gain while filming the movie Cast Away.
How to change it: Stop dieting. It sounds trite, but that’s the only solution. Sticking to a consistent lifestyle plan of five small meals that are well balanced, high in fiber, protein, vegetables and healthy fats in your target caloric range, is the only way to ensure a healthy life and will free you from the ups and downs of yo-yo dieting. Your body and metabolism need time to heal itself and adjust after a lifetime of yo-yo-ing, but after a few months, your natural equilibrium will begin to take hold.