We’ve all got them: bad habits that we know are bad for us, but that we haven’t quite gotten around to kicking to the curb. You know, smoking, being too sedentary, having a few too many big nights out, or eating candy every night… And maybe now is the time of year when you start thinking about changing your ways and getting healthier. But what if there are things you’re doing that you don’t even realize are bad for you, or that might be worse for you than you think? Hard to change your ways if you don’t know you need to change them, right? So, while we’re generally pretty anti-resolution (see here), we do want to point out some bad habits that might be secretly worse for you than you think, so you can get started on being a healthier you!
1. Living by the 5-Second Rule
Oh man, you dropped your last French fry – that’s the worst! Buuuuut…you managed to snatch it up immediately, so you dust it off and guiltily pop it into your mouth, claiming the “5-second rule.” But that’s not a thing, and it’s not just us saying that: it’s backed up by science. Eating a fry off the floor might not be the worst thing you can do to your body, but researchers want us to know that you can still get sick from a bacteria-contaminated piece of food no matter how long it’s been on the floor, although the longer it’s there, the worse it might be.
According to Donald Schaffner, a food scientist at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, “The five-second rule is a significant oversimplification of what actually happens when bacteria transfer from a surface to food. Bacteria can contaminate instantaneously.” So let that fry go, friend, let it go.
2. Not Being Up on Your Napping Knowledge
Don’t get us wrong, we’re definitely NOT naysaying all napping – you just have to know how to do it right. An analysis of over 20 studies encompassing more than 300,00 people done by The European Society of Cardiology found that, while a short 30-45 minute nap can be beneficial to heart health, their findings on longer naps were pretty concerning. They found that naps lasting over an hour are linked to a 30% higher risk of all-cause death and 34% higher chance of cardiovascular disease in comparison to people who don’t nap at all. Wow, guess we better set that alarm.
3. Dieting Like It’s 1999
Are you still dieting, in the old-fashioned sense of the word? Like, drastically cutting calories or giving up food groups to quickly lose weight? Well, it turns out that’s really not a great idea; instead, you should be thinking about making sustainable lifestyle changes. If you get sucked into yo-yo dieting, you’ll only end up repeatedly losing and regaining weight, or weight cycling. And weight cycling is not only stressful for you, but it’s also connected to health issues like increased insulin, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, as well inflammation and slowed metabolism.
In addition, you should always be wary of diets that involve cutting out whole categories of foods (unless it’s candy!). For example, if you’ve sworn off carbs, think about this: foods with carbohydrates are where you get most of your fiber each day, so if you don’t eat enough of them you could end up with some severe digestive distress. There are a lot of weird things that happen to your body when you eliminate carbs, including low energy levels and brain fog, so be careful how you radically change your diet.
4. Slouching Towards Worse Health
Slumping a bit at your desk? You might think that in the worst-case scenario you’ll end up with some neck and shoulder pain. However, while you’re definitely at risk for that if you’re slouching, you could also be headed towards heartburn, poor digestion, incontinence, and constipation. “Slouching increases abdominal pressure, which puts pressure on the bladder. The position also decreases the ability of the pelvic floor muscles to hold against that pressure,” according to Meghan Markowski, a physical therapist at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. So take a look for exercises you can do to help straighten up and fly right.
5. Having Your Coffee with all the Fixins
Love sweet, flavored coffee drinks? You might want to consider cutting back on them for your health (and your wallet!). Chew (or sip) on this: a 16 ounce (Grande) flavored Caffe Latte at Starbucks packs 17 grams of sugar – 4 teaspoons worth – from the syrup alone. Even adding half-and-half and a couple of packets of sugar to your coffee can add 50 calories to your normally 5-calorie cup; over a year, if you don’t offset those extra calories each day, that’s enough to pack on 5 extra pounds.
6. Being a Texting Pedestrian
Can’t take your eyes off your phone? If you’re glued to your screen in the privacy of your own home, you can take that up with your partner or other people who might be annoyed by it, but if you’re doing it when you’re out and about, you could end up seriously injured. A recent study from the University of Washington found that people who crossed several busy intersections while texting were four times less likely than people who weren’t texting to look before they crossed, cross with the light, or stay in the crosswalk. It also took them two seconds longer to navigate the intersection, leaving them much more vulnerable to danger from the vehicles around them. Trust us, scrolling through social media can wait – seriously.
7. Eating Al Desko
We get it, you’re busy. So you might be taking more lunches at your desk than you’d like – and, honestly, more than are good for your health. According to research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, you’re more likely to overeat if you’re eating at work, especially if you’re sitting in front of your computer, since when you’re distracted, you tend not to actually think very much about what you’ve just put into your mouth. And if you don’t even recall what you’ve been eating, “That blunts the satiety response,” according to lead author Jeff Brunstrom, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Bristol in England. And if your lunch isn’t filling you up – even if it’s just a trick of your mind – you’re more likely to eat more and snack throughout the day. So get out there and reclaim your lunchtime!
8. Popping Pain Pills
Life gives you headaches, and luckily, modern medicine gives you pain relievers to help. But if you’re constantly reaching for over-the-counter pain pills, you could be doing more harm than good. For example, excessive use of acetaminophen can cause liver issues, and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), can cause stomach and/or kidney problems. And if you suffer from migraines, taking over-the-counter pain relievers two or three times a week for weeks on end can actually cause more headaches, due to a rebound effect that can occur after your body gets used to the medication.
So now you know the truth about these little, but possibly damaging, bad habits – and knowledge is power! But breaking bad habits can be tough. It takes a lot of focus and patience, since studies now show that forming or breaking a habit can take anywhere from 18 days on the lowest end of the spectrum to 254 days, with 66 days being the average amount of time needed for most people. So if you have habits you’d like to break, what can you do to get started? Think about the following tactics:
- Identify your triggers
- Change your environment
- Find an accountability partner
- Use a reward system
- Replace your bad habits with new habits that will get you to your goals
Again, we’re definitely not pushing resolutions here, just giving you the knowledge you need to get a little bit healthier every day – and today might just be the day to start on that journey. And we’d like to know: do you have any habits that you’d like to give up? How are you planning to get healthier this year?