10 Unhealthy Habits That Are Worse for You Than You Thought
It’s not too late to reverse your worst habits (stopping smoking, drinking, over-eating, and more) and immediately start living a happier, healthier life.
Snacking when you’re not hungry
Losing touch with your body’s natural hunger and satisfaction signals can lead to chronic overeating and unhealthy extra pounds that can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and other serious conditions. If it’s junk foods you snack on, you’re also flooding your body with unhealthy ingredients. By paying attention to your hunger signals and switching to healthy snacks, you can boost nutrition, control cravings, and avoid energy slumps. Your weight will fall to a healthier level, and you’ll replace unhealthy trans and saturated fat, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and extra sodium with more nutritious fare.
How to fix it: Eat because you’re hungry—not because you’re stressed, bored, angry, or sad. And finish eating when you feel just a little bit full. Avoid keeping unhealthy food in your home, or at least make sure you have more healthy foods, like fruits, veggies, nuts, and low-fat and whole-grain products, than unhealthy ones. And when you eat those healthy snacks, eat them like you do meals: on a plate, with a glass of water, and sitting down at the table.
Spending too much time on the couch watching TV
The more TV you watch, the less physical activity you’re getting, increasing your odds of being overweight and developing type 2 diabetes. If television is replacing the time you’d spend on an old hobby, visiting friends, or exercising your mind, it can also speed up memory loss. By committing to a healthy TV/activity balance, you can burn more calories, become more fit, and reduce your odds for related health problems quickly. You’ll have a fitter body and more time for sleep, plus more energy, a better mood, sharper mind, and more social connections.
How to fix it: Try to keep your TV time to a minimum of two hours a day, and make sure you’re getting at least 30 minutes of exercise. Get the best of both worlds by doing some light workouts, like walking in place or doing sit-ups, while you’re watching. Even doing some household chores, like vacuuming or doing laundry, during the commercials can add up to 20 minutes’ worth of calorie-burning time. Avoid snacking in front of the TV, which makes it far too easy to eat hundreds of calories’ worth of chips and barely realize it. These are some more reasons why binge-watching TV is unhealthy for you.
Overspending your way into debt
Money worries can have serious health consequences. In a Rutgers University telephone survey, responders said financial stress contributed to high blood pressure, depression, insomnia, headaches, digestion troubles, aches and pains, ulcers, excessive eating and drinking, and gaining or losing weight. Regaining a hold on your finances takes time, can be hard on your ego and your lifestyle, you have to be constantly vigilant, and it’s easy to revert back to old habits. But for those who succeed, and many people do, the results are stunning. You’ll feel more in control of your life with less stress and fewer worries. Try some of the money-saving habits, too.
How to fix it: There are many different things you can do to gain control over your finances. Educate yourself on the basic rules and methods of personal finance—for credit cards, mortgages, budgeting, and investing. Create and keep a budget, keeping careful track of how much money is coming in every month and how much you’re spending on essentials. Pay at least the monthly minimum on your bills to stay ahead of your expenses, prioritizing paying more on the highest-interest credit card. You can also set up automatic bill pay, as well as automatic transfers to a savings account, by using online banking. Try some of these simple habits of good money-savers, too.
Eating too much fast food
A steady diet of double cheeseburgers and fries washed down with an oversize soda or milkshake often leads to a bigger waistline and other related health problems, like heart disease and diabetes. Trans fat, often found in fast food, raises “bad” cholesterol and blood fats that contribute to hardening of the arteries, as well as firing up inflammation, which contributes to the build-up of fatty plaque in artery walls. The health benefits of making the switch to healthy food will be immediate and substantial.
How to fix it: Making a permanent lifestyle change won’t be easy at first. Fast food is super-convenient, surprisingly inexpensive, and, thanks to all its fat, salt, and sugar, undeniably tasty. Start by cutting back a little per week, and buying a little less each time you go; for instance, replace your soda with a water or your fries with a salad. Avoid popping into a fast food joint just because you walked or drove by one, especially if you aren’t hungry or it isn’t meal time. Preparing your own healthy meals at home will save you money, and don’t forget that you can still get prepared meals, healthier ones, at a grocery store or sandwich shop. Check out the best healthy-eating tips that nutritionists use.
Getting sunburned a few times every summer
If you love sunbathing or make an effort to maintain a golden-bronze tan, you’ve unwittingly contributed to the aging of your skin. Sunbathing destroys the elastic fibers that keep skin looking firm and smooth, leading to earlier wrinkles, blotches, freckles, and discolorations. More importantly, sunburns contribute significantly to cancers of the skin. If you’ve added trips to the tanning salon, it’s even worse. Despite what ads suggest, using tanning beds doesn’t build up a “safe” base tan. It actually raises your risk for skin cancer and wrinkles.
How to fix it: First of all, always wear high SPF sunscreen if you’re going to be outside in the sun. Sticking to the shade, and wearing a hat, sunglasses, long sleeves, and pants during peak sunburn hours, can also help keep your skin safe. Schedule an annual skin check by a dermatologist. Your doctor will inspect your skin for any unusual changes. Keep your eyes on your skin yourself, as well. Anything new that doesn’t look right to you on your skin should be checked by a doctor. You can also get the bronzed look without the cancer risk by using a self-tanner instead of the sun, or worse, a tanning bed.
Behavior that leaves you angry, worried, or stressed all of the time
An unhappy lifestyle releases a cascade of stress hormones that increase your blood pressure and blood sugar, lower immunity, slow digestion, and make you feel depressed and downright mean. Nature intended stress to be a short-lived fight-or-flight response to a threat, but modern life can lead to chronic stress and to far-reaching impacts on your health, such as increased risk of being overweight and overeating high-fat, sugary foods. Both raise your odds for heart disease and diabetes.
How to fix it: A regained sense of joy and control is worth its weight in gold, and the physical health benefits will be substantial as well. Next time you feel a stressful situation emerging, work hard at managing it and staying cool. Among the most proven stress-relief methods are yoga, meditation, and deep breathing. During your down time, make sure you’re enjoying a relaxing hobby and fully immersing yourself in it. Don’t be afraid to embrace your sense of fun, optimism, and silliness every now and then. And finally, just as being less stressed can make you healthier, living a healthier lifestyle can decrease your stress level and help you better manage stressful situations. Check out these 37 tips for managing stress for more ideas.
Skipping the first meal of the day can have serious consequences for your weight, your energy levels, and even your blood sugar. Munching a piece of morning toast or crunching a bowl of bran flakes signals to your metabolism that it’s time to kick things up a notch. The moment you start a breakfast routine, you take a major step towards fixing the problems skipping breakfast caused, which means fewer food cravings and hunger pangs later in the day. Because you’re re-fueling your body early in the day, you’ll also have more energy in the morning.
How to fix it: Not enough time to sit down and eat in the morning? Prepare breakfast or a smoothie the night before. Also consider grabbing an energy bar and a cup of low-fat yogurt. Together they are the perfect amount of nutrients and calories to start your day. If you don’t find yourself hungry first thing in the day, just wait an hour or two until you’re ready to eat. And you don’t necessarily even need to eat breakfast food, if it’s not your favorite. Have a sandwich, a bowl of soup, or last night’s leftovers—whatever your pleasure is.
Drinking too much alcohol
If you over-drink on a regular basis, alcohol can be a poison. Women who regularly consume two or more drinks a day and men who regularly down three or more are at higher risk for liver damage, various cancers including those of the liver and mouth, high blood pressure, and depression. Women, who are more sensitive to alcohol, can also develop heart disease, brittle bones, and even memory loss. Soon after you cut back or quit, your digestion will improve and you’ll sleep more soundly. Your blood sugar will be lower and steadier, your blood pressure may fall toward a healthier range, and even your brain will bounce back. You’ll have a healthier liver and cardiovascular system.
How to fix it: You don’t have to quit cold turkey; stick to healthy limits. That’s two or less drinks per day for men, one for women. You’re also more likely to sip your drink slowly if you reserve alcohol for meals. Drink for flavor, not to get drunk. And if you can’t stop, acknowledge the addiction. Talk with your doctor and contact a support group like AA. Check with your doctor if you should be screened more often for bone density, cancers, and liver damage. Don’t miss these 17 tips to help you cut back on drinking, too.
As far as health goes, no popular habit on Earth is as harmful. It directly causes 30 percent of heart disease deaths, 30 percent of cancer deaths, and a massive 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancers, not to mention increasing the risk of developing mouth, throat, and, bladder cancer. This bad habit also astronomically raises your odds for heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure, on top of possibly triggering or aggravating breathing problems like bronchitis and asthma attacks. After you quit, the health benefits are almost immediate. Within a month, your lungs will work better and you should be coughing less, feel more energetic, and have less shortness of breath.Your sense of taste and smell, as well as your endurance, will also improve.
How to fix it: Treat it like an addiction, not a habit. Before you stop, prepare for the tough road ahead. Plan to quit during a calm period—not over the holidays or when you’re under a lot of stress. Prepare a strategy, a support team, and a Plan B if your first methods fail. Ask your doctor about a stop-smoking drug like Buprion and varenicline, or a nicotine patch or gum. Seek support, whether that’s from your friends and family or resources like counselors, hotlines, and support groups. And, finally, remember that a lapse isn’t a failure. Use slip-ups to discover your personal obstacle to quitting and create a plan for dealing with those needs. Check out these 23 ways to stop smoking if you need more help.
Overusing painkillers and sedatives
When they’re not taken properly, long-term habitual use can cause more problems than it solves. Using drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin for arthritis or muscle pain can over time increase your risk for ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. Clues you’re taking too much of a calming drug or sleeping pill include memory loss, excess sleepiness, feeling unresponsive or confused, and falling frequently. Since they make you feel good, you may want to keep on taking them, turning them into a habit or addiction before you know it. Kicking the sedative and prescription pain pill habit is possible with commitment and support, and once the pill-taking has ceased, your body will quickly rebound from their effects.
How to fix it: New pain-relief strategies can ease muscle, joint, and head pain with fewer pills and side effects. For chronic pain, switch to acetaminophen; it doesn’t cause stomach irritation and doesn’t raise blood pressure like aspirin and ibuprofen. Save ibuprofen for flare-ups of severe, short-term pain. For frequent headaches, see your doctor; migraines can be stopped quickly with the right medication. If you think you’ll be susceptible to addiction, challenge your doctors when they want to put you on pain, mood, or sleeping medication long-term (think more than four months), particularly if the drugs work well. And get help if you can’t stop. There’s no shame in asking for help from family members, friends, or your doctor. Next, don’t miss this other bad health habits that doctors need you to stop doing ASAP.