Don’t smoke. Don’t bite your fingernails. Don’t eat too much. These things are considered habits, and many of them are hard to break. Fortunately, some of the “don’ts” aren’t quite as bad as they seem. Here are six unhealthy habits that might be doing you some good.
Drinking can certainly cause health problems. It’s been shown to kill brain cells, damage the liver, and even cause you to gain weight. Of all the unhealthy habits out there, drinking alcohol is one you should work to keep in check, but you don’t have to give it up completely. Numerous studies have shown that alcohol – especially resveratrol-packed red wine – isn’t as bad as you think when you keep your serving size small.
Per professors at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, a study revealed that women in their 70s who had one or more glass of red wine daily scored higher on memory tests than those who didn’t drink at all. The same professors found that red wine may even unclog arteries by increasing levels of HDL, also known as good cholesterol. A British study found that one glass of wine per day reduced participants’ risk of certain stomach infections. Finally, a decade-long study out of Harvard Medical School found that premenopausal women who consumed two glasses per day were 40% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes as they aged.
Healthy lifestyle changes are important to your overall wellbeing. They’re necessary to keep you fit, both physically and mentally. However, there will be times when all you want is a big pile of biscuits and gravy or a couple slices of pizza with everything on it. Binge eating is one of the worst unhealthy habits, as is turning to greasy, fattening, calorie-laden food for every meal. However, allowing yourself to indulge now and then in a slice of pizza or a greasy bacon cheeseburger won’t hurt, and it may actually help.
While lean meats and raw vegetables may help you lose weight, they aren’t doing much to satisfy your cravings. Giving up your favorite foods completely can cause you to lose your motivation, and this can inevitably halt or even reverse any progress you’ve made. It’s best to allow yourself to indulge now and then. For example, live your healthy lifestyle six days a week, then eat what you like – within reason – on the seventh.
The gym is a haven for many people. They make friends, tone their bodies, and enjoy the rush they get from a hard, intense workout. Working out is a great addition to any healthy lifestyle, and while regularly skipping the gym is one of the worst unhealthy habits to have, taking a break now and then is vital to your overall health and wellbeing.
Working out stimulates muscle growth, builds strength and endurance, and helps you lose fat. What some people don’t know, though, is that the real muscle growth takes place as you recover. When you don’t feel like going to the gym, there’s nothing wrong with taking the day off to rest. Your body knows what it needs, so if you’re feeling especially sore or tired, let it recover. You will find that taking a day off here and there will improve your performance and progress more quickly than going to the gym every single day. It’s also important to allow your CNS to recover and prevent too much strain on joints and tendons.
Roughly 20 years ago, the Atkins diet became hugely popular. People would go to their favorite fast food restaurants and order a burger sans the bun. They believed that they could eat anything they liked if they consumed little to no carbohydrates. While this certainly can help you lose weight, it’s only temporary. As you continue to refuse carbs, which act as one of your body’s primary sources of fuel, your metabolism will continue to slow down. Before long, not only will you gain back any weight you’ve lost, but you may also gain some extra weight. Eating carb-rich food isn’t one of the worst unhealthy habits at all; in fact, it’s good for you.
The trick, though, involves cutting out simple and refined carbohydrates. Your body converts these to sugar almost immediately, and if you don’t burn that sugar off immediately, your body will store it as fat. Rather, consume foods that are rich in complex carbs, such as whole grain bread instead of white bread, or long-grain rice instead of the traditional white rice. Your body can’t break these down as easily, and they’ll provide a steady source of fuel throughout the day. Though make sure you don’t eat too many carbs either. View our macronutrient calculator for more guidance.
When it comes to unhealthy habits, coffee is a very common one. People often decide to stop drinking coffee altogether, or to limit themselves to a single cup. If you’ve cut back significantly, you might want to think again. Studies are showing that coffee might reduce your risk of cancer, neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, and even diabetes. Researchers believe that these diseases are triggered by inflammation, and coffee contains antioxidants that have been shown to reduce that inflammation. Some of those antioxidants, known as polyphenols, can boost your immune function, too. Go ahead and have that second cup; your body and mind will thank you.
It’s been said that sleeping in on the weekends can throw off your circadian rhythm, leaving you feeling drained throughout the day but unable to sleep at night. Decades ago, a study showed that people who woke up before 7am each day – even on weekends – were healthier and more productive than those who slept later. New research shows that sleeping in isn’t one of the unhealthy habits you need to worry about, though.
People who don’t sleep enough are at risk for serious health problems, including cardiovascular abnormalities, mental disorders, obesity, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes. If you’re waking up at 7am just because a study says you should, it’s time to reconsider. Make sure you’re getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night as often as possible, and don’t worry if you sleep 10 hours on Saturday morning. It’s not really a big deal, and your circadian clock can recover.
As you can see, so-called unhealthy habits aren’t as unhealthy as you might think. Like most things, it’s important to indulge in moderation. If you want to skip the gym, go ahead – but don’t make it a regular occurrence. Want to eat that slice of chocolate cake? Go for it! Just make it a small slice, and don’t eat it every day. This is the key to balancing your health and your happiness.