HEALTHY HABITS THAT CAN HAUNT YOU
Sometimes choices that seem smart are actually mistakes in disguise. Here are six to watch for— and how to fix them.
1. Brushing your teeth right after a meal.
If you’ve had anything to eat or drink that’s acidic (such as seltzer, soda, citrus or tomatoes), brushing within 30 minutes can scratch the acid right into the enamel on your teeth, eroding it and leaving them susceptible to damage, says Gigi Meinecke, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry and a dentist in Potomac, Md.
Instead: Rinse your mouth with water just after eating and wait 30 minutes to brush.
2. Avoiding fat.
Playing the how-low-can-you-go game with fat in your diet can cause dry skin and hair, constipation, insufficient absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (like A,D, E and K), low levels of reproductive hormones and excessive hunger, says Leslie Bonci, RD, owner of Active Eating Advice in Pittsburgh. “Fat takes longer [than other macronutrients] to leave the stomach so it helps you feel fuller for a longer period of time, and it stimulates production of neurotransmitters that help with satiety.”
Instead: “Be selective about fats,” Bonci says. “If you prefer the taste of skim milk, go with it.” But don’t shirk healthy fats in nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocado, olive oil or canola oil—your body needs them.
3. Putting on a happy face—when you’re not.
When you get angry or irritated, it may be wise to hold your tongue in the moment. But it’s a mistake to bury your anger. Research has found it can increase a woman’s risk of developing depression; for men and women, it can lead to increased pain sensitivity and higher blood pressure.
Instead: Listen to what your anger is telling you, says Denver psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D., author of
Prescriptions Without Pills. Then express yourself using non-accusatory statements that describe your feelings and what you’d like to change, e.g., “I felt sad when you were checking your phone at dinner while I was telling you something important. I’d like to designate some phonefree times and places.”
4. Reusing grocery bags.
Shoppers rarely, if ever, wash their reusable bags, according to a 2010 study. When researchers swabbed the inside of the bags, they found large numbers of bacteria that can make you sick, including E. coli. One of the biggest risks: If meat or chicken juices drip into the bag and they’re stored in the trunk of your car, “the bacteria will incubate and multiply,” says Ryan Sinclair, Ph.D., an assistant professor of environmental microbiology at Loma Linda University.
Instead: Wash your canvas, cotton or nylon bags regularly at a high temperature with a detergent containing disinfectant, then put them in the dryer. This can reduce the bacteria by more than 99 percent.
5. Doing the same workout all the time.
Stuck on the same running route or spin class? “You’re exposing your muscles and joints to the same stress day after day, which could increase your risk of an overuse injury,” warns Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise. Instead: Vary your cardio regimen and add yoga or Pilates. The balance and flexibility training will help protect your muscles and joints.
6. Stretching before exercise.
Stretching a cold muscle could strain or tear it, says Bryant. A 2015 study from Germany found that when athletes held stretches before playing soccer, their knee joints became more lax, which could increase injury risk.
Instead: Warm up by doing gentle, lower-intensity versions of the movement patterns you’re likely to do in your workout, such as climbing on your bike and cycling slowly. But definitely stretch your muscles during your cool down.