1 8 Unhealthy Habits to Kick in 2010 on Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:46 am
Sure, bad habits are hard to break. But we’ve got 8 you should quit for a healthier life, and experts' tips to make the process easier. Plus, are you ready to make a life change? Take our quiz to find out...
Is having too many cocktails, chain-smoking cigarettes or skimping on sleep par for the course for you? If so, your health – and sometimes your life – may depend on making some changes pronto. Kick your bad habits to the curb starting January 1, 2010 with tips we’ve culled from top experts. Stick to your new plan for 21 consecutive days – the amount of time psychologists have found it takes for action to become routine – and before you know it, your bad habit will be so 2009.
Bad habit #1: Drinking Too Much
Why you should kick it: “More than one drink a day is associated with high blood pressure and triglycerides and an increased risk of heart disease,” says [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.], chief of women’s cardiac care at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and author of [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] (Ballantine). “Heavy alcohol intake is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer and osteoporosis.” Too many cocktails can also send your mood downhill because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, adds Catherine Birndorf, M.D., founding director of the Payne Whitney Women’s Program at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
How to kick it:
- Set a limit. Restrict yourself to no more than one drink per day: a 5-ounce glass of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1-1/2 ounces of 80-proof alcohol.
- Keep your hands busy. At parties, carry a clutch purse, so you have only one free hand (which you need to carry a plate). After you’ve had your one drink, sip a fun, but non-alcoholic beverage, such as seltzer with orange or cranberry juice.
Bad habit #2: Not Getting Enough Sleep
Why you should kick it: When life gets busy, cutting back on sleep is an easy way to squeeze more into a day. But skimping on snooze time actually makes life harder. Studies show that sleep deprivation reduces brain performance, memory, coordination, multi-tasking abilities and reflexes and increases your feelings of sadness, stress or anger. You’ll also “get colds and flus, and long-term health problems, such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease,” says Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., director of the Sleep Center at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and author of [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] (Marlowe & Company). Plus, one study found that women who slept less than five hours a night were 32% more likely to gain weight.
How to kick it:
- Lower the lights. “Our body’s sleep-wake cycle is regulated by light and dark,” Mindell says. Dimming lights about an hour before bed causes the body to produce melatonin – a hormone that makes you sleepy.
Also, turn off the TV and computer because their light can leave you wide-eyed. “Not to mention that checking emails, surfing the Internet or watching TV prevents you from going to bed early and getting the rest you need,” she adds.
- Give yourself a bedtime. And stick to it every night, even on weekends! This sets your biological clock, so you’ll get tired at a certain time each night and fall asleep easily.
Bad habit #3: Nail Biting
Why you should kick it: The gnawed nails look is horrible, but the problem goes beyond the cosmetic. First, putting your hands in your mouth is the fast track to getting sick because you touch surfaces where cold or flu germs may live. “Second, tearing up the cuticle, which is there to protect the nail, or causing cuts in the surrounding skin can let in bacteria that can cause local infections,” explains Ranella Hirsch, M.D., president of the American of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery.
How to kick it:
- Try anti-biting polish. Available at drug and beauty supply stores, these clear products have a bitter, chemical-like taste that may make it less appealing to chew on your nails. To keep your mouth busy, stock up on popsicles, lollipops, hard candies and sugar-free gum.
- Invest in your digits. Treat yourself to weekly salon manicures. Not only will your nails look beautiful, but spending money on them may give you more willpower to quit biting them. Plus, a pro will keep your fingers in good shape, so you’ll have fewer hangnails or ragged cuticles.
Bad habit #4: Eating Poorly
Why you should kick it: It goes beyond fitting into your skinny jeans.
“Eating poorly can result in low energy and nutrient deficiencies that can negatively affect your skin, hair, and nails and put you at risk for an array of [problems], including heart disease and cancer,” explains nutritionist Lisa Drayer, R.D., author of [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] (McGraw-Hill).
How to kick it:
- Eat a healthy A.M. meal. Breakfast is the perfect meal to get your fill of important vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, fiber, vitamin C and an endless list of disease-fighting antioxidants.
Plus, if you’re trying to slim down, it will keep you from pigging out at lunch because you’re ravenous. Try whole-grain cereal with berries and non-fat milk, oatmeal and fruit or whole-grain toast with an egg.
- Jot it down. Write down whatever you put in your mouth and how you feel when you do it. “This type of food/mood journal can help you identify problem areas,” Drayer says. “For example, if you see that you’re grabbing M&M’s every time you’re stressed, you need to find healthier ways to manage these emotions.”
Bad habit #5: Not Exercising
Why you should kick it: The obvious reason to break a sweat is to keep pounds from piling on. “But there are other benefits of regular exercise, such as improved flexibility, balance, coordination and muscle mass, and a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer,” says personal trainer Tracey Mallett, author of [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] (Da Capo, 2009). “Exercise is also one of the best ways to manage stress and boost your mood because it causes the brain to produce feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins.”
How to fix it:
- Put one foot in front of the other. A workout is as easy as slipping on sneakers and heading outside for a stroll – no fancy gym membership needed. Better yet, enlist a friend to walk with you before work, during lunch or after dinner. “This will keep you accountable and motivate you to stick with it,” Mallett says.
- Create a home gym. Buy a good total body DVD and some dumbbells. “This way there's no excuse not to exercise – even if the weather is bad,” Mallett says.
Bad habit #6: Wearing Makeup to Bed
Why you should kick it: It’s not good for your complexion and might cause pimples. “Nighttime is when skin heals and restores itself and giving your skin a chance to breathe really helps this along,” Hirsch says. Also, leaving makeup on overnight – along with any dirt accumulated during the day – can cause breakouts, she says. Besides, active ingredients in wrinkle creams and acne products penetrate better when skin is clean.
How to fix it:
- Simplify. “Make the process as easy as possible for yourself,” Hirsch says. Buy makeup removal wipes, which remove dirt and makeup in one step. And you can even leave them by your bedside for those really late nights.
- Change your makeup. Waterproof makeup is great because it stays put, but it can be a pain at night because, well, it stays put. It requires special remover as well as your regular facial wash. On the other hand, non-waterproof makeup often rinses away quickly with a plain cleanser or soap.
Bad habit #7: Not Brushing and Flossing Before Bed
Why you should kick it: “Not brushing or flossing before bed leaves you susceptible to cavities, bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease and bone loss,” says Lana Rozenberg, D.D.S., a cosmetic dentist in New York City and founder of the Rozenberg Dental Day Spa. “Plus, during the day we swallow approximately 2,000 times a day, which flushes out some of the bacteria,” she says. “But at night we only swallow about 200 times, which leaves bad bacteria lingering in your mouth, causing more damage.”
How to fix it:
- Brush up your memory. Put a reminder note on your bathroom mirror, place your tooth brush and floss in full view and set an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you when to brush.
- Make brushing and flossing fun again. If gadgets motivate you, look for one of the high-tech toothbrushes with rotating bristles that do all the work and have alarms to let you know when the recommended two-minute brush time is up. And experiment to find a floss you love – the options are endless from the waxed to satiny finish – in a flavor you find appealing.
Bad habit #8: Smoking
Why you should kick it: This is the mother of bad habits. Smoking is the cause of at least 30% of all cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. It also boosts your risk of heart disease two to four times, and if you’re puffing away and taking birth control pills, this risk goes up by almost 21%.
How to kick it:
- Call for help. Research shows that getting telephone counseling doubles your chances of success. Most states have telephone-based programs, and they’re free. One example is the American Cancer Society’s Quitline (Find one in your area at [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]).
- Don’t go it alone. Join a support group where you’ll meet others working toward the same goal. Find one at your local community center, through your employer or look for a near-by chapter of Nicotine Anonymous ([You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] ). Also, check out [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]. Have you conquered a personal challenge? Lifescript wants to hear your success stories, whether it’s diet, fitness, addiction, relationships, debt, career or personal health. We may feature your story to inspire readers just like you.
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