From candy jars on your co-worker’s desk to happy hour cocktails, missed workouts and lack of sleep due to stressful situations, bad health habits are easy to come by. Each one in its own instance isn’t so bad, but when they pile on top of each other, you quickly can find yourself in a vicious cycle of unhealthy habits. The problem with bad health habits is that they’re easy to include into your lifestyle, but hard to move away from when you realize how much they’re costing your health and wellness.
“People have a hard time distinguishing between their perception of living with healthy habits and the reality of their lifestyle choices,” explains Bruce Kelly, personal trainer and studio owner at Fitness Together Media. “When there’s a large gap between perception and reality, that’s when your lifestyle habits can end up costing you.”
To help put the cost of bad habits into perspective, Kelly provided his insight for the following top four bad health habits that he sees many people struggling with.
Diet and Exercise
Most people understand the importance of eating healthy and exercising, but Kelly finds that many believe they’re a lot more active and eating better than they really are. Larger portions, hidden ingredients in processed foods or when eating out at a restaurant, and not properly calculating the actual impact of your activity level to your overall health can be some of the leading causes to a poor diet and exercise plan. Another common cause that Kelly sees on a regular basis is that people aren’t honest with themselves or others when it comes to admitting the amount and types of foods they eat regularly, as well as how often they actually skip workouts.
“Many people keep diluting themselves by believing that they’re really eating healthier and exercising more than they really are,” shares Kelly. “It’s important to impress on people that they’re only fooling themselves when they’re caught up in their own false perceptions.”
To get real about what you eat and how active you are, Kelly suggests incorporating food journaling and activity tracking into your routine. Even if you just track yourself for a short amount of time like a week, you can unveil the reality of what you eat and how much you exercise.
Although there are various studies and media stories about the benefits of some alcohols like red wine, Kelly tells his clients not to fool themselves into believing that drinking is actually good for you. Alcohol isn’t a health food so you have to be honest with yourself if you choose to drink a glass of wine or a bottle of beer.
If you do enjoy a cocktail every now and again, Kelly advises against drinking at night right before heading to bed. Instead, drinking alcohol after you exercise – like having a beer after you’ve ran a race – will cost you less in the long run because your body’s metabolism is at its highest levels. It will be able to burn off the extra calories quicker in a situation like this, rather than if you’re lounging on the couch having a glass of wine after sitting all day at your desk job. In any situation, though, moderation is always key.
“When you drink at night, you’re compounding the increased caloric and sugar intake, as well as interrupting your sleep patterns,” explains Kelly. “Alcohol may not impact your ability to go to sleep, but it will have a negative effect on the duration and quality of your sleep. All of this can negatively impact your health and fitness goals.”
Everybody thinks they can go without sleep, but really you’re only doing damage to your mental and physical health when you don’t get enough rest. The effects can be quite damaging to your long-term health and fitness, but you don’t always see them right away. One week of bad sleep can impact you drastically at the cellular level and it’s never really possible to make up for lost rest, says Kelly.
“There’s a linear relationship between the amount of sleep a person gets and their overall health and fitness levels,” explains Kelly. “The less you sleep, the higher your BMI, the increase in poor insulin control and the increase in cortisol levels. It can negatively impact your hormones and have bad effects on your health.”
In our constant, always-on-the-go society, many people suffer from the negative effects of stress without even realizing it. Lack of sleep, a constant feeling of uneasiness and even physical ailments like stomachaches and headaches are common stress indicators. To help manage the daily stressors in your life, Kelly suggests regular physical activity as a healthy outlet, as well as taking time out for yourself away from technology, and removing the elements in your life that may be triggering your stress. Because, when you’re stressed, your health and fitness levels can definitely be compromised.
“If you’re having trouble losing weight or meeting your fitness goals, you have to figure out what habits are factoring into your problem,” says Kelly. “All of these habits tend to never stand alone. They feed upon one another, creating a vicious cycle of bad habits.”
Guilty pleasures and bad habits can be found around every corner in life. To minimize their impact on your health and fitness, focus on eliminating each bad habit you currently indulge in one at a time. You’ll not only start feeling better about making better life choices, but your body’s health will appreciate your new healthy perception and lifestyle.
“If you don’t make the time and effort now to make healthy choices, it’s going to cost you in the long run in the form of poor health, doctor bills and not living as long as you’d like,” warns Kelly. “If you spend the time, effort and money now to eat healthy, exercise and adopt good habits, then you’re setting yourself up to live a richer and longer life. It’s either do it now, or pay the price later.”