weight gain
Everyone has their share of bad habits. Some people swear too often. Others will be late to their own funeral. Still others would lose their own head if it were not attached to their neck. Some bad habits are merely inconvenient or an annoyance. In most cases, it is frustrating when your significant other is consistently five minutes late to a date, but it does not actually hurt anyone. Similarly, it is annoying to spend 10 minutes hunting for your keys every morning, but it does no real harm. 

Not all bad habits are so innocent. Some habits are unhealthy and downright dangerous. Although it is a good idea to try and break the habit of being tardy or messy, it does not need to be a top priority. Unhealthy habits, however, need to be addressed as soon as possible. Even though not all unhealthy habits are as serious as an alcohol or drug addiction either. There are many small daily rituals you take part in that are actually terrible for you. Here are nine unhealthy habits you need to break right away.

Late Afternoon Caffeine

Is there an office place in America that does not have at least one person drinking a cup of coffee late in the afternoon? Probably not. The pervasiveness of this habit, however, does not make it any healthier. A limited amount of coffee in and of itself is not dangerous, but the caffeine it contains can wreak havoc on your body if you are not careful. Though most people would probably claim that their morning coffee only keeps them really energized for two or three hours, the caffeine from your morning cup, or gallon, stays in your system for eight to nine hours. You may not feel the same level of energizing rush for all nine hours, but the caffeine will still continue to affect your body. If you have a cup of coffee late in the afternoon, the caffeine will remain in your system until late at night. This means that your 3:00 p.m.cup of coffee will keep you awake until midnight, and it may keep you up even later if you are sensitive to caffeine. 

Some people claim that they can fall asleep even after drinking coffee. Although this may be true, the rest you are getting is not truly rejuvenating sleep. Besides, if coffee does not keep you awake, what is the point in drinking fully caffeinated coffee in the afternoon instead of decaf?

Accepting “Lesser” Addictions

Most people know that a drug or alcohol habit is one that has to be broken. That said, many of those same people refuse to address their own addictions. 

Drugs and alcohol are not the only addictions that affect people. The list of dangers that come with smoking is a mile long, yet many people do not bother to quit even when secondhand smoke and the lingering fumes that cling to a smoker’s clothing and hair harm their family and friends. Other “lesser” addictions that people do not always bother to address are internet, social media and smartphone addictions. These addictions are insidious and difficult to pin down, in part because they are so widespread and merely an extreme form of culturally acceptable behavior. Most people are all but surgically attached to their cell phones and check social media repeatedly during the day. Interest or even obsession tips over into addiction territory, however, when the desire to check social media or scroll through a smartphone begin to interfere with daily life. If you are consistently up too late at night and know you need to go to bed but do not because you are surfing the internet, you may have an internet addiction. If you get irritable or anxious when you have not checked your smartphone in a few hours, you may have a smartphone addiction. Do not be fooled by how ridiculous or innocuous the addictions sound. Even though the damage is not as obvious or as extreme as the damage done by drug addictions or alcoholism, technological addictions are perfectly capable of ruining a person’s life. Too much time spent on Facebook at work can cost a person their job, and being unable to stop playing with a phone during a date can destroy a romantic relationship. 

Unhealthy Eating Habits

“Eat clean!” “All-natural ingredients!” “Organic!” These are the battle cries of the latest health brigade. Eating healthier, however, does not have to mean giving up chocolate chip cookies or trading your beloved Doritos in for roasted carrot chips. You can eat healthy and still enjoy your sugary, fatty, processed treats. The key is simply to eat junk food only on rare occasions. On Super Bowl Sunday, go ahead and dig into the buffalo chicken cheese dip that has grease swimming on top. During the rest of the week, however, stick to lean meats and healthy grains. When you go out on a date, feel free to indulge in that chocolate mousse cake, simply make sure you avoid the sweets the next day.

Eating healthy is not just about what you put on your plate. Skipping meals or overeating is just as bad for you as a pile of candy. One of the most common mistakes people make is skipping breakfast. Although it may seem like coffee is a perfectly good substitute for food on a hectic morning, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast tells your body it is morning, so skipping it can negatively affect your circadian rhythm. Breakfast also gives your body the energy you need to get going in the morning and stay alert and focused. Skipping breakfast also commonly causes you to overeat at lunch when you are far more likely to be tempted by chips, cookies and calorie-packed sodas. 

Breakfast does not have to be a heavily involved meal. Boil a pair of eggs the night before and microwave them in the morning. Have a bowl of cereal or make overnight oatmeal. If you truly do not have time to make or eat breakfast, grab a yogurt or some fruit and nuts to eat during your commute or when you get to work. You can also simply wake up 10 minutes early and enjoy a bowl of cereal.

Making up Sleep on Weekends

Perhaps one of the most common bad habits among Westerners is skimping on sleep. People of all ages get what they see as the bare minimum of sleep during the week and then try to make up for lost hours over the weekend. This strategy, however, is a disaster for your mental and physical health for a number of reasons. The first reason is that what you perceive as the minimal amount of sleep necessary for you to function during the day is very different from the reality of what your body truly needs. Many adults feel that they can get by just fine on four or five hours of sleep during the week, but the average adult actually needs at least seven hours to function properly. Teenagers and children, who begin to develop poor sleeping habits as young as middle school, need roughly nine hours of sleep a night. 

The second reason making up for lost sleep on the weekends is a terrible habit is that you cannot actually make up for all your lost sleep over two nights. If you lose two hours of sleep a night during the week, you need to make up for 10 hours of sleep over the weekend. The odds are good that even when you sleep in on the weekend, you are not getting 12 to 13 hours of sleep a night. Furthermore, sleeping in on weekends actually makes it harder for you to get good sleep during the week. Your circadian rhythm is regulated, in part, by your sleep habits. Your body tends to accept whatever time you usually get up as “morning” regardless of whether you get up at 4:00 a.m. or 11 a.m. So, if you sleep in until noon every weekend, when Monday comes, your body is convinced that you are supposed to get up at noon not six. This leads you to have more trouble sleeping during the week and trying to make up for even more lost sleep on the weekend. So, you sleep later than ever over the weekend which makes it harder for you to sleep during the week. Keep up the habit long enough and you may as well just accept that you have become nocturnal.

Skipping Exercise

Do you get the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day? If you are like most Americans, the answer is probably no. You undoubtedly get up in the morning, go straight to work, come home in the evenings and then either turn on the TV or the computer. You probably also think that you do not have time to exercise or feel that exercise is for people trying to lose weight. Since you do not feel overweight, you have no reason to exercise. 

Exercise is essential for a healthy cardiovascular system and helps reduce the risk of developing everything from arthritis to cancer. Exercise has also been shown to have a proven effect on lowering a person’s stress levels and improving their mood, so be sure to get up and move every day.

Not Drinking Enough Water

There is a reason that NASA keeps looking for liquid water on other planets. Water is the essence of life as humanity knows it. Without water, there is no life. Although it may seem dramatic, this is true in your life as well. You need water to survive, and you may not be drinking enough.

Even though drinking a little less water than you need will likely not lead to you keeling over and dying, minor dehydration still brings plenty of nastiness with it. If you are suffering from mild dehydration, most commonly perceived as feeling thirsty, you will feel sluggish, irritable and unable to focus. Not drinking enough water can also lead to migraines, muscle cramps, bloating, a decreased metabolism, constipation and an increased risk of stroke or  heart attack. Drinking soda, coffee or sports drinks will not cure your dehydration either. To keep your body working correctly, an adult needs to drink at least one gallon of plain old water each day.

Nail Biting

Biting your nails is a horrible habit. When you bite your nails, you are literally eating whatever you have touched in the last few days. That includes the sweaty yoga mat, gasoline pump handle and filthy subway train pole. Even if you washed your hands right before you nibbled on your fingers, you likely did not get all of the bacteria out from under your nails. Among those bacteria are several strains of E. coli, the bacteria most commonly known for being found in raw sewage. These bacteria love to live in the miniscule folds of skin under your finger nails and make their way down your throat when you bite your nails. You also can end up swallowing dirt, dust and bits of your own nails. 

Sitting All Day

Most Westerners today work in an office environment. That means they get up in the morning, sit in a car to get to work, sit at their desk for eight hours and then come home and sit in front of the TV. Sitting all day, however, is not what the human body was made to do. 

Sitting too long causes a number of unpleasant internal problems. Your muscles tighten, your spine can begin to bend unnaturally and your internal organs compress. Your metabolism drops and your levels of HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol, decrease. Too much sitting also increases your risk for type two diabetes, depression and a number of cardiovascular issues including deep vein thrombosis.  

Letting Magazines Define Beauty

If you are on social media at all these days, you have probably seen discussions and rants about unrealistic images being used in advertisements. Even though you may be smart enough to know that the impossibly perfect figure on the TV screen is not a realistic expectation, that does not mean you have not internalized someone else’s idea of beauty by accident. If you think that a certain haircut or body type is the epitome of beauty, you are probably going to do what you can to emulate that appearance. There is nothing inherently wrong with this if you simply think that curly hair or calloused hands are more attractive. The problem comes when you simply believe that whatever society deems is beautiful is beautiful, and also believe that whatever does not match that ideal is not beautiful. Standards of beauty change over time, and although you may fit one ideal of beauty now, you will likely not fit the next one. In the 1990’s, for example, waifish and skinny women were seen as beautiful. Ten years later, large butts and large breasts were back in style.  Do not let advertisers decide for you what is beautiful. If you think you look better with a beard, grow a beard. If you think you are more attractive with short hair, cut off that ponytail. If you have your own sense of beauty, you will never need to worry about not being beautiful.

Everyone has bad habits. The key is to make sure those bad habits that you have are merely inconvenient instead of unhealthy. So, forget about reorganizing your life to help you keep better track of your keys and instead, buckle down to tackle those unpleasant habits that are truly doing you harm.
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