In this age of information, we’re constantly surrounded by dangerously incorrect claims about what’s good for our health and what isn’t. Some have been repeated through the ages and taken as fact, while newfangled ideas have been gaining traction on the Internet. We know some practices are straight-up wrong, but we do them anyway!
It’s time for a fact-check and a moment of self-reflection – are the things we believe about our health actually true? And if we know they’re not, why do we continue to act as if they are? Here are five things you’re doing wrong when it comes to your health – and how to make them right!
1 – You skip breakfast
Breakfast skippers skimp on the most important meal of the day for a variety of reasons, among which are a busy lifestyle, trying to lose weight, and not being able to stomach a full meal upon waking.
However, it’s important to kick off the day with some fuel in your tank. From dinner until breakfast, your body does without food. That’s at least eight hours while you’re asleep! If you wait until lunch to feed yourself, you’ll have left your stomach empty for too long. This causes an increase in the acidity of the stomach, and the acid will wear away at its inner lining. In the long-term, this can lead to ulcers and other digestive problems.
More immediately, you won’t have any energy to start your morning right, setting off a domino effect of bad health decisions throughout the day to compensate. Studies have found a relationship between skipping breakfast and other ineffective health behaviours, such as smoking and snacking on unhealthy foods to make up for the hunger.
Make it right: Fill up your empty tank! Eating breakfast will give you energy you need to get through the day productively. That means less snacking and a lighter lunch and dinner – which is, contrary to popular belief, better for your weight loss goals than skipping breakfast. Keep in mind as well that you shouldn’t eat breakfast simply for the sake of it. Make sure you start the day off with nutrient-dense, balanced portions.
2 – You’re over-hydrating
Let’s be clear on this point: it’s essential that you drink enough water every day to keep your cells healthy and prevent dehydration. Our sticking point is really how much “enough” water actually is. Does the age-old rule of eight glasses a day still hold?
First off, how much water your body needs depends on several factors, including age, gender, body consumption, activity level, and even the climate of the place you live in. A professional wrestler in America has different water requirements from a child in the tropics, for example.
Second, It’s been speculated that the eight glasses of water belief stemmed from the misinterpretation of a 1945 report by the National Research Council: “A suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 litres daily in most instances. An ordinary standard for diverse persons is 1 millilitre for each calorie of food. Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.” Popular belief has since taken the first part of the report as gospel but has largely forgotten the part where it said most water content actually came from food.
Make it right: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine estimates that women require 2.7 litres and men require 3.7 litres of “total water” per day. That estimated total already takes into account the water from the food you eat (if you ate a salad full of cucumber, for example, that’s a lot of water right there!) as well as the non-water drinks you chug throughout the day.
3 – You don’t moisturise after a shower
You’ve heard about the importance of moisturising your face – it prevents wrinkles and fine lines, keeps your makeup looking flawless, hydrates, et cetera – but skin isn’t limited to just your face!
Skin is the largest organ in the body, and it needs water just the same as any other. Even if you use commercially-made “moisturising” soaps and cleansers on the market, that’s not a pass to skip moisturising after a bath. In fact, these products actually “moisturise” by pulling water out from under your skin – hydrating you on the outside but dehydrating you on the inside. That’s ultimately bad for your skin in the long run. Don’t rely on these products and always moisturise separately after a shower.
Make it right: Choose cleansers made from mild, natural ingredients like shea butter or natural oils. Avoid commercial products, especially those with antibacterials like triclosan and triclocarban listed as ingredients. These ingredients have been banned by the Food and Drug Administration, because of their ability to kill all the microorganisms on your skin, messing up your body’s natural flora and pH levels. Most importantly, slather up with natural-ingredient lotions post-shower to lock in the moisture.
4 – You’re deep into detox
The idea behind a detox sounds logical at first glance. After all, who wouldn’t be attracted by the thought of purging waste from our colon, especially when you think of all the junk we put in our bodies on a daily basis? Most detox diets use a combination of fasting, consuming only fluids and select fruits or vegetables, and avoiding heavy stuff like meat. That makes it a favourite for those looking to lose weight fast.
But, here are the hard truths about detoxing: first, we don’t actually need to detox anything. Complementary medicine expert Professor Edzard Ernst says of the process, “Nobody can even name the substances that they’re supposedly eliminating. The only thing detox products do eliminate from the consumer is his or her money.”
Worse, fasting and depriving your body of fuel from carbohydrates or fats means your body has to break down protein stores to create energy. This creates actual toxins called ketone bodies, which play havoc with your blood pH and cause potentially fatal amounts of water and electrolytes to be flushed out in your urine.
Make it right: There’s really no need to get complicated with your diet to keep your body healthy and toxin-free. Avoiding junk food and nourishing yourself with balanced portions of fruits, vegetables, fish, lean meats, and healthy fats is scientifically-proven to be better than living off a glass of lemon water and cayenne pepper for days.
5 – You’re in sleep debt
Sleep debt is cumulative sleep loss from regular sleep deprivation. It’s a common misconception that you can cut down on sleep on busy weekdays and make up for it by sleeping in on weekends, but that’s not how the body works.
Chronic sleep deprivation keeps your stress levels high and wreaks havoc on all your body systems. It overworks your heart, short-circuits your brain, keeps your blood sugar high, and weakens your immune system.
Not to mention, trying to function while sleep deprived leaves you open to accidents, thanks to decreased mental functions and sluggish reaction times to danger.
Make it right: You’ll never actually be able to “repay” sleep debt, but you can start getting back in the black by adjusting your sleeping habits today. Manage your schedule so you get sufficient rest every day. Condition your body to shut down in the hours before bedtime by doing less work, putting down electronic gadgets, and creating a ritual for sleep. In more serious situations, consider changing your job or lifestyle so you’re not living a life that comes at the expense of your health.