Wake up at 5:45 a.m. for cycling class. Drink Paleo coffee. Grab a Sweetgreen salad for lunch. Then…throw back three glasses of wine and finish a massive cheesy beef burrito while catching up on Shameless until midnight. Whoops!
Turns out, even the healthiest people face regular pitfalls—moments or habits that sneak in to their lives even though they’re eating well 99 percent of the time and working out five days a week. “They often ignore the other things” because most of the time they’re really on it health-wise, says functional medicine physician Susan Blum, MD. But those things that seem tiny sometimes aren’t.
We asked Dr. Blum to help us sort through some of the most common trip-ups you may encounter on your own healthy journey, so that you spot them a mile away. And don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you become the patron saint of healthy habits overnight—or ever. Here are seven pitfalls commonly faced by otherwise healthy people. —Lisa Elaine Held
Originally published March 19, 2014, updated January 19, 2016.
(Photo: Unsplash, William Iven)
“If you’re a generally healthy person, then alcohol in moderation seems to be okay,” Dr. Blum says. (Phew!) “But people don’t realize how much they’re actually drinking.” If it’s a multiple drinks per night situation, try sticking to one glass or “box it out,” she says, meaning skip a few days and only pop the cork during a designated time frame, like Thursday through Sunday.
(Photo: Stocksnap, Krzysztof Puszczynski)
If you’re super stressed all of the time, your cortisol levels will spike and all kinds of negative effects will follow, like five bonus pounds of stay-put muffin top, brittle nails, and more. “Stress hormones are often to blame,” when people are confused about health issues, Dr. Blum says. “They will undermine everything else. Women need to make sure that they’re not burning the candle at both ends for too long.”
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No one sleeps enough, and Dr. Blum says getting to bed at a reasonable hour is often the culprit, since women are getting home super late after a long day of work and late night hours are often the only ones they have to themselves. But it’s not just about the energy deficit you’ll have the next day. “It goes a step further because your body repairs and restores itself at night.”
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Really, who wants to cook after a 12-hour work day? But Seamless often equals extra sugar and salt, too. “You don’t always know what’s in there.” Try chopping veggies and pre-cooking quinoa on Sunday so you always have something to grab.
(Photo: Stocksnap, Krzysztof Puszczynski)
It often seems like all you need is coffee when you’re running out the door, until that mid-morning crash. “Making sure you eat breakfast and lunch and making sure both of those meals have a protein source” will help you maintain short-term energy and long-term health, Dr. Blum says.
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Lots of healthy people refuse to buy non-organic produce for fear of pesticides and then, whoops, slather parabens on their skin and spray their counters with toxic cleaners. “The environment is really making people sick—we’re just exposed to so many things,” Dr. Blum says. You can’t totally avoid toxins, but you can start to pay attention and switch things out (this guide to 8 better-for-you home cleaning products is a good place to start).
(Photo: Flickr, Takashi Ota)
When it comes to a balanced sex life, “I don’t think people put it on their ‘healthy to-do list,'” Dr. Blum says. If you’re in a relationship and are a busy bee, you may be having too little. “People legitimately have low sex hormones from stress and lack of sleep,” she says (see points two and three, above), and prioritizing it more could help you get to a happier, healthier place. Or, if you’re dating, and can forget about the implications of hooking up in the heat of the moment, that’s an area to bring back into balance, too.
Looking for other ways to take your wellness to the next level? Gabrielle Bernstein thinks this three-letter word could help.
(Photo: Unsplash, Nathan Walker)