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5 Habits to Break Before It's Too Late

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You want to live a long, full life -- to be young and lean forever. But you could be doing yourself more harm than good.

woman watching tv and eating

JJ Virgin: "Someday," you say, "I'm going to get my health back on track, after this next project," or "when I get back from my cruise," or "when the kids get a little older" ... C'mon, you know your list of reasons -- or what I call EXCUSES -- better than I.

Look, if you're waiting for some magical day to appear, you just may be waiting forever. These days do not "show up"; you show up for THEM. I have identified five critical areas, bad habits that many people mindlessly follow. Do you realize that each and every day of your life that you do not reverse these dangerous trends, you get farther and farther from your ultimate goal of living a fulfilling life? Take a look at each area, determine how you stack up, and then make the fix today:

1) Stealing from sleep: Studies show that a minimum of seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep (at night) are essential for health. Sleep is the time when your body repairs and recovers from all of the metabolic processes that your body performs every second. Sleep supports healthy weight management, raises growth hormone, and heals the adrenals. If you are watching TV, working on your PC, or otherwise stimulating yourself so that you are unable to go to sleep by 11 PM, then establish the Power Down Hour and turn to more relaxing activities like baths, light novels, or cuddling with a loved one (or pet!) at least an hour or two before bedtime. Then ... retrain yourself to sleep through the night.

2) Skipping breakfast: How many times do you find yourself dashing out the door to start your day, only to discover that you forgot to eat? Listen, your body has just "fasted" overnight, and in order to fuel yourself for the day (and lower stress hormones), you must eat a balanced meal that includes proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Otherwise, your body will turn on itself for fuel, and it isn't fat but muscle that it's going to target ... which will cascade into a very nasty sequence of health consequences that will make you fat, old, and tired before your time.

3) Blowing off exercise:
If you think you can manage your health and weight through dietary means alone, it won't work. Period. Exercise is crucial for stimulating proper physical and hormonal response necessary for building muscle and bone, burning fat, letting you sleep, keeping you young, giving you energy -- the list is endless. More important is the CORRECT type of exercise, which involves high-intensity interval training, along with resistance workouts. If you can't find 20-30 minutes a day to incorporate these exercises into your life (oh yeah, that is ALL you need, by the way), then you can kiss your health goodbye.

4) Noshing at night: Strapping on the feedbag in the evenings basically signals your body to hold off on burning existing fat stores, raises stress hormones before bedtime, and screws up your body's natural digestive processes at a time when it should be ready to shut down and repair. If you are eating in a hormonally-balanced way during your evening meal, there is absolutely no need to munch afterward.

5) Not counting your beverages: One of the craziest things I encounter in my work is the lack of consideration of high-calorie, high-sugar drinks in the diet. Yes, those healthy "Jumbo Juices," designer coffee slurpees (hey, they may as well be, given all the sugar in them), and those harmless little cocktails every night, especially those fruit-flavored martini and tequila drinks, can really pack on the pounds in a hurry. Make the switch to healthier options like iced green tea -- or, my favorite, Emergen-C -- for some sparkling mineral replacements that not only satisfy, but also fuel and nourish!

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Beki October 27, 2009, 3:35 PM

Great tips. I needed the reminder about WHY snacking after dinner is such a sin. Even “good” snacks at that time keep the furnace from kicking on.

Sparky112 October 31, 2009, 7:46 PM

The claim about nighttime eating causing weight gain is well-known to be a myth, and I was surprised to read it here. Just do a Google search for “eating at night myth” (without the quotation marks) and click on the third link down, from AOL Health. It’s a review of studies done by doctors at Harvard Medical School which shows that it’s all about the amount of calories you take in, not when you get them.

I highly recommend that Ms. Virgin fact-check her recommendations before posting “facts” which are known to be unsupported by evidence.

STOP November 1, 2009, 1:20 AM

Number 2 is right supported by ediets too and my dietician trainer/I am really suspicious of the author’s name - was she really born with that? & anyone whose claim to fami is clebrieites - som of the advic is ok but nothing do as any doc or anyone with common sense good habits and watching what has been said about sleep, exercise and food over the past years but know forever (my mom was an rn in 1920 & she knew all this an also about not smoking! I don’t trust this author - her name is almost scatalogical

Debra November 1, 2009, 1:02 PM

i have been following these 5 tips for years. Although I DO exercise everyday, it’s mostly stretching and a few strengthening exercises and I walk about two miles….when I can squeeze it in!……..the result: I’ve gained 20 pounds! I watch what I eat (fruit over a piece of cake, etc) I am very conscious of portion control and yet i have gained and gained over the last two years. Why? I HAVE to attribute to menopause and genetics! If I cut calorie intake more, I literally begin to feel faint and irritable……any suggestions???

PW November 1, 2009, 1:37 PM

I’m not sure about this author’s explanation of why eating late is bad for you. However I will admit that over time it will catch up with you (even with regular excercise). I have a bad habit of doing this and it is so hard to break. If you don’t leave the office sometimes until after 6 and your aerobics class is at 6:30 or 7:00…that no eating after 6 rule goes out the window for me! I guess that’s why I’ve been trying to lose 10 lbs for about 3yrs! LOL! I know I need to break this bad habit but I can’t go to bed hungry even if it’s just a bowl of cereal. Does anybody else feel me!?!

Kathy Seeborg November 1, 2009, 2:47 PM


You might want to go to your doctor and have your thyroid checked. If it is low, it will cause weight gain

DsrtWolf November 2, 2009, 6:37 PM

Well Sparky, as with most people, you are misquoting. From the article you site:
“The Bottom Line
It is POSSIBLE that, for some people, eating at night is associated with weight gain.”

“But it’s PROBABLY a myth that eating before bed has a unique ability to promote weight gain compared with eating at other times of the day.”

And if you read the entire article, written in first person with no name attached, it really has nothing good to say about eating at night, and several items describing why it MIGHT be bad for you. While it is obvious that you have something you believe in with your article, you may want to review your “facts” as well, as yours are just as unsupported as hers.

As for everyone else, don’t rely on any one post (not even this one) or article, do the research yourself.

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