10 health lies you tell yourself
Making excuses for unhealthy lifestyle choices takes away opportunities to be your healthiest. A 2011 Consumer Reports survey says nine out of 10 Americans give themselves credit for eating "somewhat" healthy. In actuality, two-thirds eat one fruit or vegetable a day and many eat none at all -- far below the recommended five servings. Plus, one-third of those who said they were at a healthy weight were actually overweight. Experts tell the whole truth about the most common health lies we tell ourselves.
--By Linda Melone for MSN Healthy Living
I skip breakfast and barely eat lunch, so I can eat what I want for dinner
Nothing but the truth: Skipping breakfast and lunch because you're too busy to eat, yet wolfing down a double-cheeseburger on the way home can lead to weight gain. New research presented at this year's Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo showed that breakfast-skippers tended to weigh more and practiced more unhealthy eating habits (such as eating high-calorie snacks) than those who eat breakfast. "Skipping meals is also a sure way to skimp on nutrients that your body needs to perform at its best," says Keri Gans, a New York-based nutrition consultant and author of The Small Change Diet (Gallery, 2011). Plus, eating a healthful breakfast and lunch should not take away from your ability to enjoy dinner, says Gans.
If I need energy, I'll just drink coffee
Nothing but the truth: Although caffeine heightens focus and attention, coffee may set you up for a worse energy crash later on if you rely on it for energy, says Gans. "Drinking coffee for energy is like a Band-Aid. It's a temporary fix, but not the best choice in the long run. If you need energy it could be because your body is running on empty." Since food provides your body's fuel, instead of reaching for a quick caffeine fix, grab a healthful, energizing snack instead: Low-fat yogurt and a small banana, a piece of fruit with peanut butter, half a turkey sandwich or a protein shake each makes for a healthier option without the caffeine crash.
I don't need a vacation. I thrive on work
Nothing but the truth: If you take pride in working hard and not taking vacations, it may be at the expense of your health. Only 60 percent of employees take all of their paid vacation days, according to a survey by the Families and Work Institute (2008), and 5 percent take no vacation days at all. The survey showed that workers who took more than 13 vacation days were overall healthier with fewer minor health problems, less depression, less stress and fewer sleep problems than workers who took only six to 12 vacation days a year. In addition, a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine (2000) shows a link between vacation time and a reduced risk of all causes of mortality, specifically coronary heart disease. Take a trip for your mental and physical health's sake.
I rarely go outdoors, so I don't need sunblock
Nothing but the truth: Sunscreen is not just for the beach, says Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a dermatologist based in Omaha, Neb., and the CEO and founder of LovelySkin.com. "Most people think of sunscreen as only necessary for sunlight that happens when you're trying to tan, such as being by the pool. But sunlight when you're out walking the dog or gardening is just as dangerous. For this reason, it's important to wear sunscreen at all times." This includes people who work indoors. Fluorescent lights in offices can cause sun damage, and UVA rays through windows may also age the skin as well as increase skin cancer risk, says Schlessinger.
I take cholesterol medication, so I can eat whatever I want
Nothing but the truth: Cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins work best when combined with a healthful diet. Statins work by increasing the removal of bad cholesterol already in the body and by slowing the chemical that makes cholesterol. Therefore, cholesterol medicine does not give you carte blanche to eat unhealthy, says Gans. "A better goal would be to eat healthier so you can go off the medication. Medication is not a replacement for healthy eating, and the poorer your diet the greater chance that you will need more medication." The Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding saturated fats and including high-fiber foods, omega-3 fatty acids, nuts and olive oil to help lower cholesterol.
Every woman gains weight after menopause, and I can't do anything about it
Nothing but the truth: Weight gain after menopause is not inevitable, says Dr. Irv Rubenstein, an exercise physiologist and founder of S.T.E.P.S., a fitness facility in Nashville, Tenn.. "Not all women gain." Cutting calories and upping activity can go a long way toward reducing the weight gain often associated with menopause (typically between 12 and 15 pounds). Ovulation and menstruation burn up approximately 300 calories a day, seven days a week during a woman's child-bearing years, which amounts to 25,000 calories annually, explains Rubenstein. "When this process ends you have to alter your diet and activity to accommodate the calories you're no longer burning in order to avoid gaining weight." The bottom line: Move more and eat less.
I run around all day long. I don't need to exercise
Nothing but the truth: Even if you feel as if you're "running around" all day, chances are you're not moving as much as you think. A 2010 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that Americans take approximately 5,000 steps per day on average, half the recommended 10,000 steps. We don't really run around all day, says Rubenstein. "We drive, sit in meetings, watch kids play ball, etc., which will not yield the same health and weight loss results as walking briskly or jogging." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week (e.g. brisk walking) along with two or more days of muscle-strengthening exercises to include all major muscle groups.
A few drinks at night help me sleep better
Nothing but the truth: Reaching for a drink before bed to de-stress and help you sleep may not produce the desired effect, says Dr. Shelby F. Harris, the director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y. "Having a few drinks before bed may initially help you fall asleep, however, the sleep you obtain will be lighter and more broken in nature, therefore having you feel unrefreshed in the morning." Harris recommends speaking with your doctor if you're relying on alcohol to help you fall asleep. "There are many options available (both medications and behavioral treatments) that can help," Harris says. The National Sleep Foundation recommends keeping a regular sleep schedule and making sure the room is at a comfortable temperature to help you sleep.
A cigarette or two a day won't hurt me
Nothing but the truth: Smoking even just a couple of cigarettes a day causes harm, says Dr. David R. Nelson, a board-certified pulmonologist at Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Wittier, Calif. "For a healthy adult, a single cigarette will have only temporary effects to the airways and blood system, however it promotes significant inflammation of the airways and sinuses." This can cause the airways to constrict temporarily. It also causes a temporary drop in the oxygen content of your blood. The problem is that over time, repeating these attacks on your airways and heart creates a sort of battleground between the irritants and your body's self-healing process, says Nelson. "Smoking cigarettes on a regular basis could result in these attacks coming more frequently than your body has time to restore itself, and the irritants will begin to create longer-lasting damage."