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You grind it out at the gym, you chop your kale like a warrior and you pre-portion your snacks every Sunday night. You’re a wellness rock star. Or, not? What if some of your tireless efforts were in vain? What if your workouts and your snacks were working against you? Here are four healthy habits that may be sabotaging your health status.
1. Being an exercise warrior
“Wait, what? Exercise can be bad for me?” Like most things in life, too much of anything is, well, too much.
Exercise causes our bodies to produce free radicals, cells famous for causing everything from cancer to heart disease. This part is actually OK, because, in turn, our bodies produce more antioxidants, which are the good guy compounds that fight free radicals. In other words, our bodies become stronger and build our internal defense system.
However, too much exercise can result in too many free radicals and lead to damage of our muscle cells and cause fatigue.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise (30 minutes, five times per week). I like to tell clients to move every day in some way, shape or form, such as a 30-minute run or a 45-minute spin class. The intensity and variety will vary based on age and fitness level, but don’t think that you need to double up on those HIIT classes every day or train for an ultramarathon — those choices may actually hurt your health.
2. Eating low fat
One of my favorite things to tell my clients is “fat is your friend!” Yes, fat can be your weight-loss (and healthy) BFF. On the other side, low- or fat-free foods can be your enemy. When fat is removed from food, it’s often replaced with sugar for flavor and additional chemicals (thickeners and additives) to retain the taste. You end up with a product that’s higher in calories and sugar, and packed with chemicals. That can lead to overall health and weight problems.
Aside from fat helping you to burn fat, protecting your organs and keeping you satisfied, it’s also necessary to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Skipping salad dressing because it’s too “fattening”? You’ll also miss out on some of those vitamins found in the salad itself!
3. Drinking green juice only
Sipping green juice five times a day and ducking out on all other foods sounds like a great idea to lose weight and improve your health — for about one hot second. When you juice to lose, you’re missing out on protein (which can lead to muscle loss versus fat loss) and you’re also losing out on fats. Also, the juice is lacking fiber, which can cause constipation and disrupt your gut flora. You’re also likely missing out on calories.
All of the above, plus the lack of chewing, can lead to irritability, fatigue, yo-yo dieting and mental distress. The end of a cleanse can be synonymous with a big binge (insert bacon cheeseburger here) leading to weight gain, often even more than you had lost while sipping greens.
Instead of juicing, cleanse the right way. Eat real, whole foods including fats, protein and carbohydrates, skip all packaged and processed foods and alcohol, and use a few “clean” days as an opportunity to mentally take your nutrition up a notch and lay the foundation for long-term behaviors.
4. Washing produce like Mr. Clean
Are you shopping for produce, coming home and washing, scrubbing, chopping and prepping like a good health soldier? Awesome, just skip one part: There's no need to go crazy with washing those fruits and veggies. Although the FDA recommends washing even “pre-washed” produce at home, washing fruits and vegetables with soap or commercial produce wash is not recommended.
Studies have even shown that plain water can be just as effective as other cleansing agents and products. I recommend buying organic produce, following food safety guidelines and rinsing with water.
When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, anything extreme will just fatigue you and make you want to quit. Instead, make changes and create habits that are manageable and that you can follow for the long term!