We all want to be healthy and for that reason, most of us will make at least some effort to improve our lifestyles and diets so that we can reduce our chances of illness or pain and can also extend our lives as long as possible.
This is why it’s particularly unfortunate when we find that the very things we’re doing to try and improve our health actually end up making us worse. It’s also why we need to be so careful when it comes to choosing who we’re going to listen to when it comes to our health.
It’s one thing to get ill when we know that what we’re doing is unhealthy. It’s quite another to try and be healthy and end up making ourselves worse! Read on to ensure you aren’t making these 7 mistakes with your health that could have serious negative impacts
1. LOW-FAT DIETS
For ages, we were told that fat was the ‘bad guy’ and it could clog our arteries, cause bad cholesterol and make us fat. We now know that this isn’t true. As with anything, it’s all about getting the dose right and also seeking out those healthy fats.
If you’re consuming saturated fat, then you can expect it to boost your production of testosterone, to improve your hair, skin and nails and even improve the absorption of other nutrients. Fat digests more slowly than carbs do, which means that it will provide a steady release of energy and prove more satiating. And we now know for certain that fat is not going to cause high blood pressure or all those other problems.
And yet many diets still revolve around this incorrect notion that we should cut out fat. Low-fat foods are rife in departmental stores and these are often touted as the best ways for us to lose weight.
The reality? Eating low-fat crisps provides you with absolutely no sustenance. These will not fill you up and you will probably be hungry for more soon after you’ve empties that packet. Worse, is that without the fat, there’s nothing stopping that sugar content from hitting your bloodstream instantly leading to a sudden spike in glucose and a resulting flood of insulin. That then triggers the uptake of said glucose in vast quantities and leaves you with zero energy. Oh, and without the fat, plenty of fat-soluble minerals and vitamins will not digest.
Low-fat foods are the nutritional equivalent of eating cardboard and if you do manage to stick with this diet, then it could damage your insulin sensitivity not to mention leading to plenty of nutrient deficiencies and poor overall health.
2. NO CARB DIETS
So, low-fat diets are bad for us. The status quo was wrong. We need to do something about it!
What do we do? We go completely the other way and eat a low carb diet. Or a no carb diet!
Only this isn’t terribly healthy for us either. In fact, it can once again be quite unhealthy. Did you know for example that a low carb diet actually depletes testosterone in men? Low testosterone in men can lead to depression, brittle bones, lack of sex drive, poor motivation and energy levels and many other issues. And both low testosterone and the lack of carbs can reduce muscle size and strength.
The reason for this is that when you have very low levels of carbohydrates in your system, your blood sugar takes a dramatic nosedive. This low blood sugar then sends the signal to your body that you’re effectively starving and the slow release sugar that comes from fats just doesn’t cut it. What happens then, is that your body releases the hunger hormone ghrelin along with the stress hormone cortisol (because being hungry is stressful for your body!). This then has numerous effects, including suppressing testosterone production and stimulating the creation of myostatin – a molecule that actually breaks down muscle tissue! Some people even go as far as to purposefully trigger ketosis which can be potentially toxic if taken too far.
3. BULLETPROOF COFFEE
Bulletproof Coffee is a notion that goes along with the whole ‘high-fat/low-carb’ way of thinking but is a perfect example of taking it too far. This is what started the whole movement of dropping sticks of butter into your coffee in order to provide healthy fats and a steady release of energy. The idea is that this can then be used to help skip your breakfast (making it good for weight loss), while also slowing the action of the caffeine in the coffee, thereby providing a steadier stimulation with less of a crash.
The reality of Bulletproof Coffee is not so ideal. For starters, a stick of butter is packed with calories and very little nutrition. It might not be bad for you but it’s not good for you either and you’re replacing what could be a nutritious meal with junk. It’s also too much of a good thing, not to mention sitting very heavily on the stomach. Just don’t do it!
The problem with a lot of these diet changes is that they are far too extreme. We have a tendency to take an ‘all or nothing’ approach to our health often, which means we’ll eat a bad diet for years and then suddenly decide to cut our calories in half.
The same thing happens with the gym. We’re happy to be completely sedentary for 350 days of the year but then we suddenly decide it’s time for a ‘change’ and we dive in head first (normally this happens right around January after New Year’s Eve).
The big danger here is overtraining: that’s what happens when you work out so hard and fast that you actually cause more harm than good. Best case scenario, you can end up causing adrenal fatigue, which means that you’re no longer able to produce adrenaline or other stimulatory neurotransmitters and you end up completely listless and low on energy. Other symptoms include depression, poor sleep, poor concentration and slow healing.
But the worst case scenario is that you snap something. If you’re used to be completely inactive; you then leap straight into a heavy weights training program, then the stabilizing muscles in your spine won’t be used to lifting such weights. The same goes for your connective tissue. So even if you can lift the weight with your muscles, you might still end up ripping, popping, trapping or twisting something!
5. OVER BRUSHING
Another example of ‘overdoing it’ when it comes to health is brushing your teeth. If you are scrubbing your teeth too hard, then that means you’re going to be wearing away the enamel and possibly even eroding your gums to expose the sensitive roots underneath. This is a much quicker way to lose a tooth or get an infection than not brushing at all!
And a lot of products make this even worse. Mouthwashes, in particular, can be highly astringent and very likely to damage the enamel and gums. These should be used on rare occasions and not as a daily addition to brushing.
Oral hygiene really is very important and it’s crucial you brush, floss and visit your doctor regularly. But don’t try and nuke your teeth into submission, health just doesn’t work that way.
6. JUICE FASTING
Okay so it’s a no to butter and coffee, what about juice? What could be healthier than juice?
Well, having juice is fine. The problem is when you drink just juice as in a juice fast. A lot of health bloggers recommend this not only as a great way to lose weight (you always lose weight when you completely stop eating) but also as a way to ‘detox’ the body.
There’s so much wrong with this that it’s hard to even know where to start.
The first problem? Detoxing is entirely made up. There’s no scientific basis for the term ‘detox’ and any detoxification that needs to occur in the body, the body is perfectly capable of handling on its own. When you starve yourself, you will not eliminate toxins, allergens, heavy metals or anything else. You’re just wasting your time. (You’re also wasting your money when you buy ‘detoxifying’ shampoos and other nonsense products.)
Then you have the issues that come with just drinking juice. I actually know someone who tried this and do you know what happened? The incredibly high sugar content was so bad that they ended dissolving all of their enamel. Two of their teeth ended up having to be pulled and several others became discolored. This is not a horror story, this is something that I actually saw happen over the course of a few days.
Smoothies are massively healthy for you but if you drink more than one a day, then that’s going to damage your teeth and mean too many calories. And if that’s all you’re consuming, then you can take those negatives and multiply them several times over. This is a terrible idea for your health, not to mention that you’re once again starving yourself which – surprise, surprise – isn’t healthy.
7. OVER SUPPLEMENTING
I don’t want to sound biased though. I’m not here to tell you that all alternative medicines are bad and all ‘modern’ health remedies are good. You can do just as much harm to yourself by listening to the drug and supplement manufacturers too!
For one, it’s important to note that a lot of supplements don’t work quite as advertised, which is to say that while you might consume a multivitamin to get your DV of vitamin C, vitamin D, magnesium etc… you might not actually be absorbing those elements or making proper use of them. That’s because getting these ingredients from tablets just isn’t the same as getting them from real food – in real food, vitamins and minerals exist in various combinations that aid absorption. Likewise, they are included alongside fats (which are crucial for fat-soluble nutrients), water or both.
A vitamin tablet won’t do you any harm then but if you’re relying on this instead of actually eating fruits and vegetables, then you’re going to hurt your health.
And then there’s the fact that many supplements include extra ingredients that you will only be aware of if you read the label carefully. Some of these, like vitamin B6 or zinc, can be bad for you if consumed in excessive quantities. So, if you’re taking a supplement to help you sleep and a multivitamin, you could actually be overdosing on zinc!
Then there are the companies that choose to include cheap and harmful ingredients instead of the proper versions – like cyanocobalamin, which is a poor-quality version of B12 that is closely related to arsenic
BUT WAIT…THERE IS MORE!
We’ve barely touched on all the different ‘healthy’ activities that actually cause you more harm than good though. Lots of people smoke hookah pipes for example because they think they’re healthier than cigarettes and don’t realize that they’re actually smoking hundreds of cigarettes
Then there are all the things that seem like they’re unhealthy but are actually really good for you. Take computer games for example: they seem unhealthy and it’s what we’ve been led to believe but actually they can boost your decision making, spatial awareness, self-esteem and more. As for eyesight, they actually improve visual acuity and have no other impact.
The point is that just because someone says something is healthy, that doesn’t mean it is. Just because you’re trying to act healthier, that doesn’t mean you’re getting it right. Unfortunately, you need to be very careful who you trust and when it comes to health, you can never be 100% sure about anything.
So what can you do? The only thing we can do is to make sure we read as much as possible, we seek out lots of different advice and information and we always question. Stay cynical and skeptical and measure the results of any new health program, diet or medication. Even if something works for 99% of the population, that doesn’t always mean it will work for you.
So readers, can you please lend a hand here and share your own take on unhealthy ‘health practices’ please? We would love to hear your own version of events and you will have an audience of like-minded people just waiting to read your words – Thanks!
Dr.Vidhi Jain has over 7 years of experience as a Physiotherapist. She has a Masters in Physiotherapy in Orthopedics and is currently practicing at Vinayak Physiotherapy in Noida as HOD of the Physiotherapy Department. She has been nominated as ‘Best Physiotherapy Consultant’ in Noida & firmly believes in health care that is based on a personal commitment to meet patient needs with compassion and care.
She also writes for Medlife International Private Limited, an online pharmacy store operating in India offering home delivery of authentic prescription medicines at discounted prices.