To stay healthy, it’s not always about what you do. Sometimes it’s about what you don’t do. I know this, because I’ve made some pretty significant health mistakes during my life.
It turns out, this is fairly common.
Research has established that most people think of themselves as healthier than they actually are:
- we think we eat better than we actually do;
- we believe we’re physically active more than we actually are.
Humans have blind spots in their own self-awareness.
Almost everyone is keeping at least one big secret from themselves. And, other people are almost twice as good at seeing our own habits more accurately than we see them ourselves.
Since we see others with more clarity that also means that our friends, family, and colleagues often already know – better than we do – what we need to do in order to stay healthy or become even healthier.
These Health Mistakes Accelerate Aging and Are Unnecessary
I don’t want other people to have to make the same health mistakes I did.
I invite you to learn from my mistakes so you can stay healthy.
Common Health Mistakes – Example 1:
Not Realizing that You Pay Either Way
I realize now that health has a price tag, either way.
Health costs time, energy, and money.
You can pay a little now.
Or, you can pay a whole lot more later.
Illness is more expensive than health. It’s best to avoid it – as often as possible and as long as possible.
Invest some money, time and energy into improving your health now, so that you don’t have to spend a literal fortune trying to restore broken health later.
Not Realizing that Nutritional Loopholes Are Dangerous if You Want to Stay Healthy
It’s so tempting to get hung up on trendy catchphrases such as “simple carbs,” “complex carbs,” “organic,” and “gluten free.”
While all of the above catchphrases are absolutely valid, they can still be used to rationalize the eating of whatever carb is trendiest, thereby masking a larger problem:
- Newer research is confirming that excess carbohydrates feed cancer cells.
The key word in the above sentence is “excess.”
That means you have to earn your carbs. For example:
- Athletes often need a lot of carbs (and protein).
- Sedentary people need far less carbs.
- Because each human body has a unique chemistry, each person has to determine – perhaps with the help of their medical doctor – what average daily intake of carbohydrates best helps them to thrive.
Many find that – as long as they’re not consuming more calories than they’re expending – health is improved when they dial-down the amount of carbohydrates they consume, and dial-up the amount of healthy fats.
It’s human nature to become interested in trends. It’s important to retain a healthy amount of skepticism in order to prevent using nutritional trends as a way to rationalize incompatible eating habits.
Common Health Mistakes – Example 3:
Not Understanding Your Most Valuable Resources When Trying to Stay Healthy
Two of your most valuable assets are your time and attention.
Of the two, attention is more internal and harder to control:
- Most of the thoughts we think are habitual and negative.
- Guiding your own thoughts purposefully can be difficult at first.
- With practice, you can replace negative thoughts with more positive ones – and this will make an enormous difference in every area of your life.
Fortunately, making changes in how you choose to spend your time is easier than changing where you direct your attention – and so it’s a good place to start because you can rack-up some wins right away.
Life seems to flow better when the things you enjoy also happen to be good for you:
- Start spending more time doing things you enjoy that are also beneficial to your body and psyche.
- Begin quietly and strategically phasing-out negative adults in your life (with gratitude for the lessons you’ve acquired) so that you can make more room for positive people.
Stay Healthy – Mistake 4:
Focusing on Your Body Composition Over Longevity
Many people believe that body composition – the ratio of your body’s fat to muscle – is the ultimate indicator of health.
It’s an indicator of health – an important one – but it’s not the only one.
Tracking Calories to Stay Healthy
But even more important than a tight waistline, is the condition of your body on the inside.
To improve the internal functioning of your body – and, therefore, to extend the number of healthy years in your lifespan – you need to track more than just calories. You need to track macros and inflammation, too.
Tracking Macros to Stay Healthy
Understanding your macros (short for “macronutrients”) means periodically tracking the ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you consume on a typical day. Each person’s ideal ratio is different (for instance, high protein is great for athletes, but excess protein in sedentary people can create hidden health issues).
Tracking Inflammation to Stay Healthy
A healthy body responds to internal threats by creating localized inflammation. This is a good thing.
However, chronic inflammation – which is at the root of more than half of all deaths – is when the body’s inflammatory process becomes overactive and confused.
One way to reduce chronic inflammation is to reduce the amount of irritants to which your body is typically exposed.
An easier way to tackle this is to stop eating foods your body finds irritating – because even the most subtle irritation can become a significant problem when exposure is relentless.
What a body finds irritating is unique to each individual, so it helps to pay close attention to your body after eating (for instance, did your energy level rise or lower?). Additionally, it can be very helpful to get your blood analyzed twice a year.
Common Health Mistakes – Example 5:
Not Appreciating that True Health Is Sometimes Counterintuitive
It isn’t always obvious what will help you stay healthy.
- It seems like to get great looking abs you should do ab exercises. Okay, yes. But really, greats abs are mostly built in the kitchen with an anti-inflammatory diet.
- It seems like you should train hard in the summer to maintain a summer body. But really, summer bodies are built in the winter.
- It seems like taking supplements is guaranteed to fill in the missing gaps of your nutrition. But it’s not what you eat, it’s what you absorb (which is why gut health is so important).
Sometimes we make assumptions without even realizing we’re making them. This is especially true on the topic of how to stay healthy.
Contrary to current urban myth, when it comes to flus, analysis of 80 research studies reveals that masks can be beneficial to everyone (both the infected and non-infected). On a flight with some passengers afflicted with the swine flu, for example, none of the passengers wearing masks got sick, whereas around a third of those who didn’t wear masks got sick. By the way, cloth masks (a bandana covering the mouth and nose like a bandit) are about 13 times less effective than surgical masks. (Source)
Stay Healthy – Mistake 6:
Training Your Body Asymmetrically
People have a tendency to overtrain certain body parts over others, and eventually this creates asymmetry in the body that impacts appearance and safety.
For example, exercisers often train their arms more than their legs, and their chest muscles more than their back muscles – a significant health mistake because it leads to poor posture and lower back injuries.
Another frequent mistake is making front shoulders (anterior deltoids) disproportionately stronger than lower abdominals and glutes. This leads to poor pelvic placement and a top-heavy slouch.
I consider glutes to be part of the core.
I see runners sometimes who – even though their upper body has good form and their lower body has good form – look strange running because their upper body is not integrated with their lower body. That’s what core strength does – it helps the musculature flow together beautifully. It organizes.
A common problem I see lately in modern physiques are:
• weak glutes
• coupled with weak lower abdominals.
This area is meant to be your body’s powerhouse!
When you set goals, do so based on what areas of your physique are currently weakest.
Strive to be objectively honest when you look in the mirror – not to shame yourself, but so you can make informed decisions about your fitness programming.
Common Health Mistakes – Example 7:
Neglecting Movement Variation
People get into exercise ruts.
There are “treadmill people,” “elliptical people,” and “spin people.”
Over-focusing on a particular piece of gym equipment or type of exercise will lead to imbalances and overuse injuries.
Solution? Become a cross-trainer!
Cross-training means you intentionally vary your movement patterns because you acknowledge that your body adapts too quickly.
The genius of cross-training is that not only will your muscles start responding again, but so will your metabolism.
Stay Healthy – Mistake 8:
Over-identifying With Your Personality, Beliefs and Thoughts
People get attached to their shtick so much that they begin to fear that if their personality changes, they won’t be themselves anymore.
Please understand that your personality and your soul essence are two different things.
Your soul essence is the unique and timeless part of you.
Your personality is a persona that you wear like a hat and – like a hat – you can change it, and you’ll still be you.
Your thoughts, beliefs, and persona are meant to evolve as you gain life experience.
It’s okay to experiment with a new way of being in the world to see if the new way works better than the old way.
Avoid these 8 common health mistakes so you can look and feel your best – and extend the number of vital years in your lifespan.
- Reduce Sugar and Stress. Make nutritional and exercise improvements to bolster your immune system so that you are less susceptible to germs and viruses. Avoid flour and excess carbohydrates. Eat a variety of vegetables, quality meats, and a little fruit. Put a breathing app on your phone and use it a few minutes each day to help keep your lung tissue robust and to keep stress-hormone levels low within your body.
- Develop New Hand Habits. Among the easiest ways to prevent catching colds and flu is to simply train yourself to stop touching your face. The more you touch your face, the more often you will get sick. Germs love to enter your body via the moist entry points of your head: your eyes, ears, mouth and – especially – your nose.
Hand sanitizers are nice, but it’s impossible to sanitize your hands often enough to keep the germs off of your fingers. You open doors and cupboards, use light switches, turn faucets, type on keyboards, and hold pens and smartphones more than you realize. You can solve the issue by simply not touching your face (most people touch their own faces far more often than they realize – they do it reflexively and absent-mindedly):
- Use judgement before you reach into the candy tub in the office break-room, or into the sample cheese platter at the grocery store.
- Many buffets and sampling trays at stores and restaurants are at nose-level with children. Kids can cough onto food that is just inches from their mouth because their height positions them perfectly underneath the “sneeze guard.”
- 95% of the people who do wash their hands, do it ineffectively. Hand-washing is only effective when it happens for a long enough duration (at least 20 seconds, according to the Centers for Disease Control) and if it’s comprehensive enough (massaging a bit of that soap into the nail beds, the tops of the hands, and in between the fingers – not just the palms).
Of course, intellectually, everyone already knows to wash their hands and not touch their face. But what people underestimate, is the extent to which these habits, when done properly and consistently, can positively impact their body. Improvements in hand-washing habits correlate with a decrease in illness.
Stay Healthy! Additional Guidance on Health Mistakes:
People Don’t Know Themselves Well – https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/03/you-dont-know-yourself-as-well-as-you-think-you-do/554612/
Others Know Us Better – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100226093235.htm
Startling Statistics on Health in a First-World Country – https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/index.html
Inflammation Connected to Disease – https://factor.niehs.nih.gov/2020/1/papers/inflammation/index.htm
Excess Protein Intake Connected to Disease in Sedentary Populations – https://www.livescience.com/43839-too-much-protein-help-cancers-grow.html