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31943636_sWhile it’s all well and very good to try and emphasize exercising and getting back into or staying in good shape, even some of the biggest workout warriors among us overlook many another equally important keys to good health, from our diets to our schedules to our emotional balance. Some of these bad habits are toxic, at least over a prolonged period of time. 

We Are What We Eat, For Real

If weight gain is a concern for you — especially in recent weeks — take a moment to think about the circumstances surrounding and/or influencing your eating.

While it may seem like a bit more work than it’s worth, take some time to sit down and compose a food journal for yourself. Note not only what you’re eating, but where, how, when, and even why you’re eating it. Are you just plain hungry? Are you upset? Are you angry? Are you bored? After answering those questions, rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being ravenous and 1 being not even really hungry enough to really rate eating even a chip. Chances are, you will soon notice a pattern, which more often than not will show that you eat foods that aren’t necessarily good for you at times when you’re emotionally affected despite the fact that you’re not even really that hungry.

Dump the unhealthy snacks, sweets and oversized portions. They are not only bad for you; they may be killing you slowly.

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

Heart attacks, lung cancer, emphysema, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), cancer of the throat, mouth, stomach, bladder, cervix and kidneys are all associated with chronic smoking. The Center for Disease Control estimates about 19% of women in this country are smokers, and older female smokers may be up to 40% more likely to develop breast cancer than non-smokers. There are long-and short-term solutions. Ask your doctor about medications that can facilitate the quitting process, while also helping to fight cravings and withdrawal symptoms. If you are the wife or husband, or best friend of a smoker, quitting together suggest that you have a 50% chance of being more successful in your efforts to quit.

Letting Health Issues Go Unchecked

So, you got a strange spot on your leg, no big deal, right? Or a chronic headache that you haven’t been able to shake for weeks? Maybe a lump on your shoulder that you never noticed before, or a pain in your side that feels unusual? A lot of people ignore these little things and pass them off as “no big deal”. This can be a toxic mistake!

Heading health problems off at the pass before they actually become a problem is probably one of THE most important ways to increase your good health and longevity. A good example of proactive care is a breast cancer screening. According to the American Cancer Society, the survival rate for breast cancer is almost 100 percent when it is discovered in its early stages, but that survival percentage drops all the way down to 20% when it is discovered in its latter stages.

The same philosophy holds true for less serious illnesses, which can begin fairly innocuous and tame, but become life-threatening when left undetected and untreated. Heart attacks and ovarian cancer have specific symptoms before they become advanced, but many times people experiencing those symptoms explain away bloating, abdominal pain and bleeding as other maladies or simply the effects of aging. The best way to guard against allowing these potential life-threatening conditions to fester is regular doctor checkups, screenings, tests and/or physical exams.

Watch Out for Too Much Sun

Do you like sun tanning? The sun is a source of energy, brightness, and comfort in our lives, but its ultraviolet rays can damage our skin and it’s DNA, which increases our risk of developing skin cancer, blemishes, sunspots, wrinkles, sagging skin and brown spots. So learn to incorporate preventative care in your everyday routine, such as wearing sunscreen on regularly exposed skin and body parts — winter or summer.

The Skin Cancer Foundation’s recommendation is one ounce of SPF 15 sunscreen that offers both UVB and UVA protection to your entire body a half-hour before venturing outside on a typical sunny day. The SCF further recommends reapplying sunscreen every two hours, as well as wearing a wide-brimmed hat and wearing clothing that more completely covers the body if you’re going to be out all day.

Turn the Lights off on Nighttime Snacks

Late-night snacking in and of itself isn’t actually bad for you. It’s not the time of the snack so much as it’s the type of snack. It’s a good bet that rather than apples, orange slices, or raisins, you’re getting a slice or two of cold pizza out of the refrigerator or chips off the top of it. An Oregon Health and Science University study says those kinds of late night snacks do damage, increasing symptoms for those prone to heartburn. Since a lot of instances of late-night eating can be traced to boredom, not hunger, many doctors recommend people change their focus and concentrate on an activity that distracts you until it’s time to go back to sleep, such as word puzzles, reading, emails, videogames, or meditation. Also, try to go to bed earlier, as that will help balance your hormones and help you fight off cravings. It also limits the time you have between dinner and bedtime for unhealthy snacking.

Physical Fitness Procrastination

When it comes to serious exercise, whether its cardio, plyometric, strength conditioning, or simple weightlifting, it’s easy to say we’ll do it later today or tomorrow. Procrastination is also easier when you know the workout ahead of you involves some effort, sweat, pain and energy. But you have to get it done, because numerous, in-depth studies have documented all of the mental and physical health benefits accompanying and following regular exercise. The best thing to do is adopt a fairly rigid schedule and stick to it. The less stringent or more flexible you make it, the easier it is to get totally off schedule and put workouts off. One great way to avoid this is to start working out with a friend and charge each other with motivating the other to keep on it. The “buddy system” is proven to be a great way for people to stay on pace toward their physical health goals.

Night Owls Need More Sleep

Not getting a sufficient amount of sleep is a certified health risk which leads to decreased alertness and ability to focus. As sleep deprivation increases, the body’s immune system’s ability to ward off germs and sickness decreases. Hormone levels increase, which affects appetite, weight, weight distribution, mood, and eating choices. Also, blood circulation slows down, which leaves you with more wrinkles, as well as bags and dark circles under the eyes. Make a commitment to getting more sleep and limit light and caffeine to do it better. Avoid ingesting caffeine 8 hours or less before bedtime and use shades and/or drapes to cut out light and sound from your bedroom. Also, avoid the electronics (tablet, phone and computer) at least an hour before bedtime.

So there you have it: Seven steps toward increased health and wellness and a prescription for a longer, healthier, active and productive life. Take heed, take some steps, and take care of yourselves.