Taking any action to an extreme — even a healthy one — can have negative consequences.
Striving to lose weight becomes unhealthy if it turns into an eating disorder, for example. Exercising until you develop an injury or a serious health issue such as rhabdomyolysis (when muscle tissue breaks down and releases into the blood) can be life-threatening. Other, less extreme, examples can also work against your goal of creating healthier habits and a healthy body.
Here are six ways that common, good practices can sometimes work against you:
1. You load up on healthy fats
Fats such as omega-3s contain many benefits, from improving memory and offering protection from heart disease to boosting blood flow.
“However, just because something is good for you does not mean you can eat as much you want,” says Amy Goodson, sports nutritionist with the Dallas Cowboys. “Nut butters, nuts, avocados and healthy oils are all a source of calories in the diet and if weight loss is your goal you have to reduce the amount of calories you take in from healthy and processed foods.”
juicing gives you some of the benefits of fresh fruit but without the fiber of eating the whole fruit or vegetable.
— Amy Goodson, sports nutritionist
Goodson suggests keeping portions under control by “garnishing” your plate with fat. Add nuts in your oatmeal or sprinkle them on salad, include a slice of avocado on your tuna wrap or olive oil on your veggies.
2. You stretch until it hurts
Stretching after your workout (never stretch a cold muscle!) helps increase flexibility and range of motion, enabling you to perform daily activities with ease. Overstretching a muscle, however, can lead to problems and can happen in a couple different ways.
“You can overstretch a muscle accidentally, which quickly leads to an injury or strain,” say Irv Rubenstein, exercise physiologist and founder of STEPS Fitness, a personal fitness training center in Nashville, Tenn. “If you stretch too far or too long with intent, such as holding an extreme stretch, you can induce microtears (microscopic muscle tears) that can cause a cascade of events that can result in inflammation and tenderness.”
Only stretch until you feel a gentle pull — never to the point of pain.
3. You never take a rest day from your workout
Taking time off from your workouts is as essential as the time you spend engaging in activities. You need rest for recovery time and can’t optimize your performance otherwise, says Rubenstein.
“Rest is relative, however, so you could be physically active every day as long as you vary the type, duration and intensity throughout the week,” he says. In general, 48 to 72 hours between similar workouts should be enough to sufficiently recover and allow for continued progress.
If you’re over 50 and just starting out, Rubenstein recommends sticking with two to three times a week for at least the first four to six weeks.
4. Your juicer is your best friend
Juicing may be the best thing to happen to people who want the benefit of fruits and vegetables but aren’t wild about eating them. Problem is, juicing gives you some of the benefits of fresh fruit but without the fiber of eating the whole fruit or vegetable, Goodson says.
“Fiber can help you eat less by making you feel full faster. If you juice with just a handful of spinach or kale and then load up the rest of your drink with juice from fruit, along with healthful nutrients, you also get a tons of sugar with little to no fiber,” notes Goodson.
Instead, reverse the ratio: Use vegetables as the bulk of your juice and add one to two fruit servings to sweeten it up. “Or better yet,” Goodson says, “get a blender that allows you to throw in the whole fruit so you can get the fiber.”
5. You douse yourself with hand sanitizer
Protecting yourself from flu and cold germs by using hand sanitizers sounds like a great idea. And it can be, but not if you overuse them.
An ingredient called triclosan found in hand sanitizers contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. In fact, a study by the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that health care employees who favored hand sanitizers over soap and water were nearly six times more at risk for outbreaks of norovirus, which causes most cases of acute gastroenteritis, commonly known as the “stomach flu.”
Scientists at the University of Michigan School of Public Health also found triclosan may negatively impact immune function, making people more susceptible to allergies.
Use soap and water whenever possible and hand sanitizer only in a pinch.
6. You are a smoothie devotee
In addition to the problem of sugar from too much fruit, similar to the juicing habit, it’s easy to load up on extra calories and fat from popular healthy add-ons like coconut oil and nut butters when preparing a post-workout smoothie, Goodson says.
“Two tablespoons of your favorite healthy fat easily provides 200 calories or more,” she says. “Along with all the other ingredients, this gives you an approximate 300- to 400-calorie smoothie meal.”
Remember, most of the time, a full-fledged smoothie is a meal, not the beverage that goes with a meal, Goodson says. Also keep in mind when buying a smoothie from a smoothie shop to buy a “skinny” version without added sugar and ask for added protein, since many are low in protein and high in sugar.