Go Ahead, Blow It Off! 6 Health Rules You Can Break

Don't be so hard on yourself about your less-than-perfect health habits. We found six rules you can feel okay about breaking.
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Why it's okay: It's not an accurate snapshot of how your eating plan is going, says registered dietitian Elizabeth DeRobertis, founder of the Nutrition Center at Scarsdale Medical Group, in Scarsdale, New York. "Everyone's weight can fluctuate by several pounds from day to day for all kinds of reasons. You could be constipated or bloated from PMS, or it could be water weight from a salty meal."

Stepping on the scale daily can also make you feel lousy and eat even more, says Karen R. Koenig, author of Nice Girls Finish Fat: Put Yourself First and Change Your Eating Forever. If you're up a few pounds, you may ditch your diet or starve yourself, which can bring on a binge. Or, if you're a bit lighter, you may treat yourself and overindulge. Instead, use the way your clothes fit to gauge your progress or aim for weekly weigh-ins, and always do them at the same time of day, says DeRobertis.


Why it's okay: For years you've heard that eating breakfast can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. So morning after morning you've dutifully choked down a plate of something or other, even if you weren't hungry. Well, here's some news that'll be about as pleasant as cold eggs: A recent study found that daily breakfasts don't necessarily protect you against obesity. "There's really not enough data to support that it's an effective weight-loss strategy," says lead author Krista R. Casazza, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

But wait. What about all those skip-breakfast-and-you'll-pig-out-at-lunch warnings? They're a little bit true -- but may not doom your diet, Casazza says. Whether you'll actually gain weight from habitually bailing on breakfast all depends on how big your a.m. meal is and how much extra you grab at lunch. "Many people have a 600-calorie breakfast. All it takes is a sausage and egg sandwich and a sweetened coffee drink," she points out. Meanwhile, she found that people who've skipped a rise-and-dine experience often only eat about 100 to 300 calories more at lunch, and the overeating doesn't carry into dinner.

Another school of thought says that breakfast kick-starts your metabolism. "But there's good and bad to that," Casazza cautions. "Putting your metabolism to work can also mean that you'll want more food to keep it going." Her best advice? "Listen to your body, only eat when you're hungry, and stop when you're full." And remember that it takes 20 minutes for the "I'm full" signal to travel from your stomach to your brain. So don't scarf down your food. And of course, if you do eat breakfast, choose a healthy one. If you like cereal, for instance, Casazza recommends one made with whole oats or whole flax -- their fiber content will help you feel satisfied longer.


Why it's okay: Surprise! You're likely taking in more nutrients than you might think through your everyday diet, says Lori Shemek, PhD, author of Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! In fact, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that Americans have good levels of essential vitamins and nutrients. Even when we miss the mark, it's generally only by 10 percent or less, which is no big deal. So why do so many of us get our Spanx in a twist wondering if we're robbing our bodies of something we desperately need? "I call it 'nutrichondria,'" says Shemek. "We're bombarded almost daily about how this or that nutrient is even better for you than previously thought. It's easy to get into the more-is-better trap and run out to buy a bunch of supplements."

There are several compelling reasons why you shouldn't follow the stampede: Scientists recently analyzed data from nearly 300,000 people and found that vitamin and antioxidant supplements don't help lengthen your life. In fact, they discovered that some supplements -- specifically vitamins A and E and beta-carotene -- can actually shorten it. High levels of beta-carotene may block the positive effects of other nutrients, explains Michael Greger, MD, founder of NutritionFacts.org. And too much A and E can prevent your body's immune system from working as well as it should. The same research also showed that vitamin C and selenium supplements weren't helpful, while a more recent study found that extra C may increase your risk of kidney stones.

Even getting your calcium may not be as simple as grabbing a pill. Calcium supplements (often taken with vitamin D, which helps your body absorb the mineral) may increase your risk of cardiovascular damage when taken in very high doses, though more research is needed to confirm the link, says Clifford Rosen, MD, director of clinical and translational research at Maine Medical Center Research Institute, in Scarborough, Maine. While getting enough calcium is important for bone health (roughly 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day for an adult), "much of this can come from your diet, which is very safe," Dr. Rosen says. That's a rule that applies across the board. "Get your vitamins from real food. Any nutrient in excess can be harmful, and supplements are not substitutes," says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. Vitamin D is the rare exception, however, since not many foods naturally contain it. But if you spend a few SPF-free minutes in the sun during the warmer months (emphasis on a few), your body will produce at least some of your daily D requirement.

Continued on page 2:  More Health Rules to Blow Off


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