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Unhealthy habits you can get away with
Who doesn’t have a bit of a defiant streak, a small tendency to flout the rules? If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Uh, right. Never call a man twice if he didn’t respond to your first voice mail. Says who? Believe it or not, when it comes to health rules, you’ve got some wiggle room, too. So before you feel guilty about blowing off the gym or eating cookies for dinner or [insert your personal health confession here], find out which rule-breaking behaviors worry the experts most — and which aren’t so unhealthy after all.
“For dinner last night, I had an Oreo cookie. And another. And another. And another.”
How bad is it? Not so bad. “If your diet is usually healthy and balanced, then you could swing a cookie dinner once a week,” says self contributing editor Janis Jibrin, R.D. By “balanced,” we mean the rest of your meals are low in sugar, fat and salt and high in fruit, vegetables, fiber, whole grains and lean protein. Just don’t eat the entire box of Oreos, and add a glass of lowfat milk for calcium.
And keep in mind that cookies are a nutritional zero, so you may feel satisfied in the short term but famished soon after — in which case Jibrin recommends having a low-calorie, filling snack such as a cup of lentil soup or carrots with about 1/3 cup of hummus.
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If your cookie indulgence leaves you wracked with guilt or trying to compensate by starving yourself the next day, tell yourself to eat healthily to make up for it, because starving can set you up for more overeating later.
“Every now and again, I go out on the town with the girls and get a bit soused.”
How bad is it? Kinda bad. It’s easy for two drinks to turn into too many, as the stats on binge drinking seem to indicate: Nearly 34 percent of 18- to 25-year-old women and about 13 percent of women ages 26 and older reported having five or more drinks on a single occasion in the past month, according to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Department of Health and Human Services.
True, overdoing it once in a while isn’t as worrisome as bingeing a couple of times a week, but getting falling-down drunk (or worse) at any time is always risky, says Sharon Wilsnack, Ph.D., professor at the School of Medicine & Health Sciences at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
There’s no simple way to know when you’ll cross the line from merely drunk to possibly poisoned, and poisoning can lead to vomiting, passing out, seizures or even death (and, no, it doesn’t only happen to college kids). Even if you stop short of alcohol poisoning, frequent binge drinking is linked to liver and heart diseases, and if you do go on a bender, you’re more likely to have unprotected sex, increasing your chances of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Even more scary, Wilsnack says, you’re at greater risk for sexual assault. And the dangers of getting behind the wheel can’t be overstated. The bottom line? Don’t sip more than one drink per hour, and quit after three. You don’t have to give up a night out, but there’s no reason to stage a scene from Girls Gone Wild, either.
“I had a one-night stand.”
How bad is it? Kinda bad. The occasional fling can be fun — and hot! But know that there’s really no such thing as “safe” sex, warns Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., professor of ob/gyn at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Condoms do help protect against unwanted pregnancy and some STDs, but not others, including genital herpes. So if you decide to go for it, be prepared for any consequences.
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