Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a bad habit (or three), and even if you’re not the resolution type, making one change this year can do wonders for your health, looks and self-esteem. Here are three common not-so-great habits, and how to break ’em for good:
1. Bad habit: Late Night Fridge Raiding
Eating late at night in itself isn’t bad for you, but chances are you’re eating cold pizza instead of apple slices. Adding those extra calories does the late-night damage, according to a 2005 Oregon Health & Science University study. Snacking late at night can also exacerbate symptoms for those prone to heartburn, as lying down after eating makes it easier for stomach acid to flow into the esophagus.
Break it Boredom, not hunger, is of the root cause of late-night eating, says Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Fit to Live. Once the craving hits, focus on an activity that engages you until it’s time to go to sleep, such as e-mail, a crossword puzzle, or meditation. It’s also common for people to chow down while watching TV. In fact, a study from the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago found that people who were allowed to eat as many potato chips as they wanted ate 44% more chips while watching Letterman than while not watching TV. Keep your hands busy while you watch by folding laundry, using your BlackBerry, or knitting—that way you won’t be tempted to break out the Ruffles.
2. Bad habit: Smoking
We don’t need to remind you of all the health risks associated with smoking (heart attack, lung cancer, emphysema, and cancer of the mouth, throat, stomach, bladder, kidney, and cervix), but here’s one you might not have considered: money. Lots of it. The cost of one pack plus taxes averages $4.49, so if you smoke a pack a day, you’re turning a whopping $1,639 a year into nothing but smoke, ashes, and nice black spots on your formerly pretty pink lungs.
Break it: Ask your doctor about drugs that can help kick-start your quitting process and help you combat cravings and withdrawal. For instance, Zyban, an antidepressant, helps reduce psychological withdrawal symptoms such as frustration, restlessness, anxiety, and irritability. Chantix blocks the effects of nicotine on your brain, which helps reduce cravings. According to a study, 44% of smokers were able to quit after 12 weeks using Chantix, and another study showed that Zyban was nearly twice as effective as a nicotine patch in helping smokers quit.
3. Bad habit: Forgetting to Floss
Flossing helps prevent gum disease and keeps your teeth and gums looking good, but it may also stave off non-mouth-related diseases: A 2005 study in the journal Circulation showed that older adults with higher levels of four gum disease-causing bacteria in their mouths also tend to have thicker carotid arteries, which raise the risk of stroke and heart attack. That’s scary business, because 90% of dentists say that most patients don’t floss regularly.
Break it: Buy a floss-holding device, such as the Flossmate Floss Holder to make the process easier and faster. In an Indiana University study, 50% of previous nonflossers were doing so regularly 6 months after introducing floss to their routine; 85% of the new flossers used a holding device—only 15% preferred doing without the aid. Then incorporate flossing into your morning routine before or after brushing.