A Blog For Those Affected By Environmental And Invisible Illnesses Written By Fellow Survivors
Five New Year's Resolutions That May Do More Harm Than Good
With us now a couple of weeks into another year I'm sure many of you have made New Year's resolutions and begun putting them into action. While some of you will no doubt have given up already, right? You won't be alone! But I digress. I thought today I'd draw your attention to the fact that while resolutions are always made with the best of intentions some may actually do more harm than good in terms of those relating to health.
Since the most popular New Year's resolutions tend to focus on health and lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising more and eating a more healthy diet (Time Magazine) - it's a good idea to make sure what you're doing (or planning on doing) is actually going to achieve your goals in a safe and healthy way.
So let's look at five of the most common resolutions and how they may actually do more harm than good if you don't do your research...
1. Using Electronic Cigarettes To Quit Smoking
While resolving to quit smoking is undoubtedly one of the best things you can do for your health, if you use cessation aids to achieve it you need to be aware that some are not as benign as the manufacturers would like you to believe. Worse still, the use of electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) is actually starting to be seen as "cool", just as smoking tobacco was in the 20th century. A whole culture has developed around these seemingly harmless gadgets with the verb 'to vape' even named Word of the Year 2014 by the Oxford Dictionaries.
But while people wishing to quit smoking to benefit their health are "vaping" away their flavoured fluid of choice they are most likely unaware of a growing number of studies that point to e-cigarettes carrying serious health threats of their own. A recent study in Japan found that rather than being a safe alternative to smoking the vapour inhaled from a range of widely sold e-cigarette fluids contained up 10 times as many cancer causing chemicals than tobacco (read more). Hard to believe but the science is solid and has governments and public health organisations scarmbling to get warnings out and put a stop to glamourous advertisements for e-cigarettes and other vaping gadgets.
So, if you are trying to give up smoking (good for you!) but need some initial assistance you may want to steer clear of e-cigarettes or at least do some research of your own so you can make an informed decision. The tried and tested nicotine patch may leave you with nothing in your hand to replace your old friend the cigarette but it is likely a healthier aid to your ultimate goal of being a non-smoker!
2. Dieting for Weight Loss
Since being overweight is a risk factor for many serious health concerns such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes (and let's face it, many of us will be carrying a bit of extra baggage after the festive season!), trying to lose weight is another sensible resolution. However, before you jump on the latest diet craze whether it's Atkin's (a bit "old school" now, I admit), the 5:2 or whatever the new fad may happen to be, it's smart to read up on the potential side-effects of these methods of weight loss.For example, the very low carbohydrate nature of the Atkin's diet can make the body overly acidic (acidosis) which carries a number of risks (learn more) while the 5:2 diet with its alternating fasting and anything goes days (albeit supposedly within reason) may not suit everybody's metabolism and fasting can lead to symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia).
A more sensible approach to weight loss is a good old fashioned balanced diet and keeping track of calorie intake / portion sizes... with a healthy dollop of will power!
As any gym owner will tell you, exercising more is another of the most popular New year's resolutions as people want to get fit and maybe lose a few pounds after endulging a little too much over the Holidays. We're always being told to exercise more for the good of our health by the media and doctors so what could possibly be the downside? Well, as with everything it's simply a case of moderation. Yes, regular moderate exercise will almost certainly do you good (unless you have certain existing illnesses), it's when you get too obsessive about hitting the gym hard everyday or running a 10K when you haven't done any real exercise for years that you may in fact start to do more harm than good.
While moderate exercise helps improve immune function, studies show that intense exercise has the opposite effect and actually impairs immunity - potentially increasing your chances of catching that cold or flu that's going around at work or even something more nasty (read more). You're also more likely to injure yourself if your body is not used to high impact exercise like jogging. So certainly exercising more is a worthy goal that will in all likelihood benefit your long-term health but make sure to build up slowly and allow your body plenty of rest periods to recover to avoid overdoing it and unforeseen consequences.
4. Giving Up Alcohol
After having a few too many drinks and experiencing some nasty hangovers during the festive period it's no wonder that giving up drinking is among the most common New Year's resolutions! But rather than going completely teetotal, it's worth thinking a bit deeper about your drinking habits. If you have been a regular drinker then once again, moderation is key. Large studies have shown that consuming 1 - 2 alcoholic drinks per day (particularly red wine) is actually better for cardiovascular health than abstaining altogether, unless you have always been a non-drinker (see this study). Alcoholic drinks often contain substances beneficial to health such as the potent antioxidant resveratrol found in red wine, while Guinness is somehwat of a dark horse (pardon the pun!) as it is made from plenty of whole grains and packed with nutrients such as B vitamins and iron (this study found it is as good for your heart as red wine).
Many people opt for a 'Dry January' but then return to overdoing it and even binge drinking once the month is out, which is obviously not a recipe for long-term health benefits! So consider the above and perhaps consider moderating your drinking as a lasting lifestyle change rather than trying to quit drinking completely...a goal which let's face it, many will find to be an unrealistic goal!
5. Starting New Projects
Finally, a new year is a time when we feel like with have a fresh start and thoughts turn to grand ideas like starting new projects, changing career paths, furthering our education. All of course are worthy resolutions, just be careful not to bite off more than you can chew, so to speak. Give yourself time to really think about whether you have the time and energy to take on big new endeavours and life changes or you may end up simply raisning your stress levels and along with it your blood pressure!
With all this in mind, go into the new year with your eyes open and your research done and it'll be sure to be one to remember - Happy New Year from myself and The Environmental Illness Resource everyone!