Tag Archive for: healthy habits

Body language is a powerful communicator. Your posture, the way you hold your body, exudes confidence. It can show others if you are listening to them or even express if you’re feeling shy, tired, and so much more.

And, as it turns out, it can also affect your health.

The ties between posture and health cut both ways. Good posture brings great benefits, and, on the flip side, bad posture can be detrimental to your health. Let’s take a look at each element of your posture: the good, the bad, and what you can do about it.

Posture Perfect

Before getting into the nitty gritty, what exactly is posture and what makes it good or bad? “Good” posture is typically easy on your body: carrying yourself in positions that don’t strain or tweak your muscles and joints. “Bad” posture, well, does the opposite. (More on that later!)

Posture can be broken into two categories: static (not moving) and dynamic (in motion). For now, we’ll deep dive into static posture. When your body is at rest, you’re probably doing one of three things: sitting, standing, or lying down. Let’s take a look at the ideal posture for each:

  • Sitting: You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: “sit up straight!” This is by no means bad advice, but it focuses solely on the spine. And good sitting posture is a whole-body activity. When sitting, strive to keep your back straight and balanced above your hips. Your shoulders should be relaxed, and your feet should rest flat on the floor. If you work at a computer desk, position your monitor so you are looking straight ahead, not slightly down. This helps reduce the tension exerted on your spine. Overall, good sitting posture should feel relatively neutral: if something seems tense or strained, it may be a sign to reevaluate your sitting position.
  • Standing: As with sitting, good standing posture starts with the spine. To maintain an ideal standing body position, focus to keep your back straight up and down—not rigidly, but in a natural, relaxed stance. Your shoulders shouldn’t be hunched forward, but pulled back so they are balanced over your hips. Engage your abdominal muscles to help maintain this position. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart, with your weight balanced on the balls of your feet. Once again, try to avoid angling your head in strange directions: looking straight ahead causes the least spinal strain.
  • Lying down: People can get surprisingly opinionated about sleep positions. But whether you’re a back-, side-, or belly-sleeper, one thing is true: you should try to keep your ears, shoulders, and hips in alignment. By maintaining this axis through your body, you reduce strain on your neck and spine—which, in turn, can help reduce pain in your day-to-day. Sometimes this means getting creative with your pillow placement. If you sleep on your back, a pillow under your knees can help maintain the body’s natural contours. And for the side sleepers out there, a pillow placed between the knees has a similar effect. Belly-sleepers should use a flat pillow for their head (or no pillow at all). An additional pillow under the pelvis can also help reduce stress on the spine.

Why Bother: The Benefits of Good Posture

As a general rule, a little pain and discomfort each day is inevitable. It’s just part of life. That being said, there are steps you can take to help reduce the amount of discomfort you experience each day—and one is paying attention to your posture. Good posture can have a positive impact on your health by:

  • Reducing back pain: Sitting off-kilter or hunched over can increase the strain on your lumbar spine (aka your lower back). With time, this strain can lead to back pain. Good sitting and standing postures help you avoid this unnecessary discomfort by keeping lower back strain to a minimum.
  • Easing neck and shoulder tension: Proper posture balances your head comfortably over your spine. This reduces the amount of weight your head and shoulders have to support, which in turn reduces muscle tension in those areas.
  • Decreasing frequency of headaches: One of the most common culprits behind headaches is tension. And as mentioned, good posture can reduce the amount of tension in your neck and shoulders. While this may not eliminate all the headaches you experience, it will certainly help keep them at bay.
  • Increasing energy levels: Good posture is all about keeping your body balanced and neutral. In other words, it’s about not creating extra work for your stabilizing muscles. (You know what they say: work smarter, not harder.) This can reduce fatigue and muscle strain, giving you more energy throughout the day.
  • Improving joint health: Your body’s joints naturally experience wear-and-tear throughout your life. After all, they do move a lot. Some movements—especially unnatural ones—wear your joints down more than others. Proper posture can help you avoid many of these unnatural movements, keeping your joints healthier for longer.
  • Expanding lung capacity: Your lungs are the center of your respiratory system—needless to say, they’re pretty important. And to do their job properly, your lungs need room to expand fully. Slouching can restrict the amount of space they have, making it harder to breathe.

How Bad Posture Affects Your Health

Posture goes way beyond the way you look. Poor posture can directly impact your physical health. Some of the most common effects of bad posture include:

  • Neck, shoulder, and back pain: Posture is all about alignment. When your body—especially your neck and back—are out of alignment, it can cause unnecessary strain on your muscles and joints. Over time, this can lead to tension and pain.
  • Increase risk of spine injury: Slouching gradually wears down your spine and other joints. This might not seem like a big deal, but years of bad posture can catch up to you. The weaker your spine, the more fragile and prone it is to injury.
  • Decreased flexibility: Pulling your shoulders forward, slouching, and other forms of bad posture can all reduce your range of motion over time. When your muscles get accustomed to unusual or unnatural positions it can be difficult to return to a neutral stance. In other words, your abdomen, back, and shoulders can lose flexibility, making it more difficult to practice good posture.
  • Poor digestion: Like your lungs, your organs need space to do their jobs—space that’s naturally provided in your abdominal cavity. When you hunch forward or slouch, it can reduce this space, making it harder for your body to process and digest food.
  • Headaches: Tension in your neck and shoulders is one of the most common effects of bad posture. It’s also one of the most common causes for headaches. So next time you feel your posture slipping, remember: you’re setting yourself up, literally and figuratively, for future headaches.

How to Improve Your Posture

No matter where you are in your posture journey, the tips and tricks below can help you ditch the slouching and keep your posture balanced and natural:

  • Stay active: Good posture is all about holding your body in the right way. And this takes strength—not a lot of it, but enough to keep your body stable and upright. An active lifestyle can help keep your muscles strong enough to maintain good posture throughout the day.
  • Stretch regularly: If you’ve found that sitting up straight feels uncomfortable, this might be due to a lack of flexibility. It’s important to keep your body limber and flexible, which requires regular stretching. When it comes to posture, focus on stretching your neck, shoulder, and back muscles.
  • Keep your abs strong: As mentioned, strength is a big part of posture—specifically core strength. Your abs and core muscles help keep your torso upright and balanced, making good posture possible. There’s no right way to exercise these muscles—try anything from abdominal crunches and other ab exercises to swimming, yoga, and more.
  • Practice curve reversal: If you’ve been hunched forward for an extended time, counteract and “reset” your posture by stretching the other direction. Known as curve reversal, this is a great way to stretch or to simply remind yourself to return your posture to a more neutral position.
  • Avoid squishy chairs: Who doesn’t love a nice, plush chair? But like most good things, squishy chairs are best in moderation. If you’re going to be sitting for an extended period of time, it’s best to choose a firm seat with good back support to help you maintain proper posture as you sit. Soft chairs with lots of give let you to sink into the cushions, so keeping your body upright takes much more work.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back: It’s difficult to maintain good posture with a weak or injured back—so be careful! When lifting heavy objects, try to keep your back straight. Instead of bending over to lift, bend your knees and use your quads to raise yourself back up.
  • Be mindful: It may seem simple, but one of the most important aspects of posture is simply being mindful of how your body is positioned. If you notice yourself slouching or hunching forward, take a moment to readjust your posture.
  • Adjust work surface height: If you have a desk job, sitting up straight is only half the battle. You should also make sure your work surface is right height for good neck posture. Try to position your monitor so you are looking straight ahead. If your desk is too low, you may naturally hunch forward to reach it. Or if it is too high, your feet may not rest comfortably om the floor. If this is the case, adjust your desk so your arms reach it comfortably and your feet are flat as you sit up straight.

As you go throughout your busy day, try to be mindful of your posture. Over time, it’ll become more and more natural to keep your body upright, neutral and in alignment. Good posture will benefit your health and you might even feel a boost in confidence.

“Sitting is the new smoking”—this is the latest catch phrase surrounding health. Yes, perhaps it’s a bit alarmist, but the notion holds true. Sitting for extended periods can be detrimental to your health. And alas, many of us spend most of the day sitting.

One study reveals more than a quarter of American adults sit for over eight hours a day. This sitting epidemic has one major culprit: the desk job. If you work a nine-to-five in the office, that’s eight hours in a chair right there. Not to mention time spent relaxing at home.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Learn the health risks of sitting at a desk all day and what you can do to stay healthy while working your desk job.

Desk Stress and Your Body: Health Effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle

Let’s get one thing out of the way: sitting in moderation isn’t inherently bad for you. But grabbing a chair for excessive periods of time does come with side effects. The science is pretty straightforward—when you sit for prolonged intervals your body feels it:

  • Blood flow: While you’re sitting, your blood circulates at a slower rate than when you’re standing. As blood flow slows, it can be easier for fatty acids to build up in your arteries—a common precursor to heart disease.
  • Fat usage: Your body breaks down fats in your diet one of two ways—by processing it or storing it. Sitting has been shown to slow the body’s production of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that helps break down fats. This means less fat is processed and it’s instead being stored in your body.
  • Insulin resistance: When you’re sitting, your body experiences “muscle passivity.” Basically, you’re not actively using most of your muscles. This state could lead to increased insulin resistance, which may cause elevated blood sugar levels.

Scientists are still exploring the full impact these bodily changes can have on your health, but some of the repercussions are clear. Excessive sitting has the potential to increase your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, blood clots, and obesity.

But there is good news! If you spend a lot of your day sitting, there’s plenty you can do to combat these health woes.

Staying Active at the Desk: Stretching Your In-Office Exercise Options


As more and more points to the detrimental effects of sitting, office norms are changing. For those with desk jobs, this means sitting for eight hours straight isn’t your only option. So what can you do instead? Let’s get into it:

  • Stand up to work: It seems too good to be true, but one of the best ways to avoid the health impacts of sitting is, well, to not sit. Enter the standing desk. Though they come in a variety of forms, each is designed to elevate the surface of your desk to let you stand instead of sit. While standing only burns marginally more calories than sitting, it can help you avoid the other health risks above. And what’s more, some studies suggest that standing desks can help boost productivity.
  • Break away: If possible, take a break at least once every hour. It doesn’t have to—and probably shouldn’t—be a long break. Just enjoy three to five minutes away from your desk to use the restroom, make a cup of coffee, grab a snack, etc. Time spent standing or, even better, walking can work wonders for your health and productivity.
  • Try a new desk accessory: Get creative with your at-work exercise by placing a small stationary bike, or even a treadmill, under your desk. Both are great options to stay active while working, helping you keep the blood flowing throughout the day. And the best part? You don’t even need to break a sweat to see the benefits.
  • Suggest a walk-and-talk: The business week can be chock full of meetings—most taken sitting down. A walking meeting is a great alternative to the traditional conference room meetup. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a meeting while trekking through the office, around the block, anywhere but sitting at a table. Of course, not every meeting can be held this way, but it is a terrific option for team brainstorming sessions and one-on-one conversations.
  • Step it up: If you’ve gotten in the habit of using the elevator, it’s time to mix it up. Stairs are a simple and easy way to get your blood pumping at work. Climbing the stairs is also a heart-healthy way to spend one of your mini breaks throughout the day.
  • Stretch your possibilities: Stop what you’re doing. Stand up, place one hand on your elbow, and pull your arm across your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Reverse this stretch on the other side. Ahhh…doesn’t that feel good? Now turn around, place one foot on the seat of your chair, and engage your core as you slowly lean forward to stretch the back of your supporting leg. Switch sides. Fitting a quick stretch into your workday is as easy as that.

Make Your Commute Count

If you commute to work, you likely know firsthand how much sitting it can add to your day. Waiting in traffic, slumped on the bus, seated on the train—you get the idea. But it’s also one part of your workday that can turn physical. If you live cycling distance from the office, an early morning bike ride into work is a perfect way to start the day. And getting off the bus a few stops early lets you squeeze a brisk walk into an otherwise packed day.

Losing the car may seem like a drastic change to make, but give it a shot—after skipping traffic for a few days, you may never to go back to the auto commute!

Exercise After Work: Counteracting the Effects of Sitting

At the end of the day, you’re at work to work. Not all offices are open to the idea of a walking meeting. And, let’s face it, an under-the-desk stationary bike might not be in your future.

If this is your situation, don’t worry—a healthy lifestyle while working a desk job is still doable. It just takes a little after work motivation.

A day of sitting at a desk staring at a screen is exhausting. Plopping down on the couch and relaxing after work can be tempting. The problem is this adds even more sitting to your day. To stave off the negative health impacts of prolonged sitting, it’s crucial to mix some form of physical activity into your day.

This doesn’t mean hitting the gym for two hours every evening or going for a five-mile run (if that’s your thing, kudos to you). A 30-minute walk after dinner is enough to get the blood flowing. And if you don’t want to leave the house, home exercises can achieve the same benefit.

The Bottom Line

So, is sitting the new smoking? Not exactly. Sitting in moderation is a pervasive part of life, but too much of it for too long can have negative health consequences. Unlike smoking, sitting is an easy habit to break by simply finding creative ways to get up and get moving. It’s true, whether you like it or not, you’re going to spend some of each day seated. And that’s ok—you now have plenty of ideas to stay healthy, even with a desk job.

woman in cafe using her mobile phone

woman in cafe using her mobile phone

In the not-so-distant past, cell phones were a new and exciting technology. Now it seems you can’t go anywhere without seeing a smartphone in nearly every hand. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—they are awfully practical. If you’re trying to call a friend, find the nearest coffee shop, or simply keep up with the news, your cell phone can help you do just that. And you can do it from just about anywhere.

If smartphones are an inextricable part of day-to-day life—which they seem to be—it’s worth looking into the ties between them and your health. So, whether you’re an occasional user or stay tied to your phone, read on for a breakdown of how your cell phone affects you.

Smartphones and Physical Health: The Effects of Cell Phones on Your Body

When it comes to cell phones and health, many people immediately jump to the radio frequency energy these devices emit. While it is technically true that cell phones expose users to a type of radiation, it’s important to note it’s a low level of non-ionizing radiation—a type that has not been linked to any health problems.

With the insidious threat of radiation out of the way, let’s look at the ways your smartphone actually can impact your physical well-being:

  • Disrupted sleep: One of the most reported effects of smartphone use is disrupted sleep patterns. This is especially true when you are on your phone in bed before falling asleep. Excessive exposure to screens throughout the day can also lead to difficulty falling asleep and insomnia. To avoid screen-related sleeping woes, some experts recommend cutting out your cell phone, laptop, and TV usage 30 minutes before bed.
  • Increased eye fatigue and headaches: It’s probably not too surprising that staring at a screen isn’t great for your eyes. This is partially due to the blue light your smartphone screen emits, as well as how close many people view their phones. Eye fatigue can present several symptoms ranging from double vision and difficulty focusing to headaches and dry eyes.
  • Neck, back, and shoulder pain: In a 2022 study, researchers observed higher reported neck, back, and shoulder pain in college undergraduates and graduate students who used their smartphones excessively (more than five hours a day per this study). These physical symptoms are likely the result of posture and head positioning during cell phone use.
  • Hand and wrist pain: The musculoskeletal effects your smartphone can have on your body aren’t limited to the head and neck. You do, after all, hold your phone in your hand. Excessive cell phone use—especially texting or typing—can lead to trigger thumb (tissue thickening in your thumb), thumb arthritis, wrist pain, and more. If you feel your thumbs or wrists getting achy and sore, it might be time to take a break from the phone for a bit.

In many studies conducted, researchers found it difficult to tie cell phone usage to weight and physical activity. Many theorized that higher levels of smartphone use would directly correlate to weight gain and obesity, as it seems plausible that time spent on a phone might replace time spent exercising.

However, many individuals use their smartphones to track workouts, map runs, and perform other fitness-related activities. In these cases, researchers found smartphone usage was promoting physical activity, not replacing it. So, the way you use your phone could make a difference in how it impacts your health.

Smartphones and the Brain: Cognition, Mental Health, and Your Cell Phone

If you’ve ever felt like your cell phone is wrecking your attention span, you’re not alone. Various levels of smartphone addiction are so common that products have been created to help monitor and restrict phone usage, be it through an app or a physical lockbox.

Such solutions may seem extreme, but product developers aren’t acting on anecdotal evidence alone. Scientific studies have identified the very real effects smartphones can have on the brain. Some of these include:

  • Decreased attention span: If you regularly use a smartphone, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed your attention span has been impacted. Cell phones can affect your ability to focus in a variety of ways. As scientists study attention and focus, they often measure their subjects’ ability to achieve “flow”—a state of mind achieved when you are completely focused on and absorbed in a task. One 2015 study found that participants who displayed some level of phone addiction were less likely to achieve “flow” performance.
  • Increased risk for anxiety and depression: Several studies have linked excessive smartphone use and cell phone addiction to anxiety and depression. While the exact causes for this are not clear, one theory suggests smartphone use can increase an individual’s sense of isolation and loneliness. Another theory correlates the amount of time people, especially young adults, use their smartphones for social media. Other studies, however, show evidence that some smartphone usage can decrease your sense of loneliness and boost your mood. It all depends on how and why you interact on your phone.
  • Decreased ability to connect with others: Some researchers break cell phone distractions into two categories: endogenous and exogenous. Endogenous distractions come from your own mind, not the phone itself. Exogenous distractions refer to vibrations, rings, and other phone notifications. During a conversation, exogenous factors can obviously be a distraction—it’s hard to focus on what someone is saying when your phone is vibrating nonstop in your pocket. As it turns out, endogenous factors can be just as distracting. One study showed when a cell phone is visible on the table the owner must fight the impulse to check it. And this urge can be incredibly distracting. In other words, if you can see your phone, your own thoughts can draw your attention away from engaging face-to-face.

Kids and Their Phones: Smartphones and Health in Childhood and Adolescence

In schools, the mental and cognitive effects of smartphones on children and teens have become a major talking point—especially after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many school districts to virtual instruction.

And for good reason. Many of the symptoms of excessive smartphone use listed above are more pronounced in children and teens. It’s also important to remember that these are habit-forming years. The relationship you develop to technology in your teens is likely going to shape your adult years. For this reason, it is crucial to monitor how much time children and teens are spending on their phones to help them develop healthy lifelong habits.

It’s Not All Bad: Using Your Smartphone to Promote Healthy Living

Sure, smartphones can affect your health in a variety of negative ways, but that doesn’t mean a phone in hand is inherently bad. In fact, many people use their smartphone to promote healthy lifestyles.

Technology has revolutionized the ways you can approach fitness, health, and wellness. So rather than ditching the smartphone completely, think about how it can be a tool for your health. Look for new apps to track your workouts, set health goals, practice daily mindfulness, or even build better connections with your loved ones. The possibilities are limitless—you’ve just got to explore what’s out there!

Red wine pouring into wine glass

Red wine pouring into wine glass

Although people have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years, the role boozy beverages play in a healthy lifestyle is hotly debated. Some argue that teetotaling is the healthiest option, while others tout the health benefits of a daily glass of red wine. If you’re not sure what to believe…read on.

At the end of the day, your alcohol choices are up to you. But as you navigate the world of drinking, abstaining, and everything in between, it’s good to have the facts.

What Is Alcohol and How Does It Work?

Most define alcohol in loose terms: it’s found in beer, wine, and liquor (and more) and is responsible for intoxication—and other side effects—of such beverages. This description, while accurate and practical, doesn’t answer what alcohol is and how it actually works. For that, we need to turn to science.

Alcohols (yes, plural intended) are organic compounds composed of at least one hydroxyl (a hydrogen and oxygen atom bonded together) that is bound to an alkyl group. These compounds are incredibly common—a wide variety of organic compounds can be classified as alcohols. The two most notable are ethanol and methanol. We’ll be focusing on ethanol, given it’s the alcohol  found in alcoholic beverages.

Ethanol, which looks a lot like water, is a byproduct of plant fermentation. When it’s consumed your liver immediately begins breaking it down to remove it from the body. But your liver can only work so fast. Intoxication is the result of drinking alcohol faster than your liver can do its job.

With your liver working overtime, the excess alcohol enters your bloodstream. Once in the blood, alcohol acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. It slows down a variety of brain functions, starting with the cerebellum, which is responsible for balance and motor function. Alcohol also triggers the release of certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, both tied to mood boosts and mild euphoria.

The Short-Term Effects of Alcohol

Although alcohol doesn’t affect the body immediately, it does act pretty quickly. Everyone processes alcohol a little differently, but after a drink or two, most people start to feel the first effects. These include mild euphoria (think dopamine and serotonin release), lowered inhibitions, and slowed reaction time.

The more you drink, the more it impacts your body. Short-term effects of alcohol include slurred speech, decreased motor function, distorted vision, vomiting, impaired memory (to the point of “blacking out”), and even loss of consciousness. Many of these more serious effects are signs of alcohol poisoning—a clear indicator you’ve overdone the drinking.

Alcohol also acts as a diuretic—a substance that causes frequent urination. This means when you’re drinking your body is losing fluid faster than usual. And this can lead to dehydration. In fact, dehydration is one of the biggest contributing factors to the hangover you might feel the next day.

Most people drink in the evening as they wind down for the day. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, consuming alcohol right before bed can disrupt your sleep cycle. You may find it easier to fall asleep after drinking your beverage of choice, but alcohol can prevent your body from reaching the deepest, most restful stages of sleep. This may leave you feeling unrested and fatigued.

So how long do these effects last? Well, it depends on the person, how much they drank, how fast they drank it, and a whole slew of other factors. Alcohol can typically be detected in your system anywhere from six hours to three days. But most of the short-term effects will likely clear up within a day.

The Long-Term Effects of Drinking

The human body is incredibly resilient, and there generally aren’t long-term health problems tied to moderate alcohol consumption. The key word here is moderate. Heavy drinking, on the other hand, can start to take its toll on the body over time.

Naturally, the long-term effects of alcohol consumption vary from person to person. Some of the most common health complications of prolonged, heavy drinking include high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease, increased risk of stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.

And these are just the physical effects. Excessive alcohol consumption has also been tied to higher occurrences of certain mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. In extreme cases, heavy drinking can also lead to alcohol dependence, which, like most addictions, is both a physical and a mental ailment that needs to be dealt with.

How Much Is Too Much? Levels of Alcohol Consumption

From complete abstinence (teetotaling), to moderate, and all the way to and excessive or heavy, there are many levels of drinking. And, as mentioned, most long-term health risks stem from heavy alcohol consumption.

This begs the question: how much is too much?

Although there’s no exact answer to this question—everybody processes alcohol a little bit differently—most government health agencies have guidelines to follow. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) classifies the levels of drinking as follows:

  • Moderate drinking: For men, moderate drinking is defined as up to two drinks per day, fifteen drinks per week. For women, those numbers change to one drink per day, eight drinks per week.
  • Heavy drinking: Any drinking that exceeds the CDC guidelines for moderate drinking. Three or more drinks per day for men, or more than fifteen drinks per week. And for women, two or more drinks per day, eight or more drinks per week.

Additionally, the CDC also defines binge drinking—heavy drinking in a small window of time. Five or more drinks per single occasion constitutes binge drinking for men; for women, this number is four or more drinks.

As you get older, you may want to revisit these guidelines, as well as your relationship to alcohol—especially if you are a man. Aging is associated with a decreased ability to metabolize alcohol. As such, both the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the American Geriatric Society advise men over the age of 65 to consume no more than one drink per day.

Fact or Fiction: Drinking Can Be Good For Your Health

You’ve probably heard someone make the claim a glass of red wine in the evening is actually good for health. And, more specifically, good for your heart. But how true is it?

This theory is believed to have originated with what is called the French Paradox—the notion that French people love three things: butter, cheese, and wine. Cheese and butter are not terribly good for the heart, and yet France sees relatively low rates of heart disease. So some theorized that red wine must counteract the effects of those fatty foods.

As nice as it sounds, there’s a narrow amount of science to back this up. Some beneficial phytonutrients, like resveratrol, can be found in wine. But phytonutrient totals are typically pretty limited and vary a lot wine to wine.

Some surprising nutritional perks are hidden in beer. Unfiltered beers can contain small amounts of antioxidants, soluble fiber, and other micronutrients. These nutrients aren’t in high enough quantities to justify pouring yourself a beer just for the nutritional content. But hey, if you’re already cracking one open, you’ll take all the nutrients you can get.

female writing goals

female writing goals

If you ask just about anyone about their health and wellness, they’re probably willing to admit there’s room for improvement. Most adults simply aren’t as healthy as they want to be. And, at one time or another, most have tried to change this.

All too often, the story is the same. You decide to be healthier, and you come up with an action plan. Whether it is exercising more, eating nutritious meals, or a combination of the two. You stick to your plan for two weeks. Or a month. And then life gets in the way and your new habits get dropped just as fast as they came.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Creating new health habits is a challenge, to say the least. Successfully adopting a healthier lifestyle requires persistence, the ability to identify good mistakes, and, in most cases, the willingness to start something again.

Step One: Identify Good Mistakes and Commit to Starting Again

Falling back into old habits can be discouraging. After all, nobody likes to set their sights on something only to fall short. But when it comes to health and wellness, as with so many other aspects of life, you can learn from your failures. It’s all about identifying good mistakes.

The term “good mistakes” sounds like an oxymoron. Mistakes are bad, right? Well, sometimes. It all depends on how you frame your thinking.

Mistakes without reflection can be bad, sure. But mistakes with reflection can be a powerful tool for change. Let’s think about this in terms of your lifestyle journey. If you tried to make positive changes to your lifestyle, but struggled to maintain those changes, you likely made a few “mistakes.” These mistakes could be things like skipping your workout for a few days in a row, allowing yourself too many “cheat” days with your meals, or simply trying to implement changes in your life that don’t fit your interests or abilities.

Turning these mistakes into good mistakes will require a little bit of self-reflection. Why did you fail to achieve your health goals? Did you set realistic, measurable goals for yourself? Did you schedule early morning workout time even though you are absolutely not a morning person? You know yourself better than anyone, and so you will be able to identify where you went wrong.

With this knowledge under your belt, it’s time to commit to starting again. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and dive right back into your health journey—but this time with a few changes.

The Psychology of Habit: Creating Routines That Stick

In most cases, you can’t change your health overnight. It’s an ongoing process that requires diligence and consistency—and the easiest way to maintain consistent behavior is to form habits. When people make lifestyle changes and then drop them within a few weeks, it’s often because the newly adopted behavior never became a habit.

This is all fine and good, but it raises a crucial question: how can you successfully create habits that stick? Fortunately, this is a question that psychologists have already sought to answer.

Studies show that one of the key elements of forming health-related habits is specificity. The more specific the desired behavior, the easier it will be to solidify as a habit. Take healthy eating, for instance.

Many people have a common goal: they want to “eat healthier.” While this is a great lifestyle change to try to make, this goal is very vague. A more specific goal might look something like this: “I want to eat more fruit every day.” Still, this isn’t as specific as it can get. Taking it a step further, we end up with this: “I want to eat an apple with lunch every day.”

The final version of the health goal outlined above has two key elements of habit-forming behavior: a when and a where. This hypothetical person will eat an apple with lunch (that’s the when—during lunchtime), wherever they happen to be eating (that’s the where).

When goals are specific, it becomes easier to measure progress and fidelity. If you struggle to keep yourself accountable, you may benefit from a log or other method for tracking your consistency. Going back to the example above, you could track that goal with a calendar and a simple yes or no mark. For each day that you ate an apple with lunch, you’d put a yes, and for each day that you didn’t, you’d put a no. With enough yesses, the behavior will become habitual—it may even start to feel strange to eat lunch without an apple.


Goal setting is a bit of a balancing act. You want to set goals that are achievable, while also ensuring that your goals push you to reach your potential. In business settings, many teams and individuals use the SMART framework for creating their goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound—all of these are qualities that your goals should have.

This framework can be applied to your health goals as well. Let’s go back to the apple a day example. This goal is specific, measurable (either you ate the apple or you didn’t each day), achievable, and relevant (it ties into the more general goal of eating healthier). But what about time-bound? Is there a time frame in which the goal should be reached?

To make this goal time bound, there needs to be some sort of deadline. Let’s rewrite it: “within one month, I will be eating an apple with lunch at least six days a week.” Now the goal meets all of the SMART goal criteria.

Choosing a Method That Works for You

There’s no one right way to make lifestyle changes. It’s an individual process that varies from person to person. So if SMART goals don’t seem like your thing, don’t worry! Find a method that works for you. And remember: failure doesn’t have to be the end. Reflect, turn your mistakes into good mistakes, and start again.

staying hydrated on airplane

staying hydrated on airplane

For even the most seasoned traveler, navigating new places can be a bit stressful. Juggling luggage, reservations, activities, and more makes it hard to remember one of the most overlooked aspects of travel health: staying hydrated.

Drinking enough water is difficult enough on a day-to-day basis. Throw in the hustle and hurry that comes with travel, and it becomes even harder to maintain healthy hydration levels. But you don’t have to let dehydration throw off your next trip.

Use these tips to stay hydrated on the road. Taking care of your hydration levels will help you spend less time stressing about your health and more time relaxing, working, or simply enjoying your trip.

The Importance of Staying Hydrated and How to Assess Your Hydration Level

The human body can go a surprisingly long time without food—sometimes over two weeks. Without water, however, you can only survive for about three days.

This isn’t too surprising when you consider the fact that your body is roughly 60% water. Also, so many bodily processes depend on water, including, but certainly not limited to:

  • maintaining healthy temperature regulation
  • supporting healthy joints
  • helps in transporting nutrients to cells throughout the body
  • maintaining healthy organ functions
  • supporting your immune system in its fight to maintain your health

You get it—water is good for you. So how can you tell when you haven’t been drinking enough? The tell-tale sign is your urine. When you’re well-hydrated, your urine color should fall somewhere between light yellow and clear. Darker-colored urine often indicates you’re not well hydrated.

Other symptoms of underhydration include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and light-headedness. Studies have even linked dehydration to increased cortisol levels. Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone and increased levels can cause an elevated heart rate, rapid breathing, and other fight-or-flight responses in the body.

The Challenges of Staying Hydrated Away from Home

In the comfort of your home, hydration is a simple matter: if you’re thirsty, you grab a glass of water. When you’re on the road—whether it’s a trip out-of-town or a day spent running errands—hydration isn’t so easy. It is, however, still vitally important. There are several travel-related factors that can increase your chances of falling short of your hydration goals.

The first is your access to clean water. In your home, you probably have unlimited drinking water on tap. This luxury isn’t always available on the go. You can, of course, bring water with you. But if you’re traveling by plane, you won’t be able to take a full bottle of water through security. Additionally, you might not be able to find places to fill your reusable bottle as frequently as you’d like.

Then there’s the stress of travel. As mentioned above, lacking proper hydration can cause stress by increasing your cortisol levels. But the inverse is also true. Stress—and increased cortisol levels—can cause dehydration. Stress can cause you to sweat more, breathe faster, and can increase your heart rate. All these bodily responses increase the amount of fluid you lose. That means you need to drink more water to maintain a healthy level of hydration.

Finally, there’s the little-known phenomenon that airplanes actually dehydrate you. If you’re traveling by plane, some of the air you breathe in flight is pulled from the surrounding atmosphere. And at 30,000 feet, there’s very little moisture in the air. This may not seem like a big deal, but you may notice your eyes, skin, mouth, and throat feel drier than usual. This can be a sign you’re a little underhydrated.

How to Stay Hydrated on the Go

At this point, hopefully you’ve learned two things. First, hydration is important. And second, travel can adversely impact your attempts at healthy hydration in a variety of ways.

So what can you do about it? Use these tips and tricks to stay hydrated on any journey.

  1. Carry a reusable water bottle: If you don’t have a reusable water bottle, buy one. You’ll be able to fill up on water at any fountain, restaurant, or sink. Some bottles are insulated, keeping the water cold for hours. This is also an environmentally friendly approach to healthy hydration since you’re ditching single-use plastics. Just make sure the water you are filling up on is safe to drink!
  2. Eat fruits and vegetables with a high water content: Most people think of hydration in terms of drinking fluids. But you can also eat your water. Fruits and veggies are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but many are also supply you with water. Cucumbers, watermelon, oranges, and celery are just a few snacking options to help keep you hydrated. If you’re in an area without safe tap water, you may want to stick to thick-skinned fruits such as bananas, avocados, and pineapples.
  3. Pack a water filter in your bag: When you’re camping or traveling in an area without safe drinking water, a water filter is a must. Some allow you to pump water through a filter and out a hose, essentially giving you a portable faucet of drinking water. All you need is a stream, lake, or other source of water. You can also find water bottles with built-in filters. You simply fill the bottle and, as you suck the water through the straw, it’s pulled through a filter before you drink it. Additionally, you can try other water-purification methods, such as purifying tablets and UV water purifiers.
  4. Add chia seeds to your water: Chia seeds are popular among long-distance runners and other athletes because they’re often touted as an energy-boosting food. So what do they have to do with hydration? When added to water, these seeds absorb up to 12 times their weight in water. As a result, drinking water mixed with chia seeds can help you feel hydrated for longer stretches of time. Chia seeds are also rich in antioxidants, making them a great addition to your diet!
  5. Limit your coffee intake: While it’s mostly water, you shouldn’t rely on coffee for hydration. Coffee contains caffeine, and caffeine is a diuretic—meaning it makes you urinate more. And the more you urinate, the more fluid your body is losing. If not replaced, this can lead to dehydration. The same is true of other caffeinated beverages.
  6. Drink coconut water: Many people rely on sports drinks to stay hydrated. There’s just one problem: these beverages are often full of sugar. Enter coconut water, a natural beverage that is rich in electrolytes and will help you stay hydrated on the go.
  7. Limit your alcohol consumption: Alcohol, like caffeine, is a urine-inducing diuretic. For this reason, alcohol can dehydrate you very quickly. If you’re drinking at the airport or on vacation, be sure to drink plenty of water to keep your fluid levels up.
nutrition on the go

nutrition on the go

Healthy eating is the backbone of any healthy lifestyle. It provides the energy you need to focus throughout the day, helps keep your immune system operating at its best, and fuels your body for physical activity.

Of course, eating right is easier said than done—especially when life gets busy. When you have a lot on your metaphorical plate, it’s tempting to forego healthy, nutritious meals. That might mean replacing them with fast food, a snack from the vending machine, or simply skipping the meal.

In other words, when life gets busy, many people tend to deprive themselves of the key nutrients that will keep them operating at their best. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time to learn which nutrients will help power your busy life and how to incorporate them into your daily meals.

Nutrition 101

If you’re completely new to the world of nutrition, don’t worry—this section provides a quick, crash course on the basics. And if you’re a seasoned expert (pun intended), a little review never hurts, right?

Nutrition—in the context of this article—refers to the process of providing your body with the food it needs to support normal growth and development, as well as maintain essential body functions. To do each of these tasks, your body requires a variety of nutrients. These nutrients range from amino acids, fats, and carbs to vitamins, minerals, and everything in between. So when people throw around phrases like healthy eating, nutritional food, or a good diet, they’re referring to eating habits that provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function. But also avoiding—or reducing—the intake of less nutritious options.

Though it can sound involved—and, frankly, intimidating—eating a well-balanced diet can be done easier than you think. In fact, simply eating a large variety of whole foods can provide the building blocks of a balanced diet. You can reach for a variety of different foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy.

Between these food groups, you can get most of the nutrients you need on a day-to-day basis. So if you’re eating the recommended daily amount of each food group, your diet likely has a strong foundation. From there, you can adjust your eating habits to focus on specific nutrients—but more on that later!

The Importance of Nutrition on the Go

The food you eat directly fuels your energy levels. Carbohydrates such as sugar, for instance, can provide quick, temporary bursts of energy. But the benefits of good nutrition go far beyond your energy levels.

Nutrition is the unsung hero (or villain) of your day-to-day experiences. Whether it’s the quality of your sleep or your ability to focus throughout the day, nearly every element of your day is affected, in part, by what you put in your body.

This makes nutrition especially important when you’re busy. An inability to focus can set you behind on the day’s tasks. Similarly, a poor night of sleep can throw off your entire day. But in both cases, you can set yourself up for success by focusing on your eating habits.

Naturally, the optimal meal plan looks a little bit different for everyone. It’ll take time and experimentation to figure out what works best for you. But there are some general guidelines to start you on the right path. The next section breaks down some of the nutrients you’ll likely need to fuel your busy life and why they are so important.

Key Nutrients to Get You Through Busy Days (And Where to Find Them)

A well-balanced diet ensures you have a solid foundation, but you’ll still need to pay close attention to the foods you eat. Each day, you should strive to consume a variety of foods. This will help you maintain a baseline level of nutrition to keep you going.

Once you’ve established that baseline, you can focus on other key nutrients. The list below outlines some of the vitamins and minerals that especially power your busy lifestyle. This is not an exhaustive list of what your body needs, but rather a list of key nutrients involved in healthy energy production that you can use to help supplement an already balanced diet.

B vitamins: It’s been said many times, but it bears repeating—food is fuel. That being said, your body has to perform chemical processes to convert the food you eat into usable energy. This is where vitamins B1, B2, and B3—AKA thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin—come into play. These three B vitamins help support the ways your body breaks down and processes macronutrients. These processes, which spark electron transfers, also need support from B vitamins to produce one of the body’s main sources of energy.

When it comes to energy production, vitamins B5 and B7 (pantothenic acid and biotin) also play an important role. Similar to the other B vitamins, these two vitamins facilitate a number of chemical processes and reactions that help your body metabolize various substances and create usable energy.

B vitamins aren’t all about energy production, though it is one of their main functions. Vitamin B9, AKA folate, helps your body build DNA and RNA, supports tissue growth, and promotes the regeneration of red blood cells. Obviously, these are important bodily functions.

To metabolize—or break down and process—folate, your body needs vitamin B12, or cobalamin. So remember how folate helps your body perform a number of crucial functions? Well, your body also relies on vitamin B12 for those same processes.

At this point, hopefully one thing is clear: the B vitamins do a lot. So where can you find them? The B vitamins can be found in a variety of foods including pork (B1), brown rice (B1), leafy greens (B2, B3, and B9), dairy (B2 and B5), and fish (B3, B7, and B12). For an in-depth look at each of the B vitamins, check out this guide!

Electrolytes: Contrary to popular belief, electrolytes are more than just salt. Electrolytes are water-soluble substances that conduct electrical charges. Some of the most common electrolytes found in your body are calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

Your body uses electrolytes—and their conductive properties—to support healthy muscle contraction, chemical reactions, and fluid balance. Because your body is about two-thirds water, nearly every cell contains electrolytes.

Electrolytes exit the body through fluids—usually through urine and sweat. Those found in your urine are typically excess electrolytes, meaning your body doesn’t need them. If you’re sweating a lot, however, it may be necessary to deliberately replenish your body’s supply of these electrically charged minerals. So how do you do this?

It’s simple: just eat and drink electrolyte-rich foods and beverages. These include bananas, dairy products, coconut water, avocados, and watermelon. (It’s important to note that excessive amounts of electrolytes can also have detrimental effects on your health. If you suspect you have too many or too few in your diet, you can have a urine test done to measure your levels.)

Calcium: Calcium is mentioned twice in this list because it’s one of the body’s most important nutrients—crucial enough to merit its own section, too. You’ve probably heard that calcium helps maintain strong bones. While that’s true, calcium does a whole lot more, too.

That includes supporting:

  • healthy muscle function
  • nerve signals
  • a healthy heart beat
  • normal cell signaling

As you can see, calcium plays a vital role in your body’s daily function. Additionally, too little calcium in your diet can negatively impact cognition—which can be catastrophic during a busy day.
You can find calcium in dairy products, tofu, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale).

Magnesium: Like calcium, magnesium is also an electrolyte. The essential mineral also plays a vital role in your body’s ability to produce energy. And it helps regulate your body’s levels of another key nutrient—calcium. Too little magnesium in your diet may result in muscle weakness and fatigue.

If you’re looking to add more magnesium to your diet, consider snacking on whole nuts or pack a salad of leafy greens for lunch.

Iron: As with most of the nutrients listed, iron plays a vital role in energy production. It also helps your red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue—which can throw a wrench in your busy day.
Meat is one of the main sources of iron in many people’s diets. If you are vegetarian, focus on eating iron-rich foods, such as beans and nuts.

Vitamin C: Nothing interrupts a busy schedule like a cold. Not feeling your best makes it incredibly difficult to take on your daily tasks. Enter vitamin C, which supports the production of leukocytes—white blood cells that help maintain your health.
Most nutrients have many roles, and vitamin C is no different. In addition to supporting a healthy immune system, this vitamin also helps optimize your body’s creation of metabolic energy (energy extracted from nutrients.). Specifically, vitamin C supports the process your body uses to transport and process fatty acids.

So whether you’re looking to maintain a healthy immune system or support healthy energy levels, it’s crucial that your body gets enough vitamin C. You can load up on this vitamin by eating more citrus (or drinking orange juice), broccoli, or Brussels sprouts. Snacking on raw bell peppers is another good option.

Zinc: Like vitamin C, zinc plays a key role in the health of your immune system. (It also does a whole lot more, from supporting eye and kidney health to helping optimize DNA production.) Zinc is most commonly found in meat, seafood, and eggs. So vegetarians and vegans, take note: you might need additional sources of zinc in your diet. This could mean eating more legumes and nuts, or simply taking a dietary supplement.

Water: Good old H2O. Pretty much everyone knows they need to drink a lot of it, and yet many people don’t. Dehydration can cause headaches and fatigue. Fortunately, there’s a surefire way to avoid this: drink more water. If you struggle with proper hydration, consider investing in a large water bottle to carry with you throughout the day. There are even apps that can help you track your hydration!

Balancing Your Diet and Your Schedule

When it comes to healthy eating, it’s easy to let your schedule interfere. But eating a balanced diet doesn’t necessarily require a lot of time. It just means more planning and a little bit of prep.

If you find yourself munching on vending machine snacks throughout the day, consider stocking up on nutrient-rich snacks like nuts or fresh vegetables and hummus. Similarly, a homemade, vegetable-packed sandwich can make an excellent, nutritious lunch—you just have to set aside time to make it.

At the end of the day, balancing your diet might mean balancing your schedule. Nutrition doesn’t necessarily require hours and hours of planning and preparation—15 or 20 minutes of meal prep in the morning can make all the difference. In an hour or two on Sunday, you can knock out your meals for the week. Find what works with your schedule and stick with it.

Nutritious meals might seem time consuming, but they’ll supply the fuel you need to push through a busy day. And with optimal energy levels and focus, maybe you’ll find that nutrition saves you time after all.

exercise and aging

exercise and aging

Most people know the basics of staying healthy—at least in theory. Eat nutritious foods. Exercise regularly. Sleep enough. But putting these healthy habits into practice is where there’s room for improvement. This is natural. Nobody is perfect, after all, and change can be difficult, especially after years of forming certain lifestyle habits.

Here’s the good news: supporting health at any age is possible no matter how long you’ve been putting off healthy lifestyle changes. It’s never too late to start living your best life.

Many people—especially those in middle age and later—think they’ve passed a point of no return on their health journey. That is, they think it is too late to see the health benefits of certain lifestyle changes. But studies show you can enjoy the benefits of healthy lifestyle changes at any age.

In other words, it’s never too late to start caring about your health and learning how to take care of your body. The first step is learning about the supporting science, and then applying health tips for all ages to support physical and mental health throughout your life.

Neuroplasticity: Habits, Change, and the Aging Brain

Humans are creatures of habit. Daily life is built around routines—meals, work, sleep, and hobbies. And, as you’re probably aware, these habits can be hard to break or change.

There’s a neurological reason for this. As you repeat certain behaviors or activities, the neurons in your brain rewire and adjust the way they fire to code that behavior as a habit. So the behavior literally becomes wired into your brain.

Naturally, these wired habits are difficult to break—difficult, not impossible. Your ability to change habits has, in part, to do with neuroplasticity, which is simply your brain’s ability to change.

From infancy and childhood (even into early adulthood), the brain is incredibly plastic. This means it changes and develops easily. As you age, this process slows so much that scientists used to think neuroplasticity disappeared completely around age 25. In other words, they thought the brain’s wiring was fully set by your mid-twenties.

Recent studies, however, have shown this isn’t the case. Your brain can form new connections, create new neurons, and change its structure at any age. The process might look different as you age, but it is still possible.

So yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. And, more importantly, you can form new habits to support health at any age.

Out With the Bad: The Benefits of Dropping Unhealthy Habits Today

When people confront lifelong habits—whether it’s smoking, drinking too much, or eating too many processed food—they often ask the same question: how much of a difference could it really make?

The answer is simple. Dropping unhealthy habits as soon as possible can have a huge positive impact on your health.

Take smoking for instance. For a pack-a-day smoker of 20 years, each additional day spent smoking might seem like drops in the river. But the health benefits of quitting smoking, such as decreased risk of heart disease, can be seen after just one day.

Remember, if your goal is to replace unhealthy habits in your lifestyle, you have to start somewhere. Each day that you stick to your goals, you work towards rewiring your brain. So even if you’re not seeing immediate health benefits, you are working to create new neural pathways that will help you maintain a healthier lifestyle going forward.

Making the Change: How to Take Care of Your Body as You Age

The habits you set in early adulthood are factors that will shape your health profile later in life. Depending on your lifestyle, your risk for serious ailments will change. But those statistics aren’t set in stone.

Adults in their sixties, seventies, and beyond can still see the benefits of improving their diet, physical fitness, and mental health. Together, these positive lifestyle changes can set the stage for a happy and healthy life that extends well into old age. Whether you’re a teen, early adult, or pushing past middle age, look at the following tips for supporting health at any age:

  • Incorporate exercise into your routine: Whether it’s a daily walk, weight training, or high-intensity cardio, it’s important to stay active no matter your age. In young adults, high levels of physical activity improve cardiovascular health, respiratory health, and can help you maintain a high level of fitness later in life.
    If you’re middle aged or older, physical activity is just as important, if not more so. Increased levels of physical activity can help support you overall cardiovascular health, and more. And for older adults, physical activity helps keep muscles strong, helping maintain mobility and ensuring you can continue performing day-to-day tasks.
  • Eat nutritious food: Your diet affects nearly every aspect of your life. Food is fuel, and you want to make sure you’re giving the body the nutrients it needs to run effectively throughout life. During childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, your diet provides your body with the fuel it needs to grow and develop.
    As you age, your diet can help you maintain a healthy weight—which looks a little different for everyone—and can help support total body health throughout your life.
    Additionally, healthy eating can just make you feel better. It’s hard to quantify, but people who eat nutritious foods often report feeling more satisfied and energized throughout the day. And this is a benefit you can take advantage of at all ages.
  • Keep your brain engaged: Scenic walks, reading, or learning a new skill are a few activities that can help keep your brain engaged throughout life. The brain loves a challenge—so why not give it one?
    By striving to learn throughout life, you can keep your brain active. This promotes neuroplasticity and your brain’s ability to continue to learn and grow into old age. Staying mentally engaged and challenged can also help optimize mental health throughout life.

Stay Positive with a Growth Mindset to Stay Healthy as Your Age

No matter your age, caring about your health involves adopting a growth mindset. It means believing that your health and lifestyle can change for the better. It’ll just take time and effort.

Remember, these changes don’t have to occur all at once. Start small and work towards your larger goals. It’s natural to slip up, but it’s up to you how you respond to your mistakes. So what are you waiting for? Take the first step towards health—no matter how small.

family with children

family with children

Childhood and adolescence are among the most important stages of any person’s life. And while this probably isn’t news to you, it bears repeating. The amount of growth and development the body experiences during these periods of time are astounding. Simply put, the body changes during childhood and adolescence—a lot.

During childhood and adolescence, it can even seem like the body is constantly in flux. The changes come so rapidly that it may be difficult to monitor your child’s health—both physical and mental. Whether you’re a parent searching for facts and tips about your child’s health or a teen looking to read up on your health, you’ve come to the right place! After all, what better place to start than the basics?

The list below breaks down some of the most important (and interesting) facts about childhood and adolescent health.

1. A fast metabolism doesn’t mean you can forget about nutrition:

Adults often bemoan the fact that metabolism slows with age. That is, the body becomes less quick and efficient at breaking food down and turning it into energy the older it gets. So while children and teens can—and often do—scarf down four bowls of pasta without immediate consequences, that same amount of food might have lasting effects on an adult (and their waistline).

This fact leads many people to believe children, especially teenagers, can eat just about anything while maintaining their health. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly true. Children and teenagers can eat a lot of food, but that’s because the body is doing a lot of growing. That means it requires a lot of energy. And to provide it with the energy it needs, good nutrition is key.

The fundamentals of good nutrition stay the same from childhood to adulthood: you should strive to eat a well-balanced diet that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based fats, and quality, lean protein.

2. Teens and children should steer clear of adult beverages—and not just alcohol:

It goes without saying, children and teens shouldn’t drink alcohol. While the brain is still developing, alcohol consumption can have lasting, negative consequences. That being said, alcoholic beverages aren’t the only drinks to keep away from teens.

As of 2014, the CDC reported that 73 percent of children consume caffeine daily. While children under the age of 12 should avoid consuming caffeine altogether, teens can drink small amounts of caffeine without impacting their health. Here’s the problem: the amount of caffeine teens take in depends on what they’re drinking. And energy drinks are popular among teenagers.

Teens 14-17 years old are advised to consume no more than 100 milligrams (mg) of caffeine each day—roughly one strong cup of coffee. Some energy drinks contain triple that amount of caffeine in one can. And many teens are drinking multiple energy drinks a day. You don’t have to be good at math to know that is way, way over the recommended limit.

So why does this matter? Children and teens are physically smaller than adults, so they feel the effects of caffeine much more strongly than, say, most people working office jobs. What’s more, teens’ brains are still developing and maturing. Caffeine can also disrupt teenagers’ sleep cycles—and sleep is a crucial time for brain development. In extreme cases, excessive caffeine intake can even put teens’ hearts at risk.

3. Sleep is a vital aspect of teen health and wellness:

Ask nearly anyone how much sleep you should get, and they’ll likely give you the same answer: eight hours. And while eight hours is a good guideline for adults, the recommended amount of sleep for healthy teenagers is between eight and 10 hours.

Between the demands of school, work, friendships, and other relationships, it can be hard for teenagers to prioritize sleep. But here’s why it’s important: Sleep plays an important role in pretty much every neurological process and function—memory, risk assessment, processing sensory input, you name it. And as a teen, your brain is still developing and making neural connections. Sleeping enough is crucial to allow those connections to be made.

4. Sunscreen is no joke:

While sunburns may seem like no big deal in the moment, they can have lasting impacts on your health. Excessive sun exposure—whether it’s frequent sunburns, extreme sunburns, or even too much tanning—can lead to premature aging of the skin. This means seeing wrinkles younger in life, and, in some cases, increased risk for skin issues.

This doesn’t mean staying out of the sun entirely. You can still go to the beach, swimming pool, or take a long walk on a sunny day—just be sure to wear sunscreen. And not just any sunscreen. The higher the SPF rating, the better.

As a guideline, 15 SPF is appropriate for daily wear, but for extended periods of sun exposure, you should aim to wear 30 SPF sunscreen or higher. And don’t forget to reapply every two hours, as needed!

5. Take care of your ears:

No, seriously. Ear health may seem like a strange topic to talk about, but it’s no joke. And it’s one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of adolescent health. With the proliferation of affordable smartphones, earbuds, mp3 players, and headphones, virtually everyone can listen to music anywhere.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But here’s the problem: teens and children (and even adults) often don’t understand the risks of listening to loud music for prolonged periods of time. And, as a result, many teens listen to music at dangerously high volumes. Blasting music through your headphones or earbuds will damage the cells in your cochlea, increasing your risk for hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). So take care of your ears while you’re young—future you will be grateful!

6. Teens should exercise regularly:

When it comes to adult health, consistent exercise is one of the most oft-cited aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Similarly, exercise is a vital element of teen health.

You’ve probably come across a variety of suggestions for how much exercise teens should do: 30 minutes daily, 30 minutes six times a week, 60 minutes three times a week—you get the idea. If you average out these various suggestions, here’s the bottom line: teens should get somewhere between 180 and 210 minutes of exercise each week. This could be swimming, cycling, going to dance practice, walking the dog—it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are revving your heart rate up.

While regular exercise will help keep your body healthy, the benefits aren’t purely physical. Regular exercise can help teens with mood regulation, alleviate stress, and get better sleep. All good important aspects of adolescent health.

7. Dental health is health, too:

As a teen, it’s easy to feel invincible. Your body bounces back from most injuries and your brain hasn’t fully developed its risk-assessment abilities. This combo can lead teens to make some, well, rash decisions. It can be hard to see the big picture.

When it comes to dental health, however, it’s all about the big picture. Once your baby teeth fall out, you have one set to last the rest of your life— so it’s important to take care of them. Ask adults what they wish they’d done differently in their teens and twenties, and many will give the same answer: they wish they’d taken better care of their teeth.

Dental health doesn’t have to be complicated, but it requires consistency. Be sure to brush and floss at least every night and you’ll keep your oral health thriving for the years to come.

8. It’s never too early to prioritize mental health:

One of the most common misconceptions about mental health is that only adults suffer from these kinds of issues. While early adulthood is a very common time for many mental health challenges to emerge, anyone, no matter their age, can experience change in mental health. In fact, one in about five teens has a diagnosed mental health disorder.

So what does this mean for you? Whether you experience mental health challenges or not, it’s never too early to prioritize your mental health. For teens, this might mean taking a break from social media, seeing a therapist, and, in some cases, taking medication prescribed by your healthcare provider. It’s all about finding what works for you and not waiting until adulthood hits to address any issues.

Woman After Weight-Loss Looking In Mirror

Woman After Weight-Loss Looking In Mirror

Your body image is the way you view yourself—the mental picture you’ve created from several factors. Naturally, physical metrics—like body size and weight—play a part in shaping your image of yourself. But psychological, mental, and emotional factors make just as big of an impact on how you see yourself, and how accepting you are of your body.

Here’s the catch: your body image isn’t always accurate. Your perception—shaped by all the facets listed above—can be skewed. You’re often your harshest critic—especially when it comes to the way you look.

A negative body image can impact your life in many ways and keep you from feeling your best. Nobody wants that, so it’s time to start untangling the psychology of weight, body image, body positivity, and body acceptance.

The body positivity discussion exists on an individual and societal level.

On an individual basis, body positivity describes a frame of mind. When you’re body positive, it means you generally feel good about your body. This includes accepting the changes that your body naturally can—and will—experience. Body positivity requires having realistic expectations for yourself, and, more importantly, being forgiving of your body as it changes.

Body positivity also describes a broader social movement. Society has had unrealistic beauty standards for about as long as popular media has existed. And that’s a long time. In recent years, people have talked more openly about the negative effects these beauty standards can have on individuals. When you are constantly exposed to unrealistic images of how you “should” look, it’s pretty hard to feel good about yourself. Makes sense, right? The body positivity and body acceptance movement is simply people calling for changes to the norm. Advertising and media should reflect the real world: this means representing people of all shapes and sizes.

So contrary to popular belief, body positivity isn’t a fad. And it certainly is not encouraging people to be unhealthy. Rather, body positivity is a frame of mind and a social movement simply encouraging people to be more accepting of themselves and others.


Factors That Influence Body Image

The human brain is constantly taking in and processing information—both consciously and unconsciously. It’s one of the things that makes life so interesting. But it can also be a bit inconvenient. Because of your brain takes in so much information, your body image is often influenced unconsciously by the world around you.

Some factors that might have a negative impact on your body image include:

  • Culture and family: Beauty standards vary from culture to culture. How well you fit in with your culture’s ideas of beauty can have a lasting impact on the way you view yourself. Your family can have a similar influence—for better or for worse. A supportive, body positive family can help foster body acceptance in children. Unfortunately, the inverse is also true. Judgmental family members can have a lasting toll on an individual’s self-image.
  • Media: As mentioned above, advertisements and other forms of media—especially those related to the fashion industry—play a big role in shaping society’s beauty standards. And often, those standards are unrealistic. Comparing yourself to an unattainable (and possibly unhealthy) standard of beauty often leads to a negative body image. Try to be mindful of the media you consume—especially on social media!
  • Weight loss or fluctuations: Rapid or extreme changes to your appearance can impact body image for the worse. This even includes weight loss. Many people who shed weight rapidly still have a negative body image. One possible cause for this is “phantom fat,” a phenomenon in which people still feel overweight, and even view themselves as overweight after they have quickly dropped some pounds.
  • Skin conditions: Body image isn’t all about weight and size. Acne, scarring, and other changes to your skin can impact body image, too. Because of airbrushing, makeup, lighting, and other post-production tricks, people in the media always seem to have perfect-looking skin. Remember: this doesn’t necessarily reflect how those people look in reality. And you exist in the real world. So when you compare your skin to theirs, you’re not being fair to yourself.

Body Image and Health: The Effects of Body Positivity on Your Physical and Mental Wellbeing

Most people want to feel good about the way they look—to have a positive body image. It might sound simple, but this goal can be harder to reach than you might expect. But there are good reasons why it’s worth it to keep aiming for body positivity.

After a while, body negativity can take a toll on your mental wellbeing. Body positivity and body acceptance, on the other hand, can boost your confidence, mood, self-esteem, and general sense of wellness and fulfillment. This can help reduce social anxiety, improve your performance at work, and benefit your interpersonal relationships.

And the benefits don’t stop there. Positive body image is also linked to healthier lifestyle habits. People with a positive body image tend to maintain a healthier diet, smoke less, and drink less alcohol than their body-negative peers. This creates a positive feedback loop. The better you take care of your body, the better you’ll feel about it. And the better you feel about your body, the more you’ll want to take care of it.

Phantom Fat: The Psychological Effects of Weight Loss on Body Image

Contrary to popular belief, improving your body image isn’t always a matter of losing weight. This is because, as mentioned above, your body image isn’t always tied to how you look—it often has more to do with your thoughts and other mental and psychological elements.

A phenomenon known as phantom fat is good example. When a person loses a substantial amount of weight—enough to change their physical appearance—they sometimes still see themselves at their previous weight and size. And they still feel their “phantom fat” on their body. People experiencing phantom fat report worries about knocking things over and perceive themselves as much larger than they actually are.

People’s experiences with phantom fat vary greatly. And there’s not one guaranteed way to help your brain catch up with the way you look. Often, it just takes time. After years and years of learning to view yourself one way, it can take a while to change those thought patterns.

Changing your brain can take longer than changing your body, but that mental adjustment is possible. Whether it’s replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones, throwing out the scale, or reciting affirmations, there are countless strategies for boosting your body image. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

Tips for Maintaining a Body-Positive Mindset

At this point, you probably have one main question: if body positivity is so important, what can you do to keep your body image positive? There’s no fix-all solution—body acceptance and positivity look different for everyone. Try a few of the following tips and practices to see which help keep your body image positive!

  1. Keep your self-talk positive: If you find you frequently experience critical thoughts about yourself and your appearance, try replacing those criticisms with self-affirmations.
  2. Move your body every day: You may be sick of hearing about the benefits of exercise, but there’s a reason you hear so much about it. Exercise really works wonders! A little bit of movement each day, even if it’s not rigorous exercise, can really help you keep your self-image up. This could mean jogging, cleaning, dancing, or going for a walk.
  3. Be kind to yourself: A lot of people write self-love and self-care off as corny and unimportant. Don’t let that be you! There’s no right way to practice self-care, but try doing something each day that is truly for yourself. This could be as simple as setting time aside for reading a good book or as involved as going out for a massage.
  4. Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable: When considering your clothing choices, be sure to account for two factors: how the clothes feel physically and how they make you feel. If your clothes are too tight, itchy, or otherwise uncomfortable, it’s hard to feel good about yourself. Try to find clothes you like the look of that are also comfortable.
  5. Be mindful of who you surround yourself with: Your friends, coworkers, and peers can have a huge impact on your self-image. Try to surround yourself with positive people who make you feel good. This goes for social media, too! A social feed full of negativity won’t do your thoughts any favors.