For most people, one of the main goals is to live a life that is full of the good stuff. A life full of the things that make you happy, bring you peace, and keep you healthy. It would seem that when it comes to things that keep you healthy and bring you happiness, that the thought would be “the more, the better.” However, it is very possible to overindulge to the point that even healthy habits and behaviors can begin to have a negative, rather than a positive, impact on your life. Even for the very best things in life, the saying “Too much of a good thing is a bad thing” rings true. Here is a list of some normally healthy habits, behaviors and indulgences that, when taken in moderation, can be great for you. Each item on this list also has a negative flip side when taken to the extreme. This list is just a simple reminder that moderation is the key to living a healthy, balanced life.
Low Fat Diet
A diet that is high in fat, particularly saturated fat, can be catastrophic for your health. Too much fat in your diet can lead to weight gain, digestive issues, a slow metabolism and eventually heart disease. Therefore, low fat eating became a huge dietary trend some years ago. When a fat-heavy diet causes so many health problems, it seemed to make sense that the solution would be to cut out the fat entirely, or at least as much as possible. And thus, low fat diets came to define an era of new dietary guidelines.
Eating a diet that is low in saturated fat is a good thing, however if you are cutting out all sources of fat to achieve this goal, you are likely missing out the benefits of “good fats,” including a speedier metabolism, increased muscle mass, less depression, better brain function and an overall lower risk of cancer. Fats that come from sources such as avocados, olive oil and fatty fish are examples of healthy fats that should be included in your diet. When you cut out all fat from your diet you also need to look at what you are substituting in its place. Many products that are marketed as “low fat” must find a way to compensate for the change in flavor and consistency that comes with a lower fat content. Many low-fat products are higher in sugar than their full fat versions. The overconsumption of sugar is one cause behind some of the chronic illness that we see on the rise today.
Keys to Moderation: Eat moderate amounts of foods that are high in good fats, while eliminating saturated fats as much as possible. Eat smaller portions of full fat versions of foods such as cheese, yogurt and peanut butter rather than reaching for fat free alternatives. Finally, avoid processed fat free foods, and always check food labels. Choose fresh produce, grains and lean meats instead to build the base of your low-fat diet.
The Three Indulgences: Coffee, Chocolate and Wine
I admit that I am among the masses that stand up and cheer every time that I read a new study citing the benefits of one of these three things. While moderate amounts of each of these things has been proven to have health benefits that include the introduction of antioxidants into your body, lower blood pressure, prevention of cardiac disease and stress relief, the fact remains that you can easily see that there is a fine line between protective health benefits and damaging health consequences.
Keys to Moderation: While some experts say you can drink up to five cups of coffee a day for maximum benefits, most physicians would likely tell you to stick to no more than two, and to skip the evening coffee altogether. The caffeine in coffee can lead to anxiety, high blood pressure, heart palpitations and poor sleep patterns. Chocolate contains caffeine also, but the real concern with chocolate is the overconsumption of sugar, fat and calories. Enjoy your chocolate, but stick to varieties that are at least sixty percent cocoa and enjoy only one decadent ounce at time. Finally, too much wine can put stress on your liver, cause you to gain weight, interfere with your blood sugar levels, disrupt your sleep and leave you with a painful headache the next day. Enjoy you nightly glass of wine and even indulge in a second occasionally, but stop there. Anything more than that and you have missed out on the benefits and put additional stress on your body.
You probably know that most nuts are healthy, if you enjoy a small handful rather than a whole container. You might be surprised to learn that one nut in particular, the brazil nut, can become problematic in more ways than just padding your daily caloric intake. Brazil nuts are one of the best dietary sources of the essential trace element selenium. The suggested intake of selenium for adults ranges from fifty to seventy micrograms a day, with the uppermost limit being about three-hundred micrograms a day. Anything past this and you risk toxicity. One large brazil nut has more than an entire day’s worth of selenium, and a small handful will bring you to the upper limit of safe consumption.
Keys to Moderation: This one is simple: simply limit the amounts of brazil nuts that you consume. Symptoms of selenium toxicity include memory loss, brain fog, hair loss, weak nails and digestive issues. If you have been enjoying handfuls of brazil nuts and are experiencing any of these symptoms, put the nuts away and speak to your physician to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. Rather than eating brazil nuts whole, try chopping them up and adding them to your baked goods, cereal, yogurt or salads. Keep moderate amounts of a variety of nuts in your diet, but remember, they are extremely calorie-dense!
Your body depends on a range of vitamins and minerals to maintain itself and stay healthy. As a precaution, many people take a daily supplement as well as additional single vitamin supplements on top of it. The further away that our diets move from wholesome and natural, the more we feel the need to somehow supplement those nutrients back into our diets. One “solution” has been the addition of vitamins and minerals to all kinds of products we consume every day – even bottled water. Soon, you are eating a number of fortified foods as well as taking supplements just to make sure. The problem with this is that some vitamins, especially fat-soluble ones like vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin A and vitamin K, can become stored in excess in our bodies and lead to toxic side effects. While hitting extremely toxic levels of vitamins is rare, symptoms of mild toxicity are not. You might be taking in too many vitamins if you are having digestive issues, numbness or tingling in your fingers or toes, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating and increased irritability.
Keys to Moderation: Take a look at your diet and consider if you really need supplementation at all. If your diet is generally healthy and contains a variety of fresh produce, chances are that you can skip the supplements altogether, unless you have a specific health concern or condition that you are looking to address. In that case, it is always wise to speak with your health care provider for advice about which vitamins to take, and in what amounts. Always remember that the best place to get your vitamins and minerals is from their natural sources.
Staying physically active is important for your health, and regular activity can help to prevent many of the chronic ailments that seem to come naturally with age. There is a saying that goes “If you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it.” This is without question true when it comes to keeping your body strong and flexible as you age. Regular exercise is good for your body and your mind, not to mention the rush of endorphins that come after a good workout. I am not about to give you a reason to give up your killer workout, but if you feel yourself become obsessed with exercise, it might be time to step back and reevaluate.
Exercising too much puts you at a greater risk of injury, along with possibly causing sleep disturbances and increased irritability. As with any obsession, too much exercise can cause you to lose focus and perspective in your life.
Keys to Moderation: Three to five solid workouts a week is good for most people. Even exercising daily is good, especially if it gives you’re the energy and boost that you need for the day. However, if you are spending three hours a day at the gym, or constantly focused on extreme sports, it is a good idea to step back and consider changing your program. Ask yourself why you are so fixated on exercise. Is there an emotional issue that you need to work out? Are you having problems in some area of your life? Is there something that you are trying to avoid? Try focusing on shorter sessions of lower impact activities as you start to wean yourself off your high intensity workout schedule.
At the end of the day, nothing feels better than to stretch out in a comfortable bed, snuggled up with your favorite blanket. Some hours later, the blaring of your alarm clock will blast you out of your pleasant, dreamy state and into the reality of the day. If you and your snooze button have a love-hate relationship, the cause for your distress might be that you are getting too much sleep. Most adults need somewhere from seven to nine hours of sleep a night to be adequately rested and restored. It has long been known that getting less than this amount of sleep can have negative consequences, but sleeping too long, especially more than ten hours a night, can cause just as many health issues. Excessive sleep can cause headaches, depression, chronic back pain, weight gain, heart disease and an increased risk of developing diabetes.
Keys to Moderation: Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and if you have the need for a nap, try to keep it at about twenty minutes. Of course, during times of illness or extreme stress, your body might require additional sleep, and you should honor those needs. To get the perfect amount of quality sleep, avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evenings. Reset your internal clock with a nighttime routine that includes going to bed at the same time every night and simple bedtime rituals that will help signal to your body that it is time to fall asleep. If you find that your sleep issues are chronic, speak with your doctor about physical or emotional issues that might be causing disturbances in your sleep patterns.
A sunny day is great for the spirit. A sunny day spent outdoors is even better. Along with being a mood lifter, sunlight is one of the only ways that our bodies can synthesize vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more common because we spend more of our lives indoors, and when we are outside, we slather ourselves with sunscreen which blocks out the source of vitamin D. On the other side of this, are those who just can’t resist the sunshine and try to get as much of it as possible. Too much time spent in the sunlight can increase your chances of developing skin cancer, prematurely age your skin, cause heat rash, put you at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke and even increase your chances of developing cataracts.
Keys to Moderation: There is a solution to soaking up your vitamin D and protecting yourself from the damaging effects of the sun. It is generally considered safe to spend twenty to thirty minutes out in the sun unprotected. This, of course, depends on your skin type. Anything more than that and you should be applying a high SPF sunscreen at least every two hours, more often if you spend any time in the water. Don’t forget to protect the top of your head by wearing a hat and your eyes by sporting a pair of sunglasses. Also, remember to stay hydrated and if you are feeling overheated, head to the shade or to a cool room indoors for a while.
There are many ways that overindulging in good things can be bad for your health and your wellbeing. A healthy habit or activity is no longer healthy when it creates problems for you or for others. Consider this with all your healthy habits, and keep moderation in mind to live your healthiest, balanced and most beautiful life.