4 Bad Habits That Could Crush Your Health Goals

Rachel Dean Healthy Living

Knowing what habits contribute to good health isn’t rocket science. Good hydration, eating foods low in simple carbohydrates but high in protein and fiber, and consistent, moderate exercise are among the ever-repeated pointers for good health.

But it can be hard to know what not to do. Sometimes, we overlook small habits and think them innocuous. But there are many things we do without thinking twice that actually affect our mental and physical health negatively. Here are some steps to take to curb bad habits that affect us negatively, often without us realizing:

Quit Biting Your Nails

Yes, we’ve all heard this so many times from our mothers, friends and dentists. Why is it a bad habit? The bottom line is this: our hands host the most diverse and dangerous bacteria on our body. Throughout a day of readying ourselves, twisting door knobs, going to the bathroom, and everything else, we touch countless forms of bacteria with our hands. Nails, which we use for scratching, peeling, and a handful of tasks that require sharper, more exact manipulation gather bacteria and particles of dust and dirt. Biting them exposes your body to all the foreign substances that were picked up by your hands. The simple solution: hand sanitizers. The better solution: stop biting your nails.

Stop Wearing High Heels

Looking nice and presenting ourselves in a social atmosphere is important for a number of cultural and societal reasons. One thing we could really do without is wearing high heels. While any veteran to heels will admit the blisters and callouses are not worth it, more than the feet suffer after long-term use. High heels can deteriorate your tendons and put strain on muscles and the spine which can cause musculoskeletal problems over time. Wear more comfortable shoes on regular occasions, and bring out the heels for just the big events.

Spend More Time Alone

Catering to others feels good but it is important to keep slots of time allocated just for you and your personal interests. Developing hobbies, taking classes, or thinking up a new project can help remind you of the values of being alone. Those who spend more time alone report higher levels of introspection and profound thinking, and greater abilities to concentrate. Help your neighbor, help your friend, but never forget to help yourself.

Sit Up Straight

Relaxing is necessary to a balanced lifestyle and mental clarity, but relaxing too much can be bad for you. When we slouch and take muscular pressure of our back we damage other parts of our bodies. Long-term slouching and bad posture can result in labored breathing, and muscle and joint pain (especially in the neck and back). Taking the pressure off your back and abdominal muscles hurts more than it relieves in the long term.

7 Tips to Staying Healthy While Traveling

Rachel Dean Travel

Drinking every day on vacation and pigging out on the local cuisine seems fun at the time until you have to snap back to reality. Follow these 7 tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle while you’re traveling so you can enjoy your trip and avoid the guilt when you return:

  • Bring Healthy Snacks: Whether you’re hopping aboard a plane or heading out to visit tourist attractions, it’s always a good idea to bring some healthy snacks with you. If you know you have snack bags of veggies, you won’t be tempted by the plane’s undesirable entrees and all the unhealthy foods that are meant to target hungry tourists. One final tip: ditch the sugary bars that try to pass themselves off as health bars.
  • Skip the Rest Stop Food: If you’re traveling by car, those rest steps can be awfully tempting for breaking up some of the monotony. Feel free to relieve yourself there if nature calls, but try to avoid the fast food that they offer. Do your best to plan your meals at local places along the way — you’ll usually get healthier options and will get access to some culture
  • Limit Your Alcohol: Drinking during your vacation can seem like a great idea, but it’s easy to overdo it if you start having mimosas at breakfast and screwdrivers at lunch. Alcoholic drinks are calorie-dense hydration options that are likely to make you overeat later. Set limits for yourself; for example, try having just a glass or two of wine at dinner and don’t drink every night.
  • Don’t Overindulge on Breakfast: Pancakes and waffles and bacon, oh my. Everyone knows that weighed down feeling after you’ve indulged on a huge breakfast. Not only is it a bad start to a day of healthy eating, but it’ll make you feel more lethargic and tired while you travel. Instead, try to opt for a healthier option like fruit, granola and greek yogurt, or a manageable veggie omelet.
  • Keep a Water Bottle: You’d be surprised how dehydrated you get just by walking around all day. One of the best ways to stay hydrated and stave off hunger for longer periods of time is to keep a water bottle handy at all times. Start your days off with a glass of water with breakfast and you’ll be on your way to a healthy and hydrated trip.
  • Jog to Learn the Area: It can be hard to motivate yourself to go the gym in your hotel when you’re in a new country with so many new places to explore. An easier way to stay on top of your fitness while traveling is to bring some running clothes with you and take the opportunity to jog around the local neighborhood. You’ll learn the area, spot some cool places you want to check out, and be getting a great workout all at the same time.
  • Indulge a Little: It’s okay to indulge a little when you’re on vacation. A croissant in the morning or a gelato treat in Italy is totally fun as long as you’re not pigging out the rest of the trip. Keep your overeating to a minimum and you’ll earn yourself a few well-earned treats along the way!

3 Easy Ways to Make Healthy Eating a Habit

Healthy Eating - Rachel DeanEveryone would like to be on a perfectly nutritious and healthy diet at all times; however, life tends to get in the way and our good intentions fall by the wayside. Being healthy is unfortunately easier said than done.

In a recent article featured in the Huffington Post, Anne Ricci, Founder of AnnesHealthyKitchen.com, walks through 5 ways that you can gradually start eating healthier and ultimately make it a habit. Here are the first three:

1. Start with the drinks.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but sodas and processed fruit juices are loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup; it’s not good for you at all. In fact, numerous studies have revealed that they promote weight gain. Additionally, your beloved lattes and flavored macchiatos are also pumped full of sugar and tend to be high in calories.

The article doesn’t suggest quitting cold turkey but offers a method to gradually wean yourself off those high calorie drinks and successfully transition to drinking more water. “You can buy natural fruit juice (with no added sugars) and gradually add water to it. You may start with half of each, and work your way up by adding more water each day.” The article also suggest flavoring your water by adding fresh fruit slices or herbs.

2. Decide that you deserve to eat real food.

Making the conscious decision to put yourself first is half the battle. We are all busy and, therefore, often choose health over convenience. We tell ourselves that taking the time to cook a nutritious meal at the end of a busy day is not ultimately worth it because it comes at the expense of “being a good parent, getting more work done, or having social experiences.”

However, taking care of yourself should always take precedence. In fact, if you take care of yourself, it will help you take care of others better. “If you’ve failed at sticking to a healthy diet before, decide that you deserve something better, and that you’re worth it. Make it a real priority in your life.”

3. Eat a nutritious breakfast.

Breakfast isn’t referred to as ‘the most important meal of the day’ for nothing. While it can often seem nearly impossible to fit breakfast into your busy schedule, let alone a healthy one, it’s absolutely crucial. According to a study conducted among preschool children, eating breakfast on a general basis directly contributes to a healthy body weight.

While another study showed that about 31 million Americans skip breakfast every day, it doesn’t have to be so daunting or take up a lot of time. “Oatmeal, eggs, real yogurt with berries, a smoothie, or an avocado toast are simple breakfast options that all take less than ten minutes to prepare and will often prevent you from reaching out for an unhealthy snack bar at 10am”

To read the full article and learn about 2 additional ways to make healthy eating a simple habit, head over to the Huffington Post.

Charred Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Pancetta in a Fig Glaze

If you’re looking for a new side dish to impress the family, consider this recipe I stumbled upon on health.com.

You’ll need:

Brussels Sprouts - Rachel Dean

3 tablespoons of olive oil

3 to 4 o.z of pancetta

1 ½ pounds of brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (about 6 cups)

¼ teaspoon of kosher salt

2 tablespoons of your favorite fig jam

¼ teaspoons of freshly ground pepper


Turn your stove on medium high and and heat 1 TBSP of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the pancetta and let it cook, stirring occasionally until crisp (about 3 minutes) – think crispy bacon! Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta onto a small plate with a paper towel.

Add the remaining 2 TBSP of oil into the pan and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the brussels sprouts, keeping them in a single layer – you don’t want to crowd the pan because that will cause the veggies to steam, which is not what we’re going for in this dish. Having a couple extra sprouts in the pan is not a big deal, but just don’t add too many. We want evenly browned brussels sprouts. If you’re making more, you can also cook these in batches and just throw it all back together in the end. Ok, getting back on track – next, add the salt and stir to mix it in. Continue to stir occasionally, until brussels sprouts are tender and evenly browned (this will take about 10 minutes). Depending on your stove, you may need to adjust the heat, so the brussels sprouts don’t brown too quickly.

Once the sprouts are all set, add the fig jam and 1 TBSP of water. Stir until the jam has melted into the water and coats the brussels sprouts (start getting excited – we’re almost done). Finally, add the crispy pancetta back in, finish off the dish with the pepper and combine. Add additional salt or pepper to taste, if needed and voila. A gorgeous and delicious side dish that will impress the entire family.

How Can Yoga Benefit Your Body

Yoga - Rachel DeanMany longtime yoga instructors and students (or “yogis”) believe that yoga can transform people who practice on a regular basis. Through posture enhancing poses yoga can increase performance in athletes and improve mental and physical relief of “yogis.” The fitness world is always evolving and turning to new fitness trends and practices, which can be overwhelming for people who do not have the physical or monetary resources to keep up. However, yoga is a practice that can be enjoyed by all and it can be taken to different levels depending on how intensely the student is willing to participate and his or her willingness to learn.

One of the main teachings of the yoga practice is the encouragement of overall health and wellness of both the body and mind. Each pose aims to connect the consciousness with your physical abilities, as well as allow students to take a moment for themselves in a world that is otherwise constantly moving and full of chaos. Yoga helps to clear you mind of the daily duties and tasks we are all expected to fulfill, and it gives you a chance to escape, even if its just for a few hours a week.

One concrete benefit from practicing yoga is the ability to increase strength and flexibility. The basic posture poses focus on strengthening your core as well as increasing the body’s resistance. There are multiple levels of yoga such as Beginners classes, which focus on the introduction of the fundamental poses like downward dog and chair pose; Advanced yoga is more complex and it allows students to experiment with balancing poses, that are meant to engage your core muscles with your mental abilities. A third category of yoga is called Bikram, also referred to by many as “hot yoga.” During this practice the room temperature is increased to 100 Fahrenheit, which increases the production of sweat through advanced exercises, and in turn the withdrawal of toxins from the body. The diversity of poses and difficulty levels available in yoga can be beneficial to all students, despite their shape, health and strength.

Below is a full list of the benefits one can expect when practicing yoga on a regular basis:

  • It tones and increases muscle definition through core enhancing poses
  • It helps students maintain and regulate their metabolism
  • It improves athletic performance by increasing endurance levels
  • It helps athletes and runners prevent injuries, through constant flexing exercises
  • It provides a good amount of cardio and circulatory health benefits
  • It strengthens arms and shoulders by using ones own body weight for most of the poses