5 Innocent Everyday Habits That Are Screwing Up Your Health
The human body is nothing short of a miracle -- a miracle made of spit and hope that's super easy to break. Even the most seemingly innocent habits can do disastrous things to the meat shell your brain pilots, and modern life seems to be innovating new terrible habits at a record pace. For example ...
Showing Up To Work When You're Sick Is Stupid And Counterproductive
Statistically, you have gone to work when you were sick, probably because you felt like you didn't have a choice. Whether it's because you don't have any paid sick days, had to power through in order to meet a deadline, or both, this is one of the most stupidly self-destructive habits our society claims to admire.
We'll start with the obvious, which is that by pressuring you to work, your boss is putting everyone in the office at risk of catching your flu, including some older people who maybe can't bounce back from it so easily. This, of course, creates more work for you when everyone else inevitably gets sick.
And hey, speaking of more work, you're statistically probably making a ton of mistakes that you're going to have to fix later. Because, and stay with us here, when you're sick, you're by definition not firing on all cylinders. Even something as simple as a stuffy head and feeling run down means your productivity and attention to detail takes a demonstrable hit. But at least your supervisor can get a pat on the back for having inspired you to power through the adversity, right?
Of course, working while sick also extends the duration of your illness, often by weeks, and that's if it doesn't straight up make it worse. After all, work creates stress, and stress weakens the immune system, which you might recognize as that thing you need to fight off viruses and infections. More than that, working while sick actually drags down your opinion of your job in the long run, exhausting you emotionally and putting you at risk for future cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression, and burnout.
It's around here that we should note that America is absolute trash when it comes to paid sick leave, creating the current epidemic of "presenteeism." That's the technical term for employees going to work while sick and making everything worse. It's even stupider when you realize that studies show working while sick is significantly more expensive for a company than letting employees take time off. It's almost like they've been trained to equate suffering with success.
Multitasking While Eating Screws Up Your Diet
Look, that last entry was a little cynical about America, so let's talk about something that we as a country excel at: eating in front of the television. We've been doing it like champs since 1954, when the first TV dinner was created right here in the good ol' U.S. of A. Surely, there's no downside to dinner and a show, right? And certainly nothing that, who knows, feeds directly into our great nation's greater obesity epidemic?
Oh, there is? Whoops.
Eating while distracted, whether it's watching Parks And Recreation reruns on the couch, surfing the 'gram at Chipotle, or working through lunch because of the same dick of a boss who made you come to work sick, can increase your calorie intake by up to a third. And the consequences don't stop at weight gain. Distracted eaters are also more likely to keep eating later, adding even more empty calories that you're almost certainly not going to do anything about. One study found that the average office desk contained almost 500 calories of squirreled-away snacks.
This one isn't complicated. It's a simple lack of mindfulness. Generally it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to tell your gut that you're full. But if you're eating while distracted, you're prone to either hurry because the Jenkins report was due, like, yesterday or overeating because you've got three servings of General Tso's in front of you and it's hard to follow your diet plans when a Kelly Ripa interview is happening on your phone.
In fact, if you were waiting on all of the "phones are bad for you" entries, here's one right now ...
Hunching Over Screens Ruins Your Neck
Remember how a few weeks ago, the internet was aflame with stories of cellphones causing kids to "grow horns"? Well, putting aside the clickbaitiness of calling standard-issue bone spurs (at the back of the skull, no less) "horns" (and those headlines have been loudly debunked since then), it is true that spending your day hunched over your phone is terrible for your neck.
Medical professionals call it "text neck" -- a term for all the excess wear and tear that leaning forward to squint at your tiny screen or laptop puts on your neck and back muscles. Like tennis elbow or runner's knee or porn star pelvis, the culprit is overuse, with the added factor of bending your body in a way it wasn't evolved for.
All technological scaremongering aside, the reality is that the standard human head weighs about 12 pounds, and the standard human neck was built to support about that much, for obvious reasons. But dropping your head forward to look at your phone for hours on end increases the strain on those muscles, the force doubling for each inch off-center you lean. In fact, if you've got your chin low enough, the effect is the same as if your head weighed 60 pounds, or almost four of the heaviest street-legal bowling balls -- which, for all the non-math and non-bowling people out there, is five times as much force as your scrawny neck is equipped for.
All of this unprecedented hunching can result in shoulder and back pain, headaches, arthritis, herniated and bulging discs, pinched nerves, lower blood oxygen levels, and an actual change in the curvature of your neck. And yes, if the ligaments of the neck are pressed up against the skull often enough, the bone can adapt by creating "a small mound or protuberance" along the strain, trying to take some of the pressure off. But that really is the least of your problems.
So there's a great chance that a youth spent leaning over a screen will cause you chronic pain later life. How much pain? We don't know -- right now there's no way to study the effects of 50 years of smartphone use without the aid of a time machine. It's just annoying that right now, the discussion of this gets drowned out by "NO, YOUR PHONE WILL NOT MAKE YOU GROW HORNS, IDIOTS."
Keeping Your Wallet In Your Back Pocket Screws With Your Back
Piriformis syndrome, or "fat wallet syndrome," is a neuromuscular disorder that arises from sitting on a fat wallet, thereby compressing your sciatic nerve and spasming the muscles in your hip and back. But you know what they say -- "Mo' money, mo' deformities."
And before you make the obvious joke about being too poor to have to worry about this, no, it doesn't have to be a literal fat wallet. Routinely storing and then sitting on anything in your back pocket -- be it a wallet, business cards, playing cards, or the dozens of napkins you stole from the Taco Bell -- will do it, because the back pockets of pants are in exactly the wrong spot.
After all, even the flabbiest of asses contains numerous muscles, and constantly squishing a muscle is a bad idea. In this particular case, it's the piriformis, the muscle that connects your leg to your back and sits above the sciatic nerve. Sitting on a wallet compresses the muscle into the nerve, and voila, you're in excruciating hip and ass pain, with the possibility of your leg going numb to boot. If you're sitting for several hours a day (as most people are), it really doesn't take much to throw it off.
And your ass is not alone in this torture, as you're also screwing up your back. Sitting to one side on anything thicker than nothing tilts your pelvis, which puts more stress on your spine. This in turn can lead to scoliosis and its cousin kyphosis, both of which involve the weird curving of your backbone. Worse -- or maybe better, depending on if you're as poor and vengeful as we are -- the fatter the wallet, the more crooked you're going to make your body. Time for your rich ass to invest in a fanny pack.
Related: How To Shave Your Back Safely
Don't Use Your Phone While Pooping
Bringing a phone into the bathroom is a gross, terrible idea. Aside from the obvious threat of getting atomized feces all over your touchscreen -- we're just going to leave you with the words "toilet plume" -- spending time scrolling and doing your business and then scrolling some more, instead of just "doing your business" and promptly exiting, can wreak total havoc on your butthole, your colon, and all points in between.
The longer you sit on the pooper, the more likely you are to wreck your rectum, as the human body has evolved to do this business as quickly as possible. So if you're just, like, hanging out on the toilet instead, you're putting unnecessary pressure on your rectum and, conversely, over-relaxing your anus, the combination of which is a recipe for hemorrhoids (the clean medical term for bulging blood vessels around your asshole).
Sitting around and not pooping is also a good way to keep yourself not pooping, for, like, a while. Let's say, for example, that you feel the need to poop, but, once you get there, you pull up Twitter and get distracted by videos of celebrities kicking caps off bottles. You might at that point experience something called reverse peristalsis, wherein your dookie is pulled back up into your colon.
Since "up" is not the normal direction for poop to go, your colon accomplishes this not by its usual rhythmic contracting, but instead by sucking water out of your stool, like the world's grossest wet-vac. Your poop has now become hard, both literally and figuratively, which will often result in both a prolonged bout of constipation and you one-day-shipping the biggest tub of Miralax you can find on Amazon.
Oh, and then there's the threat of nerve and hip pain too. It's similar to "fat wallet syndrome," because guess where your toilet seat presses against your ass? So in short, don't bring your phone in with you when you poop. Unless you're reading this article, that is. Then have at it.
Eirik Gumeny wrote this entire thing while hunched over on the john, eating a sandwich, and recovering from sinus surgery, but then he's always made a better warning than an example. Check out his Exponential Apocalypse series and follow him on Twitter.
For more, check out Why Juice Is Secretly Terrible For You:
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