Good Habits Gone Bad
You have the best of intentions, we know. You squat over the toilet seat at restaurants, you unwind before bed, you brush after eating. But guess what? These so-called healthy habits might actually be causing more problems than they solve. Here, 7 everyday “healthy” habits that aren’t—and what to do instead.

1. Healthy Habit: You squat over the toilet seat
Bravo! You’ve saved yourself from the risks (and gross-out factor) of sitting on public toilet seats. But all that squatting might not be so good for you, either, causing an increased risk of dreaded urinary tract infections. "Squatting causes the pelvic muscles to contract and tighten around the urethra," says Elizabeth Kavaler, MD, urologist and author of a book about bladder health. "This prevents the bladder from emptying fully. Relaxed pelvic muscles will optimize flow and flush out bacteria."

Your better bet: Line the seat with paper before sitting, says Dr. Kavaler. "You cannot get a UTI from a dirty toilet seat."

2. Healthy Habit: You brush your teeth after meals
Are you one of those enviable people who brings a toothbrush with them everywhere they go? Great—but you may want to wait a half hour or soafter eating highly acidic foods, says Howard R. Gamble, DMD, FAGD, immediate past president of the Academy of General Dentistry. The acid from some foods, such as citrus fruit, tomatoes, colas (regular and sugar-free) or sports drinks, can soften the enamel on your teeth making it "like wet sandstone," says Gamble. Brushing your teeth while the enamel is still soft can speed up the effect of the acid and erode the layer beneath it.

Your better bet: Wait 30 to 60 minutes after consuming acidic foods and beverages before brushing. Or rinse your mouth out with plain water or with one part baking soda, eight parts water.

3. Healthy Habit: You graze all day long
Small frequent meals, we’re told, are the secret to staying svelte, right? Not so fast—and especially if you’re eating late at night. Eating late into the night may prevent weight loss and cause weight gain, according to an animal study from researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif. "Our bodies metabolize calories much better if we eat during the daytime, within a 10- to 12-hour range," says Satchidananda Panda, PhD, associate professor in the regulatory biology laboratory at Salk. "Many of us eat in a 14- to 16-hour window and often eat dinner late at night."

Your better bet: Eat within a 10- to 12-hour time frame. That means that if breakfast is at 7 am, you should be done eating dinner by 7 pm (We won’t tell if you have a small after-dinner treat, but make it something healthy, like these 5 low-calorie late-night snacks.]

4. Healthy Habit: You chill out on the couch with your iPhone before bed
A comfortable couch and a game of Words With Friends may be your favorite way to unwind before bed, but experts say this could make you sacrifice sleep. "Low intensity blue light from a television or computer screen—including a laptop, iPad or smartphone—can alter and delay your body's internal clock,” says Gregory S. Carter, MD, associate professor in neurology and neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “That makes it harder to get out of bed in the morning."

Your better bet: Turn off the TV and all electronic equipment—including your phone—an hour before bedtime, says Carter.  Here’s what to do during your waking hours for a better night’s sleep with 20 Ways To Sleep Better Every Night.

5. Healthy Habit: You get your chores out of the way, daily
You know clutter can interfere with your ability to relax, so when you get home from work, you make sure to tidy up, pay your bills, and clear out the stuff that accumulates at home before you unwind for the day. Problem is, end-of-day chores mean elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology. Chronically high cortisol levels create a greater risk of both mental and physical health issues, and can deplete your immune system, to boot.

Your better bet: Give yourself permission to relax at the end of the day, says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, a clinical psychologist. If you’re miffed because your husband has his feet up while you’re powering through an endless list of chores, take a cue from him and join him—instead of getting mad.

6. Healthy Habit: You catch up on sleep during the weekend
If you look forward to sleeping in on weekends, you may pay the price on Monday. "It's a myth that if we miss sleep over the course of the workweek we need to catch up on an hour-for-hour basis on the weekend," says Dr. Carter. "In truth, you can make up that 'sleep debt' by sleeping for eight hours a couple of nights in a row."

Your better bet: Catch up on sleep by going to bed earlier, rather than sleeping later the next morning.

7. Healthy Habit: You wash your pillowcases weekly
If you do this, you’re probably already ahead of the pack when it comes to sleep hygiene. But before you pat yourself on the back, tell us this: When was the last time you actually bought new pillows, or washed the ones you have. If you can’t remember, that’s a problem, says Stanley Fineman, MD, President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). The bedroom is where you'll find the greatest number of dust mites, according to the ACAAI.  Dust mite allergies affect up to 10% of the general population and 90 percent of people with allergic asthma, according to the ACAAI.

Your better bet: Wash your pillows—not just the cases—in very hot water every three to four weeks to kill the dust mites, says Dr. Fineman.

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