Not that anybody throughout history has had a very definite idea of what the future held, but there was a time, many moons ago, when yesterday, today and tomorrow was mostly the same and didn't change for years on end.
That's not the case in our time. The only thing we can be completely sure of, is CHANGE. Others include death (which is change in itself) and taxes in this list of things we can be sure of. So, for the sake of completeness, let‘s say that there are three things we can be sure of.
Going back to my change argument, it means that what today is the rule, will probably be forgotten tomorrow. What's IN today, will be OUT tomorrow, literally! There are fads and fashions that start one day, go viral and in a couple of days are completely forgotten. You just have to take a look around you to notice that this is so. Change is the ONLY constant in today‘s world.
So much so, that what we called normal today, is very different from what our parents and grandparents considered normal. There was even a TV show recently called "The New Normal".
How the hell is that possible? Isn't "normal", normal?
The fact that we can speak of a NEW normal, proves that something has changed, but what? Oh, and by the way, the show only lasted ONE season, so even the new normal got old and was booted out.
We have to realize that our perception of what is normal runs in tandem with change and what the majority of the people do. If people suddenly start doing stuff differently, it will slowly be considered normal if enough people follow the same pattern.
That's precisely what has happened a lot in our times. Changes in technology, new discoveries in science and the fact that information travels much faster now, have practically forced people to do things differently which, in turn, has changed their perception of what's standard behavior.
The problem is though, that not necessarily what the majority does is what‘s good for you as an individual, specially if you‘re thinking LONG TERM. Or, said in a different way, normal is not synonym with good. It can mean ordinary and not special and very often does.
This is why, in my opinion, it's important to take the time and just examine what you do, at least once in a while, to notice whether it‘s taking you in a good and positive direction or not.
To help you do that, I have picked 10 things that TODAY are considered normal but might be taking YOU in the wrong direction in the long run. Remember, what the majority of the people do, is only worth copying if it's also beneficial to you.
So, without further ado, let's take a look at them:
Huh? Yep, that's probably your expression after reading that. You most likely thought of the title "10 things that might be KILLING you softly" and comparing it with this assertion; it, somehow, doesn't compute.
Let me explain myself, I am talking about the obsession with cleanliness prevalent in our modern society. The "Hygiene Hypothesis" says that a lot of the modern autoimmune problems we have today, are the result of the highly sterile environments we strive to live our lives in.
We're constantly buying cleaning products, full of chemicals, that promise to kill 99.9% of all bacteria in our surroundings.
The bad thing about it, is that contact with bacteria is very important to develop our immune system appropriately, and we're doing our utmost to avoid such contact. It reminds me of the problem caused by antibiotics. Due to the "overuse" of them for even the mildest infection, we're dealing now with super bugs that are antibiotic resistant.
With this I'm not saying that we should wallow in mud like pigs. I'm just trying to highlight that constant hand washing, the overuse of disinfectants and avoiding nature, among other things, might explain how we've exchanged infectious diseases that kill you fast, for autoimmune diseases and allergies that make your lives miserable for years and in the end, might still end up killing you.
Avoiding the sun
Ok, Hermann, what's up with you? Everybody knows that too much exposure to the sun causes melanoma or skin cancer. Aren't you aware of that? - you might now be thinking.
Yes, I'm aware! But let's examine this from a different angle.
People who tend to avoid the sun, do it mostly because they're afraid of skin cancer. However, completely avoiding the sun, or covering yourself with SPF 45 sunscreen before exposing yourself to the sun, might have unexpected and negative results.
There are studies showing that people who use sunscreen a lot, tend to develop more screen cancer than the ones that don't. Maybe due to the chemicals in the creams, or the fact that sunscreen reduces the absorption of Vitamin D in 95%. Nobody knows for sure at this moment.
On the other hand, there are many, many benefits of moderate and direct skin exposure to the sun. Vitamin D, it turns out, is not really a vitamin, in the sense that our bodies CAN manufacture it and, indeed, that's done during skin sun exposure.
Vitamin D is more like a hormone involved in innumerable different functions in our bodies. And being deficient in it, causes all kinds of problems, some of which can end up taking us all the way down to the grave, like cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment or cancer.
Did you ever think that avoiding the sun could give you a heart attack? I'm sure you didn't and neither did I, until recently.
In the movie "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", there is a scene where Steve Martin and John Candy end up driving in the wrong direction on the highway. A driver on the other side of the highway screams at them that "they're going the wrong way!". John Candy replies "how can they know we're going the wrong way, if they don't know where we're headed". (You can watch the 2:30 minute clip here)
I see myself like the good Samaritan driver screaming "you're going the wrong way!!!" when I see how people are so afraid of eating whole eggs or the skin of chickens.
Eggs and chicken have been eaten for thousands of years. Can you imagine hunters/gatherers 500 years ago just eating egg whites or throwing away the chicken skin?
Since around the 1950s, governments around the world and the food industry took advantage of certain situations to demonize fat and launch a very lucrative "low fat" craze that has lasted decades already.
Stop for a second and think about it! During the last 60 years, people have reduced their intake of animal and traditional fats and replaced them with carbohydrates, sugar and 'artificial' fats.
Interestingly, during precisely this period, all kinds of silent killers have multiplied themselves. Problems like obesity, diabetes type II, Alzheimer, dementia, atherosclerosis, heart disease, cancer and some others that are called "civilization diseases" are becoming the main killers of our time.
Obviously, the problem causing the civilization diseases that are killing us softly, are not the fats people are avoiding but the replacements they're constantly eating.
Consuming Vegetable Oils
This actually could be part of the previous point, but since it seems to contradict it, given that vegetable oils are fat, I decided to make it a separate point to have a chance to explain myself.
The problem is the type of FAT that vegetable oils contain and the complicated procedure required to manufacture these oils. If you noticed in the previous point, I talked about "traditional fats". These are fats created by nature and easily extracted by humans, mainly through 'cold pressing'.
Modern vegetable oils like Canola, Sunflower Oil, Mazola and lots of the "no cholesterol" oils abundant today, are not extracted just by cold pressing. They are basically 'created' by humans through a very complicated process that oxidizes, heats and makes those fats rancid. Resulting in trans fats and other types of fats that are not good for human consumption in the long run, since they've been linked with all the maladies mentioned above that are killing our modern sophisticated society of today.
When thinking fats or oils, follow this rule mentioned by Dr. Cate Shanahan: "Nature doesn't make bad fats, factories do!"
To learn more about fats and what types are better for cooking, this article can definitely shed a light.
Eating products containing Gluten
But I'm not gluten sensitive! - you might say. The thing is, you might be completely wrong.
I grew up in a third world country in central america and we, sometimes, didn't have much money. Do you know what we used as glue when we were short on money? Home made glue. And, what do you think we made it with? White flour!
That's what gluten actually is, GLUE! Think about it, GLU-ten. It's what makes dough stick together and be malleable. You've seen the pizza guy throwing the pizza dough up in the air and how it doesn't disintegrate. It's the gluten that keeps it all in one huge flexible mass.
The issue is what this gluten causes inside our bodies. And I'm not talking about people with celiac disease. They definitely have a huge problem with gluten and should avoid it like the pest. I'm talking more about the rest of us.
Dr. Perlmutter in his book "Grain Brain", shows proof that gluten in one of the main culprits in cognitive problems like Alzheimer, dementia, depression and the like.
The thing is, that it takes so many years for these maladies to develop that we don't make the connection. It's not like with lactose intolerance, for instance. You drink milk and, in 10 minutes, you have a bomb exploding in your gut. You know what caused it!
Gluten has been proven to cause problems, even when there are NO SYMPTOMS in the gut. Therefore, as he recommends in the book mentioned, it's not a bad idea to have yourself tested for gluten sensitivity. You don't want to become a victim of gluten's ability to kill you softly, 20 or 30 years in the future, while making your life miserable the whole time.
Having cereal every morning for breakfast
Really? I thought cereals were the staple of a healthy breakfast! What the hell are you talking about?
To say it simply, cereals are "refined carbohydrates" and they immediately turn into SUGAR during the digestion process, initiating a chain reaction that will cause lack of energy, constant hunger pangs, insulin overproduction and fat accumulation among many other things.
The bad thing though, is that cereals and most other types of 'healthy' breakfasts based on refined carbs, will 'softly' take you down the path of developing metabolic syndrome, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and other illnesses of the modern world, which in their worst manifestation,s are the main killers of our society, you know, things like heart attacks and stroke.
Oh, and just to reiterate, cereals are also big suppliers of gluten in the diet, given that they're made of grains; so all the points mentioned in the previous point, apply here as well.
Consuming fruit juices
Fruit juices are very popular, but can be counterproductive in the long run. Why? Same reason mentioned in the previous point. They're loaded with sugar!
In reality, any food or drink that contains sugar or any other type of carbohydrates, ends up turning into sugar in the blood and gets dealt with in the same manner by the body. The problem with juices is that it's sooo easy to just gulp them down. No need to chew, just swallow.
Bad thing though, that the digestion of sugars starts 'in the mouth' when, through the process of chewing, carbs get mixed with enzymes found in the saliva. This process gets derailed when sugars just get swallowed down.
On top of that, the fact that you don't have to chew might increase the amounts you drink, increasing the amount of sugars you ingest, which, as mentioned before, is killing you softly in the long run.
Taking Calcium supplements
We all know the drill! You want to have strong bones and avoid osteoporosis? You have to pay attention to your calcium intake.
This means drinking lots of diary products and, specially as you get older, taking calcium supplements.
One thing that doesn't get mentioned in the calcium supplement commercials, is that for calcium to work the way it should work, you MUST have ample and adequate amounts of MAGNESIUM in your system.
Don't get me wrong, calcium is a very important mineral in our body, in fact, it‘s the most abundant one. The problem lies in the skewed vision that doctors and lots of nutrition experts have of how the system works and what's required in our bodies.
Calcium and magnesium work in tandem. The former being in charge of muscle contraction, while the latter rules muscle relaxation. Now imagine what would happen if there is an acute overabundance of calcium and not enough magnesium to counterbalance the situation?
You've probably experienced it, cramps! But that's an 'extreme situation' where we can feel the effects immediately.
However, if this imbalance continues for long, problems like calcification of the arteries, higher blood pressure, kidney stones, irritation of neurons, migraines and, once again, the top killers in our modern world, heart attacks and strokes are more likely.
If only calcium (or calcium and vitamin D) is taken as a supplement, it is actually counterproductive, because without magnesium, calcium cannot do it's job. For instance, to prevent osteoporosis, calcium has to end up in the bone cells. But that only happens, if there's is enough magnesium to guide the calcium to the right places. Not enough magnesium and the calcium remains in the 'soft tissue' causing all kinds of problems, like certain types of arthritis.
Not sleeping enough
For a lot of people in today's world, it's like my dear friend Walter once told me: "Sleeping is overrated".
But, is it really?
The sleeping process is not like turning off a light bulb. It's more like running Norton Utilities on your computer to defragment the hard drive and optimize the computer memory and then turning off the monitor.
While we're sleeping, our brains are doing lots of stuff, in order to repair our body and organize our thoughts and memories. On top of that, enzymes and hormones are secreted to strengthen our immune system and prepare us for the next day.
When everything happens correctly and we get complete regeneration and recuperation on a nightly basis, we become healthier individuals.
When this is not the case, we slowly and softly degenerate with the obvious results to our health and longevity, just like a computer that never gets defragmented or optimized eventually slows down to a crawl and must be rebooted.
The problem, though, is that we cannot reboot ourselves as easily as we do it with our computers, so it's worth it to take the time and let our bodies optimize and defragment themselves.
Make sure to sleep enough FOR YOU. Normally it's said that you have to have eight hours of sleep to feel rested, but that's not necessarily the case. It actually depends on you, and there are studies that prove that between 6 and 8 hours of sleep are ok, but you have to find out what's optimal for you.
One tip that works for me. Make sure you wake up at the end of a sleeping cycle, meaning that you wake up by yourself and don't really need an alarm clock. In my case, I've used an alarm clock just as a extra insurance, but normally I am awake between 5 and 2 minutes before the alarm goes off.
Since most of us have to wake up at a specific time most of the days, experiment with the going to bed time, until you can wake up by yourself at the right time for you. Just a tip!
Not exercising enough or going overboard with it
We all know about this one and, to be honest, there is a big majority that simply think "I‘ll start tomorrow!"
The problem is that tomorrow never gets here, because today is tomorrow.
Why is exercise important? Forget about thinking in terms of exercising to lose weight. That doesn‘t work as advertised!
Just to make you think for a second, have you noticed that all the exercise machines sold in those midnight infomercials promising weight loss, come ALWAYS with a booklet teaching you how to change your diet? Hmmm! Why would that be?
If you buy the system and do it according to plan, you WILL change your diet and lose weight. You might think it was the exercise alone that did it, but actually it was the change in your nutritional habits that did.
This doesn‘t mean that exercise doesn‘t have its place. And what a place it does have!
Although it‘s not the main reason you lose weight; when you are active, you use more calories than when you‘re sedentary and that is the perfect companion to good nutritional habits. It supports the weight loss and helps keep the weight off.
On top of that, being active and specially lifting heavy things will improve your HDL cholesterol levels, promotes better sleeping habits, improves your moods, gives you more energy, adapts your muscles so you don‘t suffer for acute muscle soreness, improves cognitive function in older adults, cooperates with the rest of your good habits to help fend off the metabolic syndrome and all the problems attached to it, makes you look good naked, which will definitely boost your sex life.
However, and this is the reason of the "not going overboard" with it on the subtitle, too much of it can cause inflammation, which again works against you in the long run, given that inflammation is the culprit of the metabolic syndrome and is at the heart of all the maladies killing our modern society.
If you overtrain, you‘ll suffer from lack of energy, muscle soreness and won‘t recuperate as fast after a workout. If this happens, you should back off and give yourself some recovery time. You need to find the appropriate balance and not overdo it.
Don‘t take this as an excuse and do less than you should. Your body is capable of much more than you think, specially if you‘re just starting. Be moderate and increase your intensity gradually.
If you do this, you‘ll definitely reap the benefits that come with having an active lifestyle and you‘ll be mobile for a long time, which is definitely a very happy advantage in old age.
The bottom line is...
That these are ten things from many out there that are considered normal, but that might be killing you softly.
My intention is not for you to suddenly stop eating cereals, or going to bed early, or even start eating fat just because I said what I said here. It's more to give you a push in the right direction and initiate a conversation about the importance of not just accepting on face value what the mainstream media or industry says. To help you realize that normal is not necessarily better for you. And 'better for you' should actually be high in your priority list, if you care about yourself.
Investigate these issues and make an informed decision that works for you. Think long term and set priorities you can live with.
In the end, what you do with your life is your own decision. Just remember, whatever you do or don't do, will have repercussions, which can be positive or negative.
It's really all up to you!