1. Having a smoothie in place of a breakfast
Most healthy eating blogs and fitness influencers will tell you that there’s no healthier breakfast than a smoothie, especially if you’re looking to lose weight. Alas, having a breakfast smoothie every morning will most likely not yield the intended health and weight loss results.
First and foremost, look at the ingredients of the smoothies you’re preparing. Do they contain mostly fruit? If so, you could be actually getting too much sugar from a smoothie, which will prevent you from losing weight and may mess with your blood sugar. Another prominent issue is that breakfast smoothies actually have a reduced fiber content. According to some nutrition experts and doctors, blending whole fruit and vegetables reduces their insoluble fiber content, which means that you won’t be getting all the benefits from the apples, kale, oranges, or whatever plant ingredient you prefer in your smoothies.
But there’s a bigger danger to this process too: Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California-San Francisco, compares a smoothie to soda, suggesting that the lack of fiber can affect blood sugar and insulin levels much like harmful carbonated beverages. Lastly, smoothies are less filling than whole fruits and veggies, as the action of chewing actually makes food more satisfying and filling, with studies showing that solid and semi-solid food is superior in maintaining satiety than liquids.
It’s fine to enjoy a smoothie from time to time, but it’s not a replacement for a proper meal. If you do decide to make a breakfast smoothie, make sure to add some protein and healthy fats (such as avocados or nut butter), as well as no more than 1 cup of fruit. This will make your smoothie more filling.
2. Reading the news first thing in the morning
Reading the news is what any informed citizen should do every morning, right? Well, it actually depends. While many people enjoy reading the news with their morning cup of coffee, it may be quite stressful and time-consuming to others. Research points out that just a short three-minute read of stressful news headlines can trigger a stress response in the brain and make you more irritated and nervous all day.
In an experiment where participants either read something positive or negative news headlines, "Individuals who watched just three minutes of negative news in the morning had a whopping 27% greater likelihood of reporting their day as unhappy six to eight hours later compared to the positive condition," writes one of the authors of the study in a Harvard Business Review article.
As you can imagine, reading a terrible news story, especially during a worldwide pandemic, may not be the first thing you encounter throughout the day. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should stop being informed and be cut off from society, but there is a better time to do so. If you notice that reading the news makes you grumpy or irritated in the morning, replace it with a lighter, more uplifting read and get your daily news updates later in the day.
3. Sacrificing sleep for waking up early
"The early bird catches the worm," the famous idiom goes. But should all people abide by this age-old wisdom? The answer to this question is neither obvious nor unambiguous. If you’re an early riser, waking up at 5-6 AM may be easy for you. And if that’s the case, by all means, follow your natural sleep cycle. But that doesn’t mean that everyone should wake up early in the morning, especially if that means sacrificing their sleep.
If you’re a night owl, and you can barely fall asleep after 12 PM, getting up at 5 AM would be actually quite unwise for you. Receiving an adequate amount of sleep every night should be your priority. Several studies point out that even minor sleep loss can impair the functional connectivity in the brain and has a dramatic negative effect on several important mental faculties, such as alertness, decision making, attention, and cognition. If a clear and healthy mind is the reason why you want to perfect your morning routine, adequate sleep and not waking up at 6 AM should be your priority.
4. Beginning your day with a to-do list
Starting your day with a to-do list is another frequent feature of the influencer productivity checklist. The advice is well-intentioned, as writing down your plan for the day can certainly help some people concentrate and manage their anxiety. Alas, this advice too can often backfire, depending on your perception of to-do lists.
Han Ren, a licensed psychologist, pointed out in an article in Huffington Post, “It could be stressful if you’re overly ambitious and have written down more things than you can realistically do.” If you’re a perfectionist and will beat yourself up for not accomplishing everything on the list, to-do lists can actually become the bane of your existence.
Instead, consider writing a weekly list and use that as a guide to creating daily “done” lists, which are more positive and will help you recognize that some chores don’t have a hard deadline.
5. Having your coffee before breakfast
The order in which you choose to have your morning coffee and breakfast may seem like a matter of preference, at first glance. But there’s actually some compelling new research that suggests a preferred order with health in mind. The research manipulated the order of food and coffee intake in the morning, and it was conducted at the University of Bath, in the UK, and published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2020.
The researchers suggest that drinking coffee first and following it with breakfast affects blood sugar control. Reduced blood glucose control, also known as insulin resistance, is associated with extensive negative health effects, including an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. "As such, individuals should try to balance the potential stimulating benefits of caffeinated coffee in the morning with the potential for higher blood glucose levels and it may be better to consume coffee following breakfast rather than before,” stated Harry Smith from the Department for Health at Bath, the lead researcher of the study, to Science Daily.
6. Eating breakfast while doing other tasks
Do you prefer to have your breakfast while also watching TV, reading the news, or doing other tasks? This may give you a false sense of being more productive, but it’s actually not nearly as beneficial for you as you think. There’s actually quite a lot of research on the topic of multitasking while eating, and most studies are consistent in the findings that eating while watching TV or other distracting tasks can make you feel less full, so it’s not ideal if you’re trying to lose weight.
Working at the desk and eating, on the other hand, does even more harm, a recent study found, as it actually increases your stress levels. Moreover, it seems that those who work at the computer and have their meal at the same time are rarely as productive as they would like to be, mostly only accomplishing minor tasks.
So, the next time you combine breakfast and other tasks, pay closer attention to how it actually makes you feel: Does it increase your appetite? Does it make you feel stressed out? If so, you will most likely benefit from separating eating and other tasks in the future.
7. Don’t hit the snooze button
A surprising majority of people tend to set their alarm half an hour to an hour early, leaving themselves the “extra time” to hit the snooze button and sleep in just a little more. At first glance, this does sound reasonable, but it also reinforces your procrastination habits. With each time you decide to snooze the alarm, you’ll feel increasingly more self-conscious about the time you were just lying in bed.
In addition, the sleep you think you’re getting in those 20-30 extra minutes is actually less restorative than uninterrupted sleep. So, as a result, you’ll get up groggy, sleepy, and tired. There’s also some evidence suggesting that hitting the snooze button has negative neurological implications; find out more on that in our previous post: Why Hitting Snooze May Be a Bad Thing in the Mornings.
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