9 bad habits: Should you worry?

We know a bad habit when we see one. Smoking? Check! Not exercising? Duh! Gorging on doughnuts? Of course! But what about, say, eating lunch at your desk? Turns out that can be worse for you than you'd think (and here we were just trying to be extra productive).


It's not always easy to know what's good for us and what's not, especially because medical advice keeps changing as new research emerges. But never fear: We have the lowdown on 10 potentially worrisome everyday habits so you will know just when you can—and can't—relax.

1. You skip the Pill now and then
The verdict: It won't kill you, but...

It could get you pregnant. For every 100 women using oral contraceptives, between two and nine get pregnant each year, mostly because of errors, like forgetting a pill or starting a pack late, says Dr. Lauren Streicher, a professor of OB-GYN at Northwestern University.

If you miss your daily dose: "Take it as soon as you remember, or take two the next day," she says. "If you skip two pills, take two pills for two days, and use backup birth control, like a condom, for a week." If you find you're having trouble staying on top of a daily pill, talk to your doc about other forms of birth control.

2. You load up your coffee with extras
The verdict: It won't kill you, but...

A heavy hand with the condiments adds empty calories to your diet. And we're not just talking about whipped cream and mocha syrup: Even stirring in half-and-half and a couple of packs of sugar can add 50 calories to your five-calorie cup of joe. Over a year, if you don't offset those extra calories each day, that's enough to pack on 5 extra pounds. That said, if you're generally a healthy eater, then a splash of milk and a little sugar are "not a problem," says registered dietitian Kelly Morrow, an associate professor of nutrition at Bastyr University in Seattle.

3. You text while walking
The verdict: Danger! Danger!

Being absorbed in your Smartphone while crossing the street is a really great way to become roadkill. In a recent study, people who traversed several busy intersections while texting were four times less likely than non-texters to look before they crossed, cross with the light or stay in the crosswalk. It also took them two seconds longer to navigate the intersection.

"Crossing less cautiously and spending more time in the intersection raises the risk of being hit by a car. We certainly saw some near-misses," says senior study author Dr. Beth Ebel of the University of Washington.

4. You weigh yourself daily
The verdict: No worries! Really!

Body weight can fluctuate by several pounds throughout the day, and watching it bounce up and down like the stock market will drive you bonkers. And it may not help you actually lose weight, according to a recent review of research in The New England Journal of Medicine.

But weighing in once a day, in the morning, after you pee and before you put on your clothes, can be a smart way to keep tabs on whether you've been gaining over time. "Daily weigh-ins allow you to detect small changes before they become big changes," says Rena Wing, a professor of psychiatry at Brown University.

5. You wear out your kitchen sponge
The verdict: It won't kill you, but...

That sponge sitting in your sink is germier than you might realize. If you use it to clean your sink or counters—especially after you've mopped up raw meat and poultry juices and only quickly rinsed the sponge—you're spreading potentially illness-causing bacteria all over the place. Ick, right?

That doesn't mean you should never reuse a sponge. You just have to clean it thoroughly enough to zap the bacteria in it, either by running it through the dishwasher or nuking the damp sponge in the microwave on high for one to two minutes once a week.

6. You sit your bare butt on public toilet seats
The verdict: No worries! Really!

The toilet seat is probably the cleanest thing you'll touch in a public restroom, according to research done at the University of Arizona, largely because anxious women either use those seat covers or otherwise wipe the seat before touching down. So go ahead and make yourself comfortable!

"There's this idea that if you sit on a toilet seat you're going to get some dreaded disease," Streicher says. "That's just not going to happen. Things like gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV don't live on surfaces. And your vagina doesn't touch the toilet seat; it hangs over the bowl."

7. You pop OTC pain relievers like candy
The verdict: Danger! Danger!

Stuff hurts and you want it to stop, so you pop an Advil or a Tylenol. Nothing wrong with that. But where this habit starts getting a bit troublesome is if you're regularly taking a lot more than the prescribed daily amount. That can lead to liver issues if acetaminophen is your pain reliever of choice. If you prefer NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), stomach and/or kidney problems can occur. And if you're one of the 25 percent of women who get migraines, taking over-the-counter pain relievers two or three times a week for weeks on end can actually cause more headaches, due to a rebound effect that can occur after your body gets used to medication.

8. You scarf down lunch at your desk
The verdict: It won't kill you, but...

When you nosh as you work, especially if you're sitting in front of your computer, you're more likely to overeat, according to research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. When we're distracted, the study showed, we tend not to recall very much about what we've just put in our mouths. "That blunts the satiety"—that is, fullness—"response," explains lead author Jeff Brunstrom, a psychologist at the University of Bristol in England.

Try to relocate to your office's kitchen or cafeteria. If you don't have that luxury, Dr. Brunstrom recommends at least turning away from the computer screen for the duration of your meal so you can savor each bite.

9. You blow off going to the doctor
The verdict: It won't kill you, but...

It's very important that you get all your regular preventive screenings, like Pap smears (now recommended every three years for most women), mammograms and cholesterol tests. And you really should visit your doctor if you're not feeling well, says Dr. Ateev Mehtora of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "In a 2007 study we did, most preventive tests ended up being ordered when patients saw their physicians because they were feeling ill."

In an ideal world, you'd also see your primary-care doctor for annual physicals. That way, she can check your vitals, update your chart and recommend any screenings you're missing out on—and you have a chance to talk to her about any issues you've been having.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.