Picture this: You’re a contestant in one of those old-school game shows. The host smiles and says, “Behind door No. 1…we have…a new car!” The wild applause finally dies down, and then it’s time to open door No. 2: “It’s a luxury vacation!” Pretty sweet, right?
The tension builds as the polyester-clad cheeseball saunters over to the final door. “Or,” he says, winking, “you could choose what’s behind door No. 3…which is…wait for it…a year’s supply of cigarettes, alcohol and fast food!”
Some audience members start yelling “Take the car!” Others scream, “The trip! The trip!” How many point at the smokes, booze and deep-fried junk? Not a single one.
Little do they know that all three things are worth more or less THE SAME AMOUNT.
Unhealthy habits cost you big time
That’s right: Over your lifetime, a 2015 study found, the cost of knocking back five drinks a day, smoking two packs a day and carrying an extra 150 pounds of body weight can add up to about the same amount as getting a new car or taking a luxury vacation every single year.
But wait, there’s more: What would happen if you quit smoking and drinking, shed that excess weight, and invested all the money you saved for the next 45 years? Brace yourself: Including savings on life insurance, you’d be a whopping $8.6 million richer. Imagine that pile of cash behind Door No. 4!
Cutting back on those unhealthy habits helps a lot, no doubt, but one drink and five cigarettes a day, along with 70 extra pounds, still adds up to $1.7 million over your lifetime. Ugh!
No one likes to lose money, let alone millions of dollars, but there is some good news here: The more you chip away at those unhealthy habits, the closer they get to costing nothing at all. Wondering how to break unhealthy habits? Let’s look at some easy ways to get there!
Easy tips for drinking less
Use different glasses: Studies have shown that people pour less wine into narrow glasses than wide ones, which in turn reduces the rate of consumption, and that leaving a glass on the table instead of holding it yields a smaller pour. Likewise, straight-sided beer glasses with measurement markings slow down the rate at which we drink.
Glasses half full: Again, studies have shown that filling glasses only halfway up results in significant reductions in booze intake.
Drink liquor on the rocks: Adding ice to drinks dilutes them, cutting the alcohol content (by volume) and reducing the frequency of refills.
Steer clear of boozy situations: Parties or nights on the town lead to drinking. Controlling the environment — say, by inviting friends to your home for dinner — can lead to less alcohol consumption.
Stop equating fun with alcohol: Make a list of activities you enjoy that don’t have to involve booze — playing sports, gardening, photography, getting it on, the list goes on — and slot them in at those times when you’re likely to be tempted to drink.
Easy tips for quitting smoking
Cut down slowly: Carefully track the number of cigarettes you smoke each day, and then reduce that number by one each day. If you currently smoke 40 a day, for instance, that gives you almost six weeks to get down to zero — and that journey can be made much easier by using the tips that follow…
Find a Quit Buddy: Whether it’s a friend, family member or co-worker, a Quit Buddy is someone you can count on to support you in your journey to kick the habit. If they’ve quit smoking themselves, all the better, but what really matters is that they’ve got your back.
Call a free Quit Coach: Simply dial 1-877-455-2233 to connect with a specialized expert who can assess your readiness to quit smoking, help you pick a quit date, and help establish a quit plan that includes tips and tools to get you ready. Once your quit date arrives, your coach will call to check on your progress, review the challenges, reinforce your reasons for quitting, provide new coping strategies, and help you get back on track if you’ve had a slip. Learn more here.
Use free text support: Texting QUITNOW to 654321 will launch a free three-month mobile texting service that sends you supportive messages and quit tips based on your quit date. Learn more here.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist: Over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and chewing gum, as well as prescription medications like Varenicline and Bupropion, can help reduce cravings and boost your chances of quitting. Learn more here.
Easy tips for losing weight
Drink more water: This fills up your stomach and makes you feel less hungry, which curtails cravings for unhealthy snacks and late-night junk food. Dietitians Canada recommends that guys aim for about six large glasses every day, so knock back one when you get out of bed, one with every meal — we’re up to four glasses already! — polish off another throughout the day, and finish with a final glass a few hours before bed.
Take the stairs: Bypass the elevator or escalator and you’ll burn around 10 calories per minute while strengthening the biggest muscles in your legs. If a climb takes five minutes, and you make the climb twice a day — when you get to work and after lunch, let’s say — you’ll burn around 100 calories. Easy, right?
Try food swaps: Replacing unhealthy foods with healthy ones makes a big difference to your weight and overall health in the long run. Instead of choosing fatty, sugary or salty snacks or meals, simply go for healthier alternatives: Nuts instead of potato chips, whole-grain bread instead of white bread, a side salad instead of french fries, the list of tasty and satisfying swaps goes on and on.
Take the Weekly Fitness Challenge: Think working out has to take hours and requires a gym membership and fancy equipment? Think again! From lunging around the office to doing push-ups while watching the big game, the Weekly Fitness Challenge slides exercise seamlessly into your schedule.
Adam Bisby is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and father of two. His award-winning stories have appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post newspapers, in magazines like Explore, Reader’s Digest, International Traveller and Canadian Family, and on websites including MSN, MSN Canada, and DontChangeMuch.ca. Visit Adam’s website for more details on his award winning work.