10 Habits Of People Who Break The Rules But Stay Incredibly Healthy

Integrative Medicine Doctor By Amy Shah, M.D.
Integrative Medicine Doctor
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard Universities. She was named one of mindbodygreen's Top 100 Women In Wellness to Watch in 2015 and has been a guest on many national and local media shows.

This is an actual tweet I read from a reputable health site recently:

"No sweets, no cakes, no white bread, no chips, no fast food, no ice cream. Do it for 21 days = Results."

Ok, but ... what do you do on day 22?

Do they really think that people can follow a series of rigid 21-day diets their entire lives?

I was a prisoner of this mentality for many years, and I see it all around me today. People feel guilt, obsession, and even shame from breaking diet rules.

I wish I'd known back then what I know now which is this: the experts, trainers, doctors, and even the celebrities that you think are the healthiest all break the so-called "rules." Yet they remain incredibly fit and healthy. The point is that life goes on, even after that donut. Give yourself permission and stay mindful.

Below are 10 rules that healthy people break. (Some people break a few rules, others break all of them.)

1. They eat sugar.

Can you believe that the New York Times best-selling author of the Blood Sugar Solution 10 Day Detox eats sugar? Isn't that so freeing and refreshing? Sure, Dr. Mark Hyman eats sugar, but he also describes it as a recreational drug akin to tequila. His point is that everyone loves sugar — it's programmed into us. So don't worry if you find yourself wanting sugar sometimes. It's normal! Consider permitting it (albeit, once in a while) instead of forcing yourself to eliminate it forever.

2. They don't always get 8 to 10 hours of sleep.

A few years ago, I became obsessed with sleep. Picture black-out shades, blue light blockers, silencers, etc. But if I didn't get a good night's sleep, I'd be just short of devastated the next morning. I'd play this recording on my head over and over: I am so tired, I am not as productive, my metabolism is at a stand still.

Then one day I found out that even a top sleep expert, W. Christopher Winter, admitted to getting inadequate sleep sometimes. He recommends mini-naps, if possible, to recharge on the days you don't sleep well. Bottom line: It's OK to be a little sleep-deprived sometimes. As long as you're getting enough zzzs most of the time, it's fine.

Whew, what a relief!

3. They drink alcohol and caffeine … GASP!

At a recent panel, three amazing doctors were asked if they drink coffee. They all said yes!

And what about alcohol? Dr. Sarah Gottfried, best-selling author of The Hormone Cure, advocates an alcohol and caffeine detox to reboot, but she allows coffee and drinks wine the rest of the time.

Are you consuming more caffeinated drinks than water, or binge drinking every weekend? If so, please consider seriously cutting back. But having a coffee daily or alcohol once in while is EXACTLY what all the health gurus do.

4. They eat carbs.

With the Paleo movement and increased incidence of gluten sensitivity, we've all been demonizing carbs. Isn't it nice to know that super-fit Paleo pioneer Robb Wolf recommends increasing carb intake for certain groups of people, especially endurance athletes? Even he got a lot of backlash for this position. It just goes to show that people are extremely passionate (to put it mildly) about their rules.

Almost every health expert I've ever come across says that they allow themselves carbs, even if it's occasionally. So, if you decide to have a few bread rolls on your birthday, just smile and enjoy them.

5. They take a break from intense exercise.

Sprinting is all the rage. So is CrossFit. But every good trainer knows that if you sprint or do intense weights (or anything, really), you need to build in recovery time, often more than a day.


Well, not really.

Rest days have become "yoga days" or cross training days. And often excluded from the plan completely. But did you know that taking a break from exercise may be the best decision of your life? One study of Olympic swimmers "found fatigue markers still present in the rested athletes six months after the season's end," according to the Huffington Post.

Not an Olympic swimmer? No problem, you can still take a week off when you feel exhausted.

You should have no guilt, just excitement that your body is healing up so it can perform its best.

6. They don't hang a picture of a fit celebrity for motivation.

I say this because I did it. And ... it didn't work. I thought if I just exercised hard enough or ate less, I would magically turn into Jessica Alba. This is what these magazines with air-brushed pictures want you to believe. They want you worship and collect these pictures so they can sell more magazines. Turns out that staring at ridiculously thin people hurts our body goals more than helps.

7. They realize health is more than eating right and exercising.

When you're a wellness warrior, it's easy to focus on eating right and exercising, but what about other factors, such as the nurturing the mind and spirit, or genetics? As Chris Kresser says, "There’s more to health than food, and there’s more to life than health." Part of being truly healthy is realizing that it's a total mind-body pursuit.

8. They don't compete.

They stopped competing with the number on the scale, with their friend, or with the person on the TV. These rule breakers know comparison kills creativity and happiness. They give praise and empathize with others who are also on the journey to health.

9. They stopped counting calories.

They know it's food quality, not calories, that count. Kate, (a friend whose name I changed), has been recording every single calorie that she eats in her iPhone for about three years. "I feel so guilty when I go over my limit," she said.

Wait, What? You know how many minutes of your life you just wasted counting calories?

Sure, tracking what you eat for short periods of time could help some people, but is that really a rule you want to follow?

10. They don't follow a 21-day diet.

Healthy people realize that becoming truly healthy is a series of tiny habits that accrue over time. They know that there's no such thing as 21-day quick fix. It's more like months (or years) of small changes that add up. It's not a sexy idea, but isn't it nice to think that you don't have to deprive yourself for weeks or months at a time?

You can still be fit, healthy and happy even if you're not on a "plan." Instead of punishing ourselves for not being perfect, we can just give ourselves permission. Hopefully, we can all remember that truly healthy people break some (or all) of these rules.

By the way, if you're the mythical fitness/diet guru who never breaks these rules, let us know. We'd all love to meet you.

Amy Shah, M.D.
Amy Shah, M.D.
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard...
Read More
More from the author:
Functional Nutrition Coaching
Check out Functional Nutrition Coaching
View the class
Amy Shah, M.D.
Amy Shah, M.D.
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from...
Read More

More On This Topic

Heal With Food

Heal With Food

Popular Stories


Latest Articles

Latest Articles

Your article and new folder have been saved!