No matter how healthy you try to be, you don't have to look far for worrisome little curve balls that threaten to throw off your best habits. You avoid everything germy; could hanging out with your anti-vaccine friend and her kids make you sick? You'd never touch a cigarette, but is your neighbor's chain-smoking just as bad for you when it creeps into your apartment? And is it really terrible to give in to a midnight pretzel craving? Turns out, some things aren't as big a deal as you might think. Here's how five perceived offenses stack up.

You eat just before bed.
Verdict: Not too bad, if done right

Research indicates that ingesting the majority of your calories later in the day can interfere with weight loss. When an after-hours craving for comfort food hits, check in with yourself to see whether it's an emotional response. You can usually wait those out by distracting yourself with another activity. If you're still hungry, it's time to eat—but make smart choices. I recommend you reach for a banana first because it's filling. Still hungry? Go for one serving (1/2 cup) of applesauce. If that doesn't do the trick, wait five minutes and then try a serving of nuts. These foods feel satisfying but won't cause heartburn.

Your friend mentions she hasn't vaccinated her kids—after you've babysat them.
Verdict: Not bad

While unvaccinated children can pose a public health risk by triggering outbreaks of once-dormant preventable diseases, only in very rare cases will this affect you personally. Unless the kids were sick with a communicable disease that was still contagious and you aren't vaccinated, you're not at risk of catching anything or passing it on. That said, it's a good idea to contact your primary care physician to let her know you've spent time with unvaccinated children; she may offer additional advice based on your medical history.

Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D

You don't take a day off between strength-training workouts.
Verdict: Bad

Muscles benefit from at least a day or two of rest and healing time between training sessions. That's because moderate to strenuous physical activity causes microscopic tears in muscle fibers; in fact, one study found that within three hours of strenuous resistance training, men and women showed significant signs of tissue breakdown. Back-to-back cardio workouts shouldn't do any harm, but I suggest taking off at least one day per week.

Your neighbor is a chain smoker, and the fumes are always making their way into your space.
Verdict: Really bad

If you regularly smell smoke, it's likely putting your health in danger. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals; at least 69 of them cause cancer. Even brief exposure can slow blood flow to the heart in nonsmokers. What's worse, the toxins cling to household items, like rugs and furniture. That's called thirdhand smoke, and research has shown it can linger for two months. If your landlord won't ask the neighbor to stop, request reimbursement for taking steps to keep smoke out, like filling gaps with insulating foam or silicone caulk and installing weather stripping around doors and windows. And have your place—curtains and all—cleaned.

You've inhaled dry shampoo fumes.

Photo: TibiP03 /iStock

Verdict: Not too bad

Oil-absorbing ingredients like rice starch or aluminum starch octenylsuccinate can be irritating, but only if you inhale a lot at once. More troublesome are the scents and other chemicals in aerosol sprays. Apply in an open area or opt for a powder instead.

Mehmet Oz, MD, is the host of The Dr. Oz Show (weekdays; check local listings).


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