Yet just as we are capable of incredible things, so too is the body an awkward place, with all kinds of quirks and kinks that remind us time and time again that, at the end of the day, we’re just a bunch of mammals bumbling around on our own two feet. And as anyone of a certain age can tell you, it only gets worse the older you get.
To that end, there are all kinds of things that we do to stay healthy and to understand the skin that we’re in. Whether it’s doing our best to eat the right foods or making sure that we’re doing what it takes to prevent illness, there’s no shortage of facts and tips we turn to in order to get through this life. And, of course, not everything we think we know is true. Here are the false things you probably believe about your body.
Being overweight makes for an unhealthy body
It might be hard to believe that being overweight isn’t unhealthy in and of itself, especially when we constantly hear that there’s an obesity epidemic, which is costing us billions of dollars per year, according to the CDC. But that belies the fact that you can be totally slender but eating an unhealthy diet and engaging in unhealthy behaviors like smoking cigarettes (or worse), rendering you far less healthy than your overweight counterpart.
Indeed it’s true that you can be overweight and have none of the conditions that can (but don’t always) come with it, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes, according to Harvard Medical School. That means that using a person’s body mass index (BMI) isn’t a reliable way of assessing someone’s health, despite the fact that it’s often used as such.
To top it all off, people who fall into the category of "overweight" are statistically more likely to live longer than thinner people, according to Science News. So to automatically assume that being overweight is unhealthy is just plain wrong.
Eating fat will make your body gain weight
So, just what is a healthy diet anyway? How many servings of various types of food should you be consuming in a day to keep your body healthy? Historically, there’s no real easy or specific answer to that question, as the federal guidelines on what a healthy diet looks like keep changing. Remember the food pyramid that stressed you should eat 6 to 11 servings of carbohydrates every day?
Additionally, for a long time, fats were something we were told to eat very little of, according to Harvard Medical School. But we know now that not only is fat a vital part of our diet, but also that fat is not a monolith. So we should make sure that we’re eating foods that contain healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, salmon, and olive oil. Not only will those foods provide us with important cellular building blocks, but they will also help us feel satisfied after a meal.
It’s still wise to avoid trans fats, as, if you’re eating a diet that’s high in them, you’re likely to see some weight gain.
Juice cleanses will detoxify your body
Have you ever had an overly-indulgent couple of days or, as is often the case with the holidays, weeks? Are you looking for a way to feel better after eating and drinking everything in sight? You might be tempted to do a juice cleanse, which proponents claim will "reset" and "detox" you, allowing you to begin "healing your body on a cellular level and elevating your wellness."
While that does indeed sound like a wonderful way to restore balance after a period of gluttony, there’s nothing that proves juice cleanses are especially great for you, according to dietitian Joy Dubost, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "There’s no scientific research that it provides benefits in the short or long term, and it’s not an overall healthy approach to eating," she explained in an article with Live Science. "There are much healthier alternatives to losing weight and ensuring that the body is working at its best." So while it might sound good, there’s only two things you need in order to detox your body: your liver and your kidneys.
You need to drink eight glasses of water every day to keep your body hydrated
Human beings need to consume water in some form in order to live. Otherwise, without it, your body will shut down, and your organs will begin to fail as your body succumbs to dehydration, according to an article in Live Science. So don’t forget to make sure that you’re properly hydrated at all times, especially if you’re in warmer environments.
However, staying properly hydrated doesn’t specifically mean drinking eight glasses of water per day, which is a very common and widespread myth, according to a study in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology. In fact, there is zero evidence backing this claim up, and, in cases where people were healthy, that might even be an excessive amount of water to consume on a daily basis. Instead, the researchers suggest that you count caffeinated beverages in this total, and mildly alcoholic drinks like beer as long as it’s in moderation. Of course, if you have health issues, or live in an extreme climate, your needs are going to be different.
Taking vitamins and supplements is good for your body
Fifty percent of the American population reports that they take vitamins, according to a Gallup poll. That shows that there’s a widespread belief that taking vitamins and supplements is good for your body and can be a healthy addition to your daily diet. After all, it’s important to make sure that all of your bases are covered, right?
Wrong, assuming you’re a regular, properly fed adult who has not been instructed by your doctor to take vitamins and/or supplements. In fact, according to Scientific American, there is overwhelming evidence that taking vitamins and supplements doesn’t help to prevent any diseases or death and, in some cases, can actually cause harm. "We believe that the case is closed — supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with most mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful," researchers concluded. That certainly flies in the face of what many people believe, which is that vitamins are good for you and help close nutrition gaps.
Your body’s hymen will break during your first intimate encounter
If you are someone who was assigned a female gender at birth, chances are you learned fairly early on that with that comes having a hymen. By definition, a hymen is a "thin membrane that partially blocks the opening of the vaginal … entrance," according to Columbia University’s Go Ask Alice site. You probably also heard that your hymen will break when you have your first intimate encounter and that you will bleed when this happens.
While this very much could be the case for some folks, it’s not a universal experience by any stretch of the imagination, as everyone’s hymens are different. Some are smaller than others, while others cover more area than others.
As for how a body’s hymen can be stretched, that can happen in a variety of ways, from riding a horse to using a tampon, and, yes, even intimacy. Finally, for most people with vaginas, the first coital experience may come with some discomfort, but bleeding will be minor, if there’s any bleeding at all.
You sync period cycles with the people around you
For a long time, women and other folks who get a menstrual period have attested to the notion that, when they are together for long periods of time, their periods seem to happen at the same time. And there’s been science to back this up in the past, such as the 1971 study by M.K McClintock and the 1998 study by McClintock and Kathleen Stern. For a while it seemed that menstrual synchronicity was a real thing, and plenty of folks had anecdotes that corroborated those scientific studies.
But subsequent studies have debunked this several times over, according to an article in the journal Human Reproduction. Basically, these studies have been called out on some statistical flaws, and, once those were taken into account, no evidence remained that menstrual synchronicity is indeed a thing. Additionally, another study in the journal of Human Nature found that there was nothing to indicate that being around other menstruating people will induce your own cycle. So while it might seem like it happens sometimes, it’s honestly just not a thing that happens to the body.
It’s not safe to skip your period indefinitely
Most people born with a uterus will experience a menstrual cycle in their lives, which starts during puberty and ends later in life during menopause, as noted by Planned Parenthood. For a long time, this was an inevitability, but, thanks to various forms of birth control, there are new options on the table. One of them is called menstrual suppression, which is when you stop your period from happening with birth control, according to the National Women’s Health Network. But is it really safe to stop bleeding altogether?
Actually, yes it is, although it might seem like an unnatural thing to do. But doctors agree that menstrual suppression has no adverse health impacts, so it’s 100 percent fine to skip the placebo pills in your fourth week. Additionally, some people who have a hormonal IUD in their body stop menstruating as well.
That’s not to say you have to suppress your period, as some people prefer to have their cycle for various reasons, including reassurance that they’re not pregnant. But if you want to skip it and your doctor says it’s okay, feel free to do so without worry.
You can’t get pregnant on your period
When you have your period, it’s because your uterus is shedding its lining as a fertilized egg has not been implanted into it. That’s a pretty good indicator that you’re not pregnant. Additionally, many people assume that you can be intimate while menstruating without worrying about getting pregnant. How could you if the environment in your uterus isn’t ripe for implantation?
While you’re indeed least fertile during your period, you can still get pregnant if you have unprotected sex at that time, according to Medical News Today. That’s because sperm can live up to five days — and sometimes even seven days — once they’ve been released into the body’s genital tract, which is just long enough to fertilize an egg if your menstrual cycle is shorter than the 28-day average. So while it’s less likely that you’ll get pregnant while you’re menstruating than when you’re not, it’s possible, so make sure you’re planning accordingly if you don’t want to get pregnant.
Pregnancy lasts nine months
If you want to get pregnant, you should prepare to be pregnant for a full nine months, right? That’s 40 weeks categorized by three trimesters, according to an article in Live Science. Then, once your baby is ready to be born, you’ll give birth when the gestation period is complete.
But interestingly enough, not every pregnancy will last for that duration, according to an article in Science Daily. According to research, the length of pregnancy for humans can vary up to five weeks and still be completely healthy. "We found that the average time from ovulation to birth was 268 days — 38 weeks and two days," explained Dr. Anne Marie Jukic, who works for the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. "However, even after we had excluded six pre-term births, we found that the length of the pregnancies varied by as much as 37 days." She added that she was surprised by the findings, as five weeks is a lot of variation. That’s the human body for you!
Being pregnant gives you "baby brain"
Many people who’ve been pregnant and given birth have experienced something called "baby brain," according to the Mayo Clinic. That’s the name given to the condition when expectant parents experience absent-mindedness, memory issues, and less-than-stellar concentration during their pregnancies and afterwards. But is this really a thing?
In this case, the research is mixed. According to some studies, pregnant people are indeed more likely to have memory problems and poorer cognition than people who aren’t pregnant. But other studies didn’t find this to be the case across the board, as it’s mostly pregnant people who are depressed that report cognition issues.
Additionally, it’s been documented that pregnancy and birth does have an impact on the brain, as researchers compared the MRIs of people who’ve never given birth to those who have, and there were changes. But the changes were such that they help someone prepare and adapt for parenting. So the jury’s still out on this one.
You can tell the sex of a baby based on the shape of your body’s pregnancy bump
There’s a widespread belief that you can somehow determine the sex of a baby based on the way someone carries their pregnancy in their body. Often it’s said that if you have a high bump that’s ball-shaped, it’s a boy, and if the shape is lower and spread out around the middle, it’s a girl.
But according to Shari Brasner, M.D., a professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, that’s just not the case. "The baby’s sex has absolutely nothing to do with the way a woman appears," she revealed in an interview with Women’s Health. So you can speculate all you want, but there’s no way you can tell the sex of a baby until you have an ultrasound or until they’re born.
Bear in mind that the genitals of a baby aren’t always an indicator of their gender, as many people don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth, as noted in an article in the Independent.
You’re either left-brained or right-brained
A lot of people subscribe to the notion that there are two kinds of people: Those who are right-brained, and those who are left-brained. Right-brained people tend to be more artistic and creative, as well as good with languages. Left-brained people are pragmatic and logical, and prone to having a career in a STEM field.
As sound as this theory may appear, it’s actually not a thing, according to an article in Psychology Today. It’s not that it’s totally off-base, as it does have some roots in reality. For example, the left side of the brain is dominant with language, and the right side is dominant when it comes to emotional processing. But that doesn’t mean that those activities don’t happen in the opposite sides, or have cross-overs. Additionally, the body’s two hemispheres of the brain are connected by the corpus callosum, what TV’s Dr. House once called the "George Washington Bridge" of the brain. So it’s not as if the two halves operate independently from one another, unless there’s been a surgical intervention.
Going out in the cold can give your body a cold
Raise your hand if your parent ever admonished you about wearing a coat when you went out in cold weather! They also likely told you that if you didn’t bundle up your body properly, you would be sure to catch a cold. And raise your hand if you make your own child do the same.
But the funny thing is that going out on a chilly winter day isn’t what causes people to get sick, according to an article in The New York Times. A number of studies conducted by scientists all came to that conclusion, so you can stop forcing your little one to wear a coat when they complain that they don’t want to, within reason. Coats do keep you warm!
What actually gets you sick is coming in contact with someone who has a cold, as colds are transmitted virally, according to an article in NPR. So make sure to take the proper precautions to prevent transmission as much as possible.