My name is Holly, and I am a nail biter.

by Holly on September 20, 2010

in goals,seriousness

For approximately 94.1% of my life, I’ve been a nail biter.

But not just any nail biter, no siree.

Ever since my Everythingtarian self was a wee bookworm with a head of unruly locks stuck in the pages of yet another Babysitter’s Club paperback, I’ve been a majorly compulsive, down-to-the-cuticle, chew ‘er up and spit ‘er out fingernail biter.

Or don’t spit ‘er out.

Gross? Yes.

The truth? Also yes.

The reasons why I bite still stump me to this day. I could blame Daddy Everythingtarian for setting that example growing up, but I know the truth goes much deeper than that. We all having coping mechanisms for when we feel down or angry or when we’re utterly and completely stressed or even when we’re in high school and realize our younger sister is cooler than us when she starts dating a guy in your grade while we remain boyfriend-less for four long years…hypothetically speaking.

It can come in the form of a food addiction, teeth grinding, pimple popping, skin scratching, alcohol drinking, emotionally shutting down or a plethora of other bad habits.

My coping mechanism is and has always been nail biting.

Ask Mama E, she’ll agree. So will Daddy E. You can even ask this random guy I took a picture with while sitting on the light rail on my way to a Minnesota Twins game…

I know he’ll agree too.

Honestly, I don’t have many pictures of the damage I’ve done to my chubby sausage fingers, because I’ve gotten really good at hiding my hands throughout the years.

When I taught English in Thailand, I was able to break this nasty habit with the help of my 74-year-old teacher friend Roberta. With her gentle Canadian way of kindly reminding me not to bite, I soon discovered the joy that is a manicure. In fact, I became a regular at my local nail salon.

One hundred baht ($3 = USD) for a manicure?

Sold to the girl with the weak fingernails and messed up cuticle beds!

After landing back on American soil in April 2009, I kept up my non-nail biting and manicure habit for a year and a half; albeit, it was now a much more expensive habit.

However, when I got a new job and moved back to Madison in August 2009, I once again felt the old devil taunting me to bite down my nails to deal with the stress. Between moving, apartment hunting, adjusting to my college town sans college friends, a new full-time job and all the craziness that is just life, I retreated to my old self and began biting.

Since then, I’ve never looked back.

I’ve wanted to look back, because quite frankly, biting your fingernails is NOT healthy. I was reminded of this just today when my health insurance provider sent me a letter on ways to avoid the seasonal flu. The first bulletpoint on this list: wash your hands and keep them clean.

Reading the rest of the list, I was shocked to find that “bite your nails as much as possible to allow for all types of bacteria to seep into your blood supply and lodge in your nail bed” didn’t make the cut.

Where is this all going, you ask?

I’m going to try with all my Everythingtarian might to stop biting my nails…again.

Instead of using nail biting as a coping mechanism to deal with stress, I am going to use it as a way to embarrass myself on the Internet by showing the world what I never thought I would ever reveal…

My actual nail-bitten hands.

And you will see these nail-bitten hands every Monday until they are long, luscious and coated in a thick layer of Jungle Red nail polish.

Do you have a bad habit you’d like to break? If so, I’ll keep you accountable if you do the same for me!


Matt September 20, 2010 at 9:27 pm

I am a total nail biter too! Terrible habit :(

Evan Thomas September 20, 2010 at 9:29 pm

This post reminds me I need to clip my nails.
I have a poor habit. I’m a stalker. Well, not a good one. I just follow the people I think are cute and want to make friends with but never talk to. It wouldn’t be so problematic if that didn’t lead me to Starbucks 2+ times a day. I can’t afford that much coffee; and I don’t even think drinking that much coffee is healthy for me. But I stalk and it comes with the territory.

Kelly September 20, 2010 at 9:30 pm

I’ll send you some of nail polish bottles out of the 232 I have..Maybe it can help you..

Alex @ IEatAsphalt September 20, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I was a serious nail biter for YEARS. I dont even know how I managed to break the cycle. For a while I also pulled my hair out… let’s not discuss that level of crazy.

Virginia September 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm

I used to bite my nails too!! But then my OCD kicked in and I couldn’t stand the feeling of dragging my nails across my clothes and feeling their raggedy edges getting caught in the threads *shudder*. That and putting nail polish remover on my fingertips so every time I would bring them to my mouth so I’d get that awful taste in my mouth finally got me off my nail biting habit for good :D

Mandy September 20, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I totally used to have this problem as well. I couldn’t stop biting my nails. They were all chewed at the ends.

It was actually pretty unconsciously that i stopped biting. I got a job where i was getting my hands really dirty everyday, and underneath my nails was impossible to get clean. So you can imagine they didn’t taste very good when i was chewing on them. And i just gradually stopped biting.

However, if i’m really nervous and stressed i will still pick at them sometimes. Not good, but better. And it doesn’t happen all that often. So for the first time in my life I’ve been having to CUT my nails.

I wish every bad habit was this easy to break. Then i could stop sleeping through my alarm, not shaving my legs for a week, and other habits i would like to break my self of.

Jessica @ How Sweet It Is September 20, 2010 at 11:15 pm

I’m a nail biter too… well, more of a “picker” than a biter. Bad habit!

Crunchy Granola Gal September 20, 2010 at 11:24 pm

i am a cuticle biter, sometimes nail biter, but mostly cuticle. i am all about the cuticles to the point that it’s kind of nasty and i usually make ’em bleed. true, incredibly gross fact about yours truly. i blame it on the (alc-alc-alcohol?) anxiety, too. at least i don’t smoke cigarettes, right? siiiiigh. one day i’ll quit, but i ain’t ready yet. i applaud you in your efforts!

Madeline - Greens and Jeans September 20, 2010 at 11:42 pm

I am a nail chewer. My mom used to paint my nails with the stuff that tastes gross and I would peel it off and chew away. I’m better than I used to be, but whenever I zone out my fingers almost immediately find their way to my mouth.

Adam September 20, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Your hands don’t look damaged at all!! And what are you talking about “sausage fingers”? Pshh… Girl, you crazy! ;) Well since bad habits are the apparent trending topic down here, i guess i will have to let a few of mine go. I am telling you right now, it will be tough to hold me accountable for them… but i’m working on dropping them! I will eat the peeling off of any fruit or veggie; you name it, squash, pumpkin, kiwi. I don’t like to waste, not to mention the peelings are the best part! I also obsessively floss my teeth. I probably spend 20 minutes a day between brushing and flossing. My stress-coping mechanisms need work!

Kendall September 20, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Ugh I’m a horrible nail biter/cuticle chewer. I wish I could rationalize a weekly manicure. I’m definitely better and not doing it when I have my nails painted. Best of luck to you!

Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) September 21, 2010 at 12:19 am

wtf…i cannot believe my friends are biters?!!

omg..i am surprised!! not that i really care but yeah, wow! I havent bitten a nail since i was like 6. What do i do that’s bad? hmmmm…
I over-tweeze my eyebrows, how’s that. Im a plucker :)

Erica D September 21, 2010 at 4:22 am

Awwww, Holly! It’s ok. When I was in elementary school, I not only twirled my hair, but liked to chew on it too. No wonder my mom didn’t let me grow it out very long!

Kristie September 21, 2010 at 5:08 am

I used to be a nail-biter (as in, through high school), and have sort of conquered it… the exception being times of severe stress. As in, when I took Calculus II in college it came back full force. I’m rooting for you!!

Little Bookworm September 21, 2010 at 5:17 am

Good luck! :)

Lauren September 21, 2010 at 5:54 am

I’ve never been a nail bitter but I am definitely a picker. LoL, kinda gross, but I love to pick at things, scabs, pimples, weird growths. Ew, I just realized how sick this sounds. Haha, but you did ask. :)

Love to you lady!

Erica September 21, 2010 at 5:57 am

Best of luck chicky. Blogging is such a great way to hold yourself accountable. We’ll all be here to cheer you on and call you out ;)

Maya September 21, 2010 at 7:26 am

We all have our coping mechanisms and, while I know it’s a tough one for you, coping mechanisms could be way, way worse. I twirl my hair, a comforting action I’ve done since I was a wee tot, but thankfully, it doesn’t damage my hair the way biting damages your nailbeds. Maybe you could chew gum? Not the best habit, either, but it could be for this transition period to distract you from biting your nails. Or just constantly fill your mouth with good food. That’s a good distraction, too. Good luck!

Katie September 21, 2010 at 8:07 am

My bad habit is popping pimples on my face! I’m trying to get out of that habit by not looking in the mirror after I wash in the evenings and so far so good! We’ll see how long it lasts, though. Hopefully forever! There is just something so satisfying about it though. Urgh. Darn you pimples!

brandi September 21, 2010 at 8:38 am

I’m the same as you. Started biting my nails at age 4 or 5 and have bad cycles with it still. I can go for a while and NOT, but anytime I’m really anxious about anything or worried…I start biting again.

Katy September 21, 2010 at 8:39 am

I blogged about this only a few weeks ago!

I have been a nail biter all my life. My mom bit her nails up until about 5 years ago, so I learned it from her. Nothing worked — vile-tasting polish, wearing gloves, getting manicures…

Finally, about a month ago, I decided that I would not let this nasty habit beat me, and I would not pass it on to my future kids. So I broke the habit, then and there. They’re grown in and nice and strong, and every day that goes by without biting, I feel better.

Mellissa September 21, 2010 at 8:49 am

My bad habit is shopping when stressed, I buy random things and should not be allowed in a store!

Angharad September 21, 2010 at 9:04 am

Hmm I am too. Sad face. It’s a life long battle, Holly and we’ll fight it together! YEAH!

I’m desperately trying to grow mine for next month and you-know-what but it is an uphill battle. They are so weak and gross…sad.

Hearts! xx

Kacy September 21, 2010 at 9:30 am

I pick at my hair. It doesn’t really bother me too much, but I know it’s annoying to others and makes me look like an airhead. Yet, I keep doing it.

Good luck with your endeavors to stop biting! I know you can do it!

Susan September 21, 2010 at 9:46 am

You know my bad habit – gum chewing!!! I think it’s an anxiety related obsessive thing. It started jaw clenching and teeth grinding throughout the day when I was young. Then I started smoking. When I quit smoking, I started drinking water all the time to curb cravings. But that just led to a lot of time in the bathroom, so I started to chew the inside of my cheek when I got bored or anxious. I completely mangled the insides of my mouth and would often spit out blood. So I turned to gum chewing to let my mouth heal. Now I must have gum in my mouth ALL the time. I chew probably 10 pieces a day. I’m trying to get better at it, but with training I’m talking all the time and I find having gum helps me from getting dry mouth. Ugh!

Can’t wait to see your nails all long and gussied up :)

Nic September 21, 2010 at 11:26 am

I’m a hair twirler. I twirl often. It’s somewhat embarrassing because sometimes I think it makes me look ditsy (or maybe just more ditsy than I really am:) in situations when I probably need to be not so ditsy…. like at work. In fact my hands were just in my hair 20 seconds ago as I type this post! It’s hopeless! Good luck with conquering your nails! I can’t wait to see them all polished and snazzy!

Holly @ couchpotatoathlete September 21, 2010 at 11:57 am

Holly I am also Holly and I too am a nail biter! I’m also a cuticle chewer…how gross that was to type! Ha!

I’ve bitten them as long as I can remember, but I’ll go through stages where I keep them nice and trimmed, with polish and everything. But it just takes one stressful day (or one scary movie) for me to ruin them!

Good for you for sharing this!

Jenna September 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I’ve never been a nail biter, but I’ve always been a knuckle cracker! Oh, and when I get bored, a split end finder. :) We can cut back and hopefully stop our odd tendancies together! :)

Katie September 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I just pulled a “Holly” and cought up on your last 4 posts! Eeech. I would have wanted to try on that white coat, too. I kind of want it on right now.

Also, I used to bite my nails, I don’t know how I stopped, but somehow I did. About once a year I get really stressed and bite them all off again. But once a year is > than every day. Good luck!

Katie September 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm

whoops…I “caught” up. Not “cought” up. Ding dong.

Susan September 21, 2010 at 1:08 pm

I totally see the length of my nails as a physical manifestation of how stressful my life is at the moment!

Can worrying be a bad habit? I’m not sure how to kick that one, so I guess I’ll stick with playing with my hair. I hate that I do that!

emily (a nutritionist eats) September 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I used to bite my nails! And actually I still do from time to time. (Like yesterday) BUT I find that I don’t touch my nails if they are pretty and painted…and when they are shorter, they look better with more of a nude color, but it still does the trick!

Lorna September 21, 2010 at 2:06 pm

It hurts too much to bite my nails, but I am a cuticle chewer. I am curious to see how your rehab goes, since you are now involved in a nail-biters support group — here — and am cheering you on!!!! I love your blog :)

janetha g. @ meals & moves September 21, 2010 at 2:51 pm

good luck with quitting! i used to be a biter and i got faux nails for awhile, that broke the habit. i have also heard putting nail polish remover on the nails to make them taste bad works, too!


Megan (Braise the Roof) September 21, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Um, Holly? I noticed that your entire body is covered in sand in that one picture, meaning your feet are also covered…please tell me you don’t bite your toenails, too?!?! :) Hehehe…couldn’t resist.

amanda September 21, 2010 at 6:05 pm

stay strong. breaking the biting streak is a hard painful one. but you can do it. i used to be a huge fingernail biter…but my dad started bribing me with treats to not do the dirty habit anymore. my nails feel so much healthier. but that doesn’t mean i still don’t do the occasional bite once in a while.

i imagine teaching english in thailand was such fun. i would love to do something like that. le sighhhh.

Lynn @ The Actors Diet September 21, 2010 at 7:18 pm

i used to bite my nails but it’s been a while….i still crack my knuckles – even my ankle – i’d like to stop eating candy after every meal too…

Marisa September 27, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I didn’t bite for month and I broke down driving in Chicago traffic last Wednesday. They were so pretty… and now they’re gone. You’ve motivated me to get my clear nail polish out and start again.

p.s. Nice blog

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