Category Archives: Fitness and Health

Choosing the Right Drink is Important

Would you like a cup of tea?

Anytime we eat we usually have a drink next to us to water the food down. And believe it or not we rarely think twice of what to drink. What you choose to drink can have have impact on your health.

I remember vividly when I started working for my current employer 7 years ago I would get lunch at one of the delis or restaurants near my office. And my choice of drink was not the healthiest option. I would either go for a can of soda or some other sugary drink. I like most Americans found comfort chugging down a sugary and gassy drink. I never thought twice how much sugar I was consuming.

My wake up moment was after receiving my blood test results from my annual physical exam. My mother has diabetes and I always in denial that I would inherit her disease. Needless to say I was very surprised when my doctor told me that my glucose level is abnormal and I was considered pre-diabetic.

If I continued the way I was eating (with a can of soda) I was sure I would become diabetic in 2 years time. I came home after receiving the blood test results with a goal in mind – removing all sugary drink from my diet.

My biggest fear with that goal was “what should I drink going forward?”

It has been more than 6 years and I can tell you that the question is stupid and the fear was unfounded. Nowadays I rarely think twice what to drink because my options are very limited – water or tea. Soda and sugary drink are not in my vocabulary. The real challenge for me is what type of tea to drink?

After several years of tea drinking I can say that I have been able to maintain my glucose level without resorting extreme measures such as using medicine. While my recent blood report did not show any significant improvements I was glad to find out that it did not get any worse. In order to lower the glucose level further, I need to remove all sugar and carbohydrates from my diet. That is something I will continue to work on.

Dieting not working? Maybe it’s not your fault!

Healthy options…not

Dieting is one of the worst conundrums of life. You know it is achievable but for some reason try as you might, it is much harder to reach. A lot of us ask the question why? I ask the same question everyday and trust me there is no direct answer. But I can tell you that the answers may not lie with you.

All of us need to buy groceries at least once a week and for 99% of us we get our source from one of the local food markets or supermarkets. My family is no different – we usually buy our groceries from local supermarket such as ShopRite or our local farm store. We do not have access to local farmers to get our vegetables or dairy.

So what are the main reasons that our dieting regime fails. This is a question that I ask quite often – in fact almost every weekend when I go grocery shopping.

Easy Access to Processed Food

I have been to multiple supermarkets around my neighborhood and all of them are organized in the same way. There are the fresh food aisle, beverage aisle, snack aisle and frozen food aisle to name a few. Without doing any factual calculation and using my local supermarket as an example, fresh food aisle only makes less than 20% of the products carried by the supermarket. My local supermarket is quite large with almost 24 aisles of food. The fresh food aisle including fruits only make less than 4 of them and that equals to about 17%. The less than ideal options such as snacks, cookies, frozen food and soda could easily cover 50% of the rest of the stores. My observations note that most shopping carts of most shoppers are filled with processed food rather than green vegetables.

Time Consuming to Prepare Food

Who doesn’t want to eat healthy food. The best way to get that is by cooking the food yourself. I’ve cooked for the family for years and I can tell you that I have to spend around an hour to cook a meal. On average I spend about 3 hours a day to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is so much easier to order outside or buy fast food from Mc Donalds or Burger King.

Restaurants May Not have Healthy Options

All of us eat out once a while but getting healthy meals from most restaurants may not be feasible. We know that tasty meal does not necessary mean healthy. The tasty steak that you just had is loaded with butter and fat. Or the amazing cheesecake that you ordered after the meal would not fit well in your diet. My family cooks at least 5 days a week to maintain a good diet. When we need to order out most restaurants do not offer good healthy options at all.

Keeping a healthy diet is a constant struggle. Sometimes it works and most of the time it doesn’t. Are we to blame if we are not able to maintain our diet? We need to be responsible for what we eat. However, at the same time if the conditions surrounding us do not condone positive impact on our diet it seems like a losing battle.

Don’t Buy Food Made from China

Eating food from different culture is exciting because you get to taste different type of food that you have otherwise never tasted before. My family always tried other cultures food when we get a chance. There are always surprises as well as disapointment.

My family is very much Asian and we love all types of Asian food. And to enjoy Asian food we either eat at restaurants or buy food from Asian market. However, there is one type of food that we avoid at all cost – any food items made from China.

Why?

Quite simply because of lack of food safety. China for years have been known to use non-food or even poisonous materials and mix them with food. Why would the food producers do such a thing? These unscrupulous producers would rather make more money by selling fake food than caring for consumers safety.

A recent article from USDA continues to find it challenging when it comes to importing food from China. The China government has set some food safety rules in recent years to combat this prevalent issue. However, the rules are hardly enforced due to lack of moral and continued bribery within Chinese government.

If you search YouTube for “China Food Safety” you will find a lot of videos on this subject. This begs the question – how wide is this issue is? Is it localized only in China or are the food being exported out of China to other countries. We will never know for sure because some of the fraud that was committed by China producers are so close to the real food that it is difficult to differentiate them. Did you know that honey can be faked?

So why take chances. When we go to the Asian market we avoid buying anything that is made in China.

Boxes and boxes of snacks all came from China at an Asian market.

Food producers use all kinds of color packaging to entice consumers but do not fall for them as the ingredients listed in the packaging can’t be trusted.

Seems simple ingredients being used with color packaging.

Luckily the US government required foreign producers to put where the products are made to protect consumer. For our family, that is the first thing we look for in any packaging.

Besides the “Product of China”, none of the other information can be trusted.

Believe it or not, probably 60% of the items sold in any Asian market are made in China. Identifying them is easy enough. I highly recommend that you choose food products make in Taiwan, Korea, Japan or even in the USA.

I could be generalizing all products made from China are harmful. However, until the moral of the China government has changed there is no reason to trust these products. Some of these products could be found cheaper than the products make from other countries. And perhaps therein lies the problem. To make money they need to sell cheap in large quantities. And to be able to make more money they use sub-par ingredients that are harmful.

The Problems with Hospitals and the US Medical System

I am drafting this blog while in a hospital feeling frustrated and angry. I am attending to my mom who needs a back surgery. And as part of the condition she needs to do pre-testing admission. While I understand the precautions that needs to be taken but the test and procedures that my mom has to go through are not necessary.

Before I deep dive into the test she has to go through, I want to point out that hospital is a terrible place to be in. Not because it houses sick people but the amount of time wasted in a hospital is unnecessary. This visit alone took us over 2 hours to complete. I remember I brought my son to the emergency room at a pediatrician hospital for food poisoning. A simple visit took us over 6 hours. I recall seeing a boy entering the emergency room before us due to injury sustain playing sport. 6 hours later, the boy was still on a stretcher in the hallway of the emergency room.

Fast forwarding to this visit with my mom. We were brought in a waiting room with just 3 patients. We have to wait for an hour before we were even brought in to get the test done, and it was also due to my mom complained to one of the nurses.

Once we brought in to one of the test room, we were asked a lot of questions of her visit. Everything is recorded in the computer. My mom’s condition and diagnosis are clearly written on the computer and they were recent too. She was admitted to the hospital last year and had every test done. She went to the hospital and saw two specialists and had several tests done, including multiple blood tests. For this visit, she had to do another blood work and EKG tests.

The most ridiculous part of the entire visit was we need to go through everything again with the resident nurse. Not only she was useless, she asked us the same questions again and again when everything is clearly written in my mom’s medical record. To make herself useful, the nurse recorded her notes on the computer for no apparent reason. This meeting alone wasted us half an hour with no benefits.

Hospital is abusing the medical system by having patients going through unnecessarily tests and charge all these costs to the insurance companies. For example, when my mom was hospitalized last year the bill came up to 70 thousand dollars charged to medicare. She was also hospitalized once about 10 years ago because she passed out unexpectedly. The hospital bill came out to almost 100 thousand dollars paid by Uncle Sam. When my eldest son was born 20 years ago, we received a bill for 12 thousand dollars paid by my company’s health insurance. The bill was 16 thousand dollars when my second son was born. The final bill of 26 thousand dollars when my daughter was born 14 years ago.

A lot of hospitals today are for profit and are owned by large corporations. It is well known that US medical system is perhaps the worst in the world because it is being abused by these corporations. At the end we consumers have to foot the bill. There are discussions for years to reign in these medical costs but as far as I know nothing has been done.

This is my of venting my anger. I believe most of us have to deal with hospitals one way or another and I’m sure some of us have trouble with hospital billing. Feel free to vent your anger if you believe my points above are accurate.

Stressed? Here are 5 ways to De-Stress…

My masterpiece – a scale model for stress relief

When my second son was born, both my wife and I had difficult time taking care of him. Although he wasn’t colicky but he was definitely gave us a hard time particularly during feeding. At some point I questioned why did we put ourselves through it. But being parents it was something that we both have to learn how to be patient. I can tell you that I was so stressed that I felt hopeless and angry most of the time.

My son just turned 17th and he just passed his driving test. Looking back while he was growing up I can tell you he is a joy in our family because he is always happy and has tons of “fun” energy. He is a blessing to us and I wouldn’t change a thing if I can turn go back in time.

Now you may asked how I was able to go through such hardship (if you want to call parenting hard) and come out victorious. I think it has to do with how I see myself and how I deal with the stress. Some stress is healthy but if you are burdened with stress then it could become suicidal.

Today I’m going to list 5 ways to deal with stress that I find useful. There are other ways as well but I’m not going to list everyone of them as it may take more than one post.

Enjoy Something that Takes Time to Complete

Invest time in doing something you really enjoy. I’m not talking about something that can be completed in an hour. I’m referring to a project that can take hours or days to complete, and it has to be something that you enjoy. For example, you can try putting a 1,000 pieces of jigsaw or maybe try building the dog house. For me, it is spending hours building the perfect scale model. As my kids are all grown up I have been spending more and more time in this hobby. It takes a lot of patience and at times frustrating if I don’t get certain parts correct. However, I can tell you that it is the best way for me to de-stress.

Start a Work-out Regime

This is an easy thing to start and complete. However, it requires commitment. If you set a SMART goal, getting into the groove can help de-stress. Imagine have a workout regime with the goal to run 5 miles within a month time. Having a goal not only helps you focus, but it also helps you de-stress. It would be even better if you can join a group of friends with the same goal in mind. This will put you in the competitive mode and further help in keeping the stress level down.

Reading a Book, Listen to Music or Write a Blog

Before I started working on my hobby, I would go to the local library and borrow the new books which only have 2 weeks lending period. It helps me de-stress as I had a separate deadline to complete. I find that if I enjoy the book time flies and I would not even notice the 2 weeks deadline. Nowadays I would have a music playing while I’m working. It helps me focus more and reduce the stress with the multitude deadlines that I have. At the end of the day (like right now) or end of the week writing a blog also helps refocus my thoughts.

Take a Walk

I still remember vividly when I started working for HSBC. The deadlines and the workload was unbearable that I always went home angry after work. It was definitely not healthy to my family and myself. One day during work I decided to drop everything and step away from my desk. I took a two hours walk around my office coming refreshed. Since then I learned to remove myself from my laptop when I feel stressed.

Spending Time with Family

If you read my earlier post, my daughter is having difficulty with her anxiety. I have begun to spend more time with her and talk to her more often. I find that not only it helps me understand my daughter more I also felt more relaxed. Having someone to talk to is important, especially with someone you care. If you feel overwhelmed do not feel bad or ashamed that you need to talk.

Do not less stress get the better of you. Some stress is healthy but if it becomes overwhelming, it can cause more than just losing sleep. It is extremely important that you take care of yourself by knowing yourself. Learning to de-stress is different for everyone. You need to search within yourself to see what works for you. As long as you can do something you enjoy, you are one step closer from being burnt out.

Simple 10 Minutes Lunch

One of the biggest challenges working remotely is to make lunch everyday for the family. There comes a time when I just run out of idea.

Here is an idea if you run out of options. Simple, inexpensive and just take 10 minutes. Baked ham and tater tots, a mini croissant, sweet corn with light butter, an over easy egg and home grown fresh cucumber. And finally a cup of Earl Grey tea. Believe it or not, this is quite fulfilling and not heavy.

Mental Health Issues Today

I have the privilege of working for a one of the major corporations in the world who cares of mental health, particularly the well-being of its employees. HSBC, is a global bank located in the UK and Asia, tackles this public issue head on.

For the past several years there is an increase concern as mental health is taking the forefront of public health issues. The pandemic accelerates this concern as majority of the world went into lock down. As of today, the pandemic continues to impact a large portion of the world. Most people will not be handle the isolation well and the pandemic causes tremendous damage to the mental health. If you do a news search today there are multiple instances where some decided to take their own life rather than be a hermit.

Most companies consider human capital as an important asset for them. HSBC is not any different. For the last several years the company pivot towards ensuring the employees’ well-being. There were a lot of internal communication on the issue and what the company is doing. Some of the things that the company offers include workshop, trainings and outside programs to assist the employees. I recently joined a program called Headspace, offered by HSBC. I haven’t had the chance to use it yet but I do appreciate what the company is doing.

Unfortunately, mental health cannot be solved if the victims do not acknowledge that the issue exists. Regardless what the company does, if the victims are not taking advantage of the options available, the problem will only get worsen. There are may symptoms of mental health. However, I’m not licensed to identify any of them but I can only provide my observations and how I personally address the issue.

Mental health issue really hits home when I had a chance to talk to my daughter recently. She has always been doing well at school. The pandemic forced the school to use remote learning. On top of some of the issue she had with a friend, she hit a wall last year. I knew she was at risk but I never knew how serious it was until I had a lengthy heart to heart talk with her. I felt I failed my job as a parent for not identifying her issues sooner. With that being said, I am spending more time with her now to ensure she feels she is being supported. It has been a week now and she is feeling a lot better. If you are interested in how I helped her in the addressing her issues, do follow my blog. I plan to share them with you.

In the meantime, take care of yourself and do seek help if you feel helpless. No one will think you are weak; admitting that you have a problem actually makes you stronger.

Why is it so Difficult to Lose Weight

I would be lying if I say losing weight is like a walk in the park. All of us know full well the it is like putting on a battle gear and facing off a formidable giant. However, like David and the Goliath, you just need to find the achilles heel.

I have been trying to lose weight for the past several years. I am by no means overweight but I need to maintain my diet due to my overall health condition. I can tell you that it u is not easy. There are too many temptations and too many convenient food around us.

My wife is a fitness instructor for the seniors and sometimes it seems she is also fighting a losing battle. In the past year she actually gained weight instead of losing it even though she teaches virtual fitness classes. On the other hand I was able to maintain my weight even though I sit at my desk working virtually. Why?

After giving much thought I believe there are a few reasons and all of them are due to motivation and personal drives.

Sacrifice

My wife’s weakness is her love of chicken wings and snacks. Given the opportunity she could eat a few of each. On the other hand I consciously avoid eating these food because of high saturated fat and low healthy contents. While I don’t deny that I like certain foods fall in these categories I vehemently avoid them at all cost.

Activities that Pay

Once every two days I would use the elliptical machine and focus on working out my arms and abs. My wife is an instructor who mainly focus on aerobic exercises which is good for the heart and breathing. She is not strong on arms or abs. To effectively loose weight we need to have both aerobic and strength exercises.

Be Conscious of Self

Knowing that you are overweight is really the main driver in losing weight. Looking and the mirror and realizing there is a problem will help with the motivation. Some people who knows they are overweight make conscious decisions not to have mirrors in the house. I personally would use the mirror and tend to focus on getting the six pack and I realize that the journey is far from over.

We’ve been thought that we should never fight a losing battle. However, if we equip ourselves with the right tools and with the right mindset nothing is impossible. The real question how driven are we in losing the weight.

When You Eat Matters!

Trying to lose the extra pounds? Or maybe thinking of getting ready for the summer? What you eat is important. When is you eat is also important.

Sometimes when we so focused on our food we tend to have a narrow view. We always count calories and constantly trying to figure out what to eat. Because of that we tend to overlook important success factor when it comes to losing weight: when to eat.

When my kids were growing up, we built their habits by reinforcing certain rules. One of the rules was keeping a set daily schedule. My wife and I followed a strict regimen when our kids were young. For example, we would woke them up at a certain time; we would prepare meal at the same time and we would getting them ready for bed around the same time. The reason is we as human are habitual beings; we tend to thrive if we follow certain rules.

That is the same for our bodies. Our bodies are more efficient if they follow certain rules and know what to expect. Over the years we conditioned our bodies to metabolize the food at the same rate; our bodies would become well oiled machines. However, if we introduce certain food at different time, our bodies would need to adjust to the new regimen and the efficiencies that we spend years building would need to be rebuild.

Why does this matter? Simply put, our bodies would metabolize the food intake at different rate. Any food that is no longer needed would be converted into fat and stored in body cells. That is when we start putting in more weight. Let’s take one great example from Covid-19 pandemic. Majority of us are staying at home when the pandemic hit. Our daily activities ceased to happen and most of us would eat at different times as there is no longer a need for us to follow the set schedule. Compounding with the extra food that we eat, the weight starts to add up.

Another major reason that we gain weight is eating after the last meal of the day. Dinner is considered the last meal that anyone should consume before they go to sleep. Experts agree that prior to eating, we should refrain from further eating at least 3-4 hours before resting. This would allow our bodies to properly digest the food within limited activities during the night. During this period our bodies will continue to require energy and in turn continue to burn the excess calories. However, if we go to sleep immediately after eating our bodies would continue metabolize the food but instead of converting the food into energy, all the food would become fat.

Next time if you are wondering why you are not losing weight, consider the time when you eat. Keeping a strict schedule is as important as what you consume.

Why Calories Counting is Not Effective in Losing Weight

One of the most given advice when one wants to lose weight is to count how many calories he or she is consuming in a day. However, it becomes one of the most misused unit of measurement in the past several decades. Calories counting became the fad and became the de facto if you want to lose weight. The question is: does calories counting actually works?

Nowadays calories count appear in all kinds of food labels to help consumers in making informed decision. Not only it appears in nutritional label, it also shows up in restaurants menu. However, I’m here to tell you that calorie counting does not help in losing weight. Calorie counting should only be used as a guide and you should not follow it to the letter.

According to Wikipedia, the calorie is a unit of energy defined as the amount of heat needed to raise a quantity of water by one degree of temperature. It was invented in the early 1800s to help measure unit of energy and became widely used by chemists during that century. Fast forwarding to the 20th century it was adopted in the 50s to help identifying the unit of energy as part of food consumption. When the calorie was invented, it was not intended to help with losing weight.

Last year I tried to track my food intake and to find out if it helps me in my quest for a healthier lifestyle. After tracking my diet for 2 months, I noticed that it was totally useless. Using one of the most popular app, MyFitnessPal, I found out that I was deficit by at least a thousand calories based on my body build. I thought it was great but over the two months I did not feel any hungrier than before and I did not lose the weight I was hoping for.

After some thoughts I realized that there are several problems with using calories as the tool for losing weight. While I do agree that using calorie counting has some use, it is by no mean accurate.

Everyone is Different

How one metabolizes food is different from one over the other. It has to do with a lot with lifestyle and if the person has adapted to the environment. A person who lives in Norway who eats fishes all his life can metabolize seafood better than someone who lives in a desert. Alternatively Japanese can consume raw meat and not get any fatter while someone who eats an ounce of meat would feel bloated. Eating the same portion of food with the same amount of calories may have different effect on everyone.

Calories is Manmade

The calorie was coined by chemist to allow easier calculation of energy unit. It was not meant to help the 20th Century citizens to help them lose weight. The calorie has been widely used today that it loses its purpose. If you ask 100 persons on the street today about the definition of calorie, 95 of them will tell you that it helps you lose weight. Another problem is total calories for each food category are pulled out of thin air with no real scientific method used to calculate them. As an example, the calorie count of one bowl of teriyaki chicken varies widely between one app over the other.

Misconception of Bad Calorie

Some food supposedly store more calorie than another and hence the use of calorie to determine the value of the food varies widely. As an example, an avocado has good fat calorie while a slide of steak may have the same amount of calorie but it contains bad fat. Both food are metabolizes differently when consumed and the amount of nutrition they provide differ too.

False Sense of Security

Calorie counting gives us a “good feeling” that we consume less calorie. However, it does not address the underlying problem, which is burning the fat and lose weight. One person may eat less but that does not mean that he is losing weight. Losing weight has to do with change of lifestyle and the food we consume. Eating half of the portion while sitting down on the sofa whole day will not likely to lose any weight. Our body is smart enough to store the food we eat as fat as our body does not need the energy to be active.

There is no magic bullet when it comes to losing weight. There is no pill or any special food that will help burn the fat away. Calorie counting is not the magic bullet either. It may help in the process but should not be used to determine what is right or wrong. To lose weight the right way is simply change in lifestyle (includes exercise) and make the right choice when it comes to the type of food we eat.