Category Archives: Fitness and Health

Extracurricular Activities Are Overrated

When my kids were growing up my wife and I were always under pressure to follow the other school parents to be “soccer mom” or “soccer dad”. Whenever we were around with other parents we constantly heard stories of how busy they were busing their children around for sports.

In addition to that the elementary schools at my town always encourage the students to join school music band or choir singing. These activities continue to be important activities as the students move to middle school and high school. Unfortunately, I have to say all these activities are a waste of time. Before you jump up and down disagreeing my statement I want to lay out several reasons as they will not have any impact on your children future.

My assessment is based on my observation, experience as well as what I read over the years. Obviously not all activities are useless. Some universities and colleges, particularly certain ivy league schools do look at some of these activities as prerequisites for admission. Usually this applies to only certain exceptional students.

Time and Money Waste

A lot of these activities are not cheap. There is always a fee or monthly expense. Besides that you need to think about the gas you will need to drive them around. The most important waste of all is time. Each activity can last up to 2 hours and we all know time is money. Take soccer practice as an example. To be good at soccer, a 8th grader will need to attend at least 2 soccer practices a week and each can go for 2 hours. During any tournament or game, it could be 2 to 4 hours. And the parents will need to sacrifice by taking time off just to drive them around. Once the children past high-school, none of the experience gained will be useful because when they are in college not one professor will care about their soccer games. When they start looking for a job, not one employer would ask about these activities.

Extra Activities mean Less Important Activities

Believe it or not, in order to excel in today’s world you need to be really good in one field. Using computer field as an example, you need to know a lot of this subject. Not only you need to learn the programming language of today, you need to be also well versed with current technology. Without these knowledge, sitting in front of a hiring manager would be very challenging. I can tell you that the hiring manager would not ask about the soccer game you won when you were in 8th grade. Attending to these extracurricular activity means you have less time to learn anything else.

Children has Finite Energy

Children may have a lot of energy during a soccer practice or game over the weekend but they are likely collapse because lack of sleep or too tired to do anything else right immediately after the game. Most children around the teenage age requires a lot of energy as part of growing up. Putting them in sport activities may starve their bodies of required nutrients for their bodies to grow properly. As an example, one of our family friends has a daughter who runs in the track and very active in soccer. However, she is extremely thin and small for her age when she is compared to her peers.

Teamwork is Overrated

One of the biggest opponent of these activities are it instill teamwork values in them. Unfortunately, this term is overrated. Teamwork is not something you can learn by joining just a sport game. Teamwork is something you learn by being around a group of people aiming for the same objectives. In other words, you learn it during school projects, participating in a club or being a spectator in a game. I learned that teamwork is importing when I started working full-time. However, it is not often being used because everyone of us have assigned role in an organization. So often than not, the work is so segregated that the moniker “teamwork” is only used on the piece of paper but rarely practiced.

Education is More Important

What happens if the children spend all their waking hours participating in these activities but rarely allow them time to study. The end result is their grade may suffer. They may show up on trophy cups or school papers but when they continue to fail in all their classes, they may not be able to attend any higher education to pursue their dreams. My son’s girlfriend is an exceptional case. She is really good in her soccer and track. Additionally, she continues to do well at school. However, she rarely has any free time to do anything else.

My wife and I never pushed our 3 grown children to join any activities. And they turn up fine. My son will be graduating from Rutgers University with good grades and he will be working as an intern with Amazon AWS in the summer. That was the ultimate litmus test that I seeked for that confirmed my assessment is correct.

Extracurricular activities may help build characters but in a lot of times behavior starts at home through family values. Personally I believe children should be allowed to explore on their free time. Some may find interests in building cars while some may enjoy helping local community by volunteering. Children should not be defined how successful they are in scoring goals until they are too exhausted to do anything else.

Why Diet is More Important than Exercise!

The Covid-19 pandemic has a tremendous impact on everyone across the world. It is unfortunate for those who lost their lives to this horrible virus. It also upended a lot of lives for those who are still living.

I have been fortunate that I was able to continue to support my family by working remotely. This was as a result of how my company, HSBC, tackles the pandemic in the most unusual way. With the exception of those on the retail bank and the back-end system support, almost 99% of the employees were sent home to work.

Obviously, this also has impact on my family lives. Prior to the pandemic, all of us have all kinds of activities outside of our home. One of them is going to gym to get the required exercise. With the onset of the infection, everything was shut down including our township gym. Now that everything has been easing, the gym began to open up last year.

Since the early 2020 I stopped going to the gym and one of my biggest worries is that I will not be able to continue with my fitness routine. The net effect was I would gain weight and started to lose muscle mass that I worked so hard for.

Earlier this month as the Omnicron variant of the Covid-19 began to subside, I started going to the gym again. Immediately I noticed that I did not lose much of my muscle mass. The only problem is my muscle was not able to do the intense exercise that I used to do. It appears that I would need to retrain my muscle again. After a few sessions I was able to regain 80% of the muscle power I lost.

I started to ponder the question if going to the gym was useful. Don’t get me wrong, getting enough exercise will help in many ways. But if we are stuck in the bind as it clearly demonstrated in the last 2 years, getting the exercise may not that important.

In the 2 years working at home I rarely go out to get the required exercise. Twice a week I would spend a total of 2 hours working on my core. The rest of the time I spent in front of the laptop and eating.

I knew from beginning that I would have to change my lifestyle dramatically. Being passive at home can have major negative impact on my health. With that in mind I made sure that I continue to eat healthy. I am not a believer of sticking to the green or non-carbohydrate diet. I am a believer of balance diet.

For the past 2 years I would cook for the family using the balance concept. Every meal will have some green vegetables, rice for carbohydrate, and one or two portion of white meat. Once a week we will have red meat such as beef. The most important of all is to cut down on sugar intake. Other than juices for my kids, my beverage options are coffee, tea and water.

The results speak for themselves. My blood test results did not show any negative spike and my weight has been constant. Additionally, I did not experience any lack of energy in the 2 years cooped at home.

While this is in no way a scientific proven claim, my personal experience showed that a proper diet is way more important that having completed 6 hours of gym every week.

Avoid Protein Supplement When Workout

Should you take this?

Have you ever seen those photos of fitness stars with chiseled body? And have you ever wished that you could achieve the same as you start working out? I know I was.

Three years ago as I started joining the local gym I started to look at other ways to achieve the dream body. Naturally I went with supplement nutrition to speed up the process. One of the most common supplements is the protein supplement. They usually come in powder form when you just add water. Mix it well and just drink it.

After a year of workout and consuming the supplement I realized that I feel myself a lot stronger and heavier. Looking at the mirror I realized that I look more buff. Unfortunately, that was the image I see on the outside. On the inside is a different story.

When I went to my doctor for my annual physical I was told that my blood results are less than ideal. Even though I look healthy on the outside my organs such as liver and kidneys are not. During the entire year of working out I did not change my diet other than adding protein supplement.

After realizing how the protein supplement has a negative side effect on my body I decided to stop using it. It has been 2 years since I last using protein supplement my blood test results have return back to normal. While I can’t be conclusive if the protein supplement is actually causing health side effects my quick experiment definitely suggest this hypothesis.

I am not a nutritionist and I am not here to make any recommendations. However, if you are new to working out and if you want to maintain a healthy diet I would suggest avoiding any health supplement such as protein powder. Looking at the ingredients, most protein powder contains sucralose and other artificial ingredients which are bad for our body. And as for nutrition facts, it contains high amount of calories and ingredients that may cause increase in cholesterol.

In addition to the above there are news where several bodybuilders who died from too much protein. One of them was a bodybuilder who died from protein overdose. And there are others such as a bodybuilder who died unexpectedly. While it is inconclusive, here is another bodybuilder who died in her sleep. All of these individuals were relatively healthy and they probably consume a lot of the protein powder to supplement their workout regime.

In my further research, there is an article that talks about the serious side effects of protein powder. This article also answers some of the side effects that I experienced.

If you are working out I suggest that you rely on the natural food and the diet to provide you the necessary nutrition. Adding supplements such as protein powder may help but we need to be careful as the ingredients in this supplements may be toxic and cause problems in the long run.

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.