Month: November 2016

How to Enjoy Holiday Treats and Not Gain Weight

Whether it’s a second helping of Grandma’s famous pecan pie or one too many pieces of leftover Halloween candy, the holiday season can cause even the most disciplined among us to lose sight of our health and fitness goals. Fortunately, the next couple months don’t have to be a constant battle with the scale. Here are a few tips for keeping your health and fitness on track and ensuring your pants still fit by the time Jan. 2 rolls around.

It can be tempting to eat less during the day when you know you’ll be getting some scrumptious holiday food later that evening, but arriving hungry to an event could lead to overeating. Instead, continue having regular meals and eat about the same amount of food during the event that you normally would at home. It may be challenging if many different foods are available, but limiting yourself to one plate with small portions will allow you to get a taste of everything while avoiding overdoing it.

You can also avoid overeating by munching on a plate of vegetables or salad as an appetizer. Vegetables are low in calories, and filling up on them at the beginning of a meal will keep you from overindulging on higher-calorie options later on. Also, using smaller plates and bowls will help keep your portion sizes in check. While you’re eating, take time to chat with family and friends and fully enjoy your food. It takes about 20 minutes for our stomachs to realize we’re full, so wait at least 20 minutes after your first plate before deciding if you want seconds.

If you know the desserts will be calling your name, decide ahead of time to have only one dessert. Telling your plan to a friend is also helpful; they can remind you of it when they see you inching closer and closer to the pile of chocolate-chip cookies. If salty snacks are your Achilles’ heel, decide ahead of time to avoid any chips or crackers. These snacks are available throughout the year, and there’s no reason to waste calories on them when there are bacon-wrapped scallops to be eaten.

Alcoholic beverages, such as spiked apple cider, are a prominent feature of many fall celebrations. Unfortunately, drinks can provide a lot of unnecessary empty calories. With some cocktails hiding as many as 740 calories per drink, it’s best to stick to the recommendations of one drink for women and two for men. Watch out for craft beer as well, since some can have higher alcohol and calorie content than you may realize.

One of the biggest obstacles to maintaining your health this time of year is the interruption to your regular workout routine. Try to plan social events and holiday preparations around your workouts, and don’t be afraid to leave the party early if it means you’ll be able to hit the gym in the morning. If you do miss a workout, don’t let it throw you off track. Get right back into your routine, and it will be like you never missed a beat.

Last, an often-overlooked component of keeping your health on track is sleep. Whether you’re used to 6 hours or 10 hours each night, it’s important to not let the stress or bustle of the holidays interfere with your rest. Fatigue can make it much more challenging to feel energized for a workout or resist tempting holiday treats.

What you need to know about flu shots

It’s Time for Flu Shots, and Here’s What You Need to Know

Flu season is here, and now is the best time to get your flu shot if you haven’t already. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting your flu shot during the fall months because the flu is seen between October and May, even though most cases occur between December and February. It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to give you protection.

To help you and your family prepare for flu season, I’ve addressed some common questions about the flu that I am hearing from my patients.

What is the flu?

The flu, also known as influenza, is an acute respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. These are found worldwide and are spread through sneezing and coughing. Typically, it takes one to four days from the time of exposure to the viruses to the onset of illness.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Fever (temperature higher than 100 F)
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Weakness

Usually, flu symptoms come on abruptly. By comparison, with a bad cold you can often feel the symptoms coming on before you start feeling really lousy.

How does the flu vaccine work?

The flu vaccine introduces inactivated strains of the flu virus, which prompts your body to make antibodies to fight it. This means that when you are exposed to the live flu virus, your immune system recognizes it as an invader and goes to work on eliminating it from your body. Unlike previous years, only injectable flu vaccines will be used this year.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

YOU! Everyone older than 6 months of age should get the flu shot, especially those who have chronic illnesses like asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease or weakened immune systems.

Some people, however, should not get the flu vaccine. If you have any severe allergies to any part of the vaccine or have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome, speak with your primary care provider before getting the shot.

Can I catch the flu from the flu vaccine?

Patients often tell me that they are hesitant to get the shot because they heard you can get the flu from the flu shot. The shot does not contain any live flu virus so it cannot cause the flu.

Some people do get a sore arm or redness where they got the shot. Sometimes, low-grade fever, headache or muscle aches can occur for a day or two.

What else can I do to prevent illness during the flu season?

Even if you’re healthy and haven’t had the flu, it is still good to take preventive measures. The flu is a serious disease and can lead to pneumonia and blood infections, and it can cause diarrhea and seizures in children. While the flu shot is the best form of protection against the flu, also be sure to wash your hands often, stay away from those who are sick, get plenty of rest, eat a well-balanced, healthy diet and get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity in each week.

Flu vaccines are available now. I recommend taking a few minutes to get this protective vaccine and improve your chances of staying healthy during this flu season.

Hope for Diabetes Patients: Dr. Estelle Lin on Preventing and Reversing the Disease

Want to improve your health? Turn off the television while you eat and savor every bite.

This simple suggestion is just one of the ways Dr. Estelle Lin says people can change their lifestyles to prevent or combat diabetes. She practices Internal Medicine and works with diabetic patients at Pacific Medical Centers to ease and reverse the impacts of the disease so that they can live the lives they want.

“I have a lot of patients who have impressed me because they’ve taken control of their lives,” says Dr. Lin. “It inspires me when they come back and tell me they feel so much better, that they have so much energy and when they eat they don’t feel tired. Losing weight is often a focus for diabetics, but my top goal is that my patients feel empowered.”

Pre-diabetes can be asymptomatic, which makes it difficult for people to realize that they have it. Dr. Lin recommends that anyone with risk factors—like a history of the disease in their family—be screened regularly. In the later stages of diabetes, symptoms can include insatiable thirst followed by frequent urination and chronic fatigue.

Patients diagnosed with pre-diabetes can absolutely make changes so it doesn’t progress. She explains, “Exercise is important. The recommendation is 150 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, which works out to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise.”

More importantly, learn about what’s in your food, especially when it comes to carbohydrates. “Most people think of diabetes as limiting sweets, but diabetes is really a dysregulation of how one’s body responds to insulin and glucose, both of which can be found in carbohydrates” says Dr. Lin. “There are carbs in every food. That daily beer, wine or soda adds up. All have a high carb content.” Hidden carbs also lurk in foods like rice, bread and pasta as well as sauces like ketchup, soy sauce and, sadly, sriracha. “Be aware of your total carb intake and don’t be excessive,” says Lin. “We need carbs, but it’s all about portion control.”

Getting a diagnosis of diabetes can be daunting, but Lin tells patients to not give up hope. “There’s some fear and denial and feelings of helplessness,” she says. “Many people have seen diabetics with insulin injections and needles. I reassure them that not everyone needs insulin and a lot of them can control it with diet and exercise. It’s important to overcome that fear and know what the facts are. They may not have this complication in 10 or 20 years.”

Having a strong support network of family and friends is key—a network that is also willing to make lifestyle changes. “If someone has diabetes, everyone who eats with that person needs to improve their diet,” says Dr. Lin. “If you have a diabetic in your family or community, they need the support. Go on a walk or a hike with them. These are small things that improve the life of the whole community, not just the diabetic’s.”

The most important factor? Participate in your own healing. “It’s a partnership,” says Dr. Lin. “My colleagues and I are invested in helping the patient, but we need the patient to be interested, committed and motivated. This disease can be completely controlled or even reversed, but it’s not about just taking a medication. You have to be an active participant. Those patients have the greatest success.”