Sunday, February 28, 2010


Why do the experts keep changing what is considered healthy? One day, wine is bad for you. The next, it’s recommended on a daily basis. And coffee—is it good or bad? Then there’s the low-fat versus low-carb debate. What are we supposed to believe?

So, this is our quest to find out what is truly healthy for our bodies so we can thrive and live as God intended. Since we were kids, there have been so many changes to what we eat and consider to be "food." We went from drinking regular soda to diet soda, from sugar to high fructose corn syrup to saccharine to aspartame to sucralose to "new" natural sweeteners like agave nectar and stevia. We went from cooking with lard and butter to Crisco, margarine, and various other engineered products. And on one of our recent trips to a health food store, we came across a line of salad dressings that had no fat, no calories, no nothing. Then what’s in it?

Through our research, reading, and personal experience, we hope we’ve found a way of living—eating and playing—that is both healthy and sustainable as a permanent lifestyle. We will cover topics such as diets, sweeteners, preservatives, fats, organic foods, kitchenware, and exercise.

We hope you find this inspiring, entertaining, and useful in helping you make healthful decisions. And we hope this will make it easier for you to “mind your health.”

First, a little something about us…

Maria’s Story—

About a year ago I decided to stop all the dieting and be happy with my current weight. Well that though lasted for about a day. Why should I be happy with my current weight when I knew it wasn’t a healthy weight? Why should I compromise? Plus, I looked in the mirror and I knew I was not happy. It was time to make a change. So I decided to get healthy.

On September 7, 2008, I started running and reading all the health information I could get my hands on. I wanted to learn how to eat right and become a runner. I was done with fad diets and wanted to change my life permanently.

I have always battled to control my weight. In 10th grade I lost a lot of weight—but the starvation, anorexia, and bulimia was just too much for my body to handle. This lasted nine months until I finally collapsed during a practice track meet. Not long after, I was back to the same old battles.

I knew something had to change.

I slowly reintroduced so-called “healthy” low-fat foods but was always fearful I’d eat too much. I had to stay active or I would gain it all back. I continued playing varsity tennis doubles and joined the track and field team doing long jump and high jump. About six months before senior prom, my date and I started running at the local park. (I only ran because I was motivated to lose the weight; after prom I never ran at the park again.)

In college (photo: early Freshman year visiting Griffith Park, Los Angeles), I packed on the “Freshman 15.” I was so ashamed but was way too stressed out to do anything about it. No time for regular exercise and all the high calorie starchy foods in the dining commons did me in. Sure, I would hit the gym every so often but I wasn’t consistent. I had really hit my low point.

Then in medical school, more stress and ridiculously cold Milwaukee winters made it impossible for me to exercise. And since I was on a tight budget, I couldn’t afford to buy meat. So I ate a salad and baked potato almost every night and purchased a Health Rider (you may recall the mid-90s infomercial). It actually worked! I slimmed down for my wedding, though not as much as I would have liked.

After we got married and had that extra income, we were able to eat out more. Yippee! We ate like kings—lots of fried foods, beer, frozen custard, and pretty regular late night snacking.

During my endocrine rotation, everybody was talking about the Atkins diet. I gave it a try, taking my husband along for the ride. We did this religiously for awhile.

Then in residency, the highly restrictive Atkins diet got to me so I tried the South Beach Diet for a few years. When I got my first job as a physician in private practice, I discovered the Abs Diet and I did that for about two years. I followed that with Weight Watchers for about 18 months. But no matter what diet I was on, I couldn’t keep the weight off. It was so frustrating!

After reading several books this year, I decided to challenge myself to be healthy, not skinny. I also challenged myself to start running, something I knew I was horrible at. But I secretly wanted to truly consider myself a runner.

While this is all a work in progress—and I’m a work in progress, too!—I hope to “mind my health” in the healthiest way possible and live my life to the fullest.

Dan’s Story—

I’ve always been thin. I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted, and mostly what I liked was junk, but I’d still never put on any pounds. Given to my own vices, I could skip meals and hardly eat one day and the very next day could gorge on a massive plate of spaghetti until I was so full I had no choice but to lay down on the floor afterward. And still, I would not tip the scales one way or another. It was just how I was. (photo: 1987, middle school graduation)

I was relatively active, however. I loved biking and would bike for hours on Saturdays, sometimes making the round trip from Huntington Beach to Long Beach with a backpack full of camera equipment. I never packed a lunch during these full-day excursions, and only drank water from drinking fountains along the way. I’ve always been one of those “oops, I forgot to eat” people. But that didn't mean I wouldn't sometimes stop by Carl's Jr. for a Western Bacon Cheeseburger, large fries, and soda just before getting home.

In college I did manage to put on a “Freshman 5-or-so.” My mom said I needed it and was happy to see a little “fat on my face” for a change. What she didn’t know, and what most people wouldn’t have thought just by looking at me, was that I was anything but physically fit. The biking in high school was great, but my true cardiovascular fitness was still lacking.

After moving to Milwaukee to join my bride for her last two years of medical school, I started working and stopped biking altogether. You can’t bike in the snow and the oppressive humidity of the summers just made me want to go to an air-conditioned mall or sip coffee in a bookstore.

When we moved to San Diego for Maria’s residency training and her eventual job here, I once again worked full time and allowed myself the freedom of not exercising while eating a diet rich in carbs, fats, and salt—basically, junk. Eventually, I was 17 pounds heavier than I was at high school graduation. But unless I was at the beach or wearing a very unlikely tight-fitting shirt, nobody would have guessed about the love handles and belly fat I had acquired.

About five years ago I learned that appearance isn’t everything. I looked skinny, but I had excess fat around my waist—this alone put me at an even higher risk for heart disease than if I had that fat more evenly dispersed on my body. The fact that I am Asian further increases my risk. Nice.

At Maria’s urging I had a carotid artery scan that confirmed the early stages of heart disease. On top of that, I also had borderline high blood pressure, putting me at increased risk of stroke. Double nice. I was put on daily cholesterol and blood pressure medications, and I wasn’t even 35 years old! I needed to make some changes.

Now, with Maria’s inspiration and determination, we are making drastically different choices with what we eat and are currently training for several running events this year.