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Doctor Lee's Blog

Musings from The Doctor of Fitness: Fitness Trainer, Nutrition Expert, & Sports Medicine Physician

The purpose of this blog is to write informally for anyone who is interested in fitness, strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, sports medicine, and breaking fitness and nutrition news. If you'd like to reach me directly, you can contact me here. Feel free to take a look at my professional bio and my not-so-professional bio.

Your Financial and Tax Health: Watching Your Paycheck

on Tuesday, 10 March 2020. Posted in Doctor of Fitness

While a tax bill is inevitable for some filers, the reality is that many of these liabilities could have been avoided. In this part of our financial health series, we’ll take a look at one of the more common pitfalls many taxpayers fall into: not looking at their paycheck. 

Back in the day, it was pretty easy to look at your check. After all you got handed one every week that you would then take to the bank. If something wasn’t right, you would notice pretty quickly. With most payroll checks being direct deposited these days, it’s fairly common to only have a vague idea of what’s being subtracted from your income. Ignoring the numbers on your check may save you time on a busy Friday afternoon, but it is not the smartest thing to do.

At some point early in their employment with a company, an employee will be required to fill out a form W-4. This form basically tells the employer how much federal and state tax to withhold from the paycheck. Although it’s only a one-page form, it can be confusing. To add to the madness, the IRS has completely revised the W-4 Form for this year. Here is an FAQ from the IRS so you can get up to speed on the changes. Pay careful attention to the form and be sure to fill it out carefully. If you have questions, contact your Human Resources department. 

There will usually be other deductions from your check as well, such as those for retirement savings and for health care. Make sure you thoroughly understand what is being taken out and why. Some of those numbers can make a big difference at tax time. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, don’t hesitate to make changes. If you do it early enough in the year, you still have time to make a difference. 

It’s your money. Keep track of it by watching your paycheck. 

Your Financial and Tax Health: Contributing to an IRA

on Tuesday, 03 March 2020. Posted in Doctor of Fitness

With the holidays behind us, and winter still holding the land in its icy grip, our thoughts naturally turns toward spring. And spring brings with it the yearly ritual of taxes. In our series on your financial and tax health, we dive into how to navigate the challenge. 

Unfortunately, in the world of taxes, by the time you realize there’s a problem, it’s often too late to do anything about it. All we’re left with is lessons to remember for next year. The one major exception to that rule is contributing to a traditional IRA. It’s one of the few steps you can take after the first of the year to reduce your tax burden THIS year.

Contributing to a traditional IRA reduces your taxable income by the amount you put in— up to $7,000 if you’re over 50 ($6,000 is you’re under the age of 50.) So, if you make $50,000 and make a $5,000 dollar contribution, your taxable income is reduced to $45,000, and that’s before subtracting out your standard or itemized deduction.

Of course, there’s a catch. Your possible deduction might be reduced if you (or your spouse) are covered by a retirement plan at work and your income exceeds certain levels. Here’s a table from the IRS to give you an idea if you qualify.

The beauty of this deduction is that you’re not just trying to wriggle out of a tricky tax situation. You’re also saving for your retirement. It’s a win-win! And if that weren’t enough, you can choose to make your contribution for the previous year, all the way up to the filing deadline of April 15th.

Not that’s something to make both you and your bank account feel healthy!

Healthy Eating for Kids

on Tuesday, 25 February 2020. Posted in Doctor of Fitness

If you’re a parent, you already know children can be picky eaters. There’s the kid that will only eat French fries and pizza. There’s the kid that won’t eat anything red. Or the kid who considers the entire meal ruined if there’s a pickle in sight. The list goes on and on.

Getting your kids to eat healthy doesn’t start with them, it starts with you. It’s hard to convince them of the value of healthy eating when you’re chowing down a candy bar and a bag of chips. Set a good example by eating healthy yourself, both at meal times and in between, with your choice of snack foods.

You’re more likely to follow a set of eating guidelines if you have a say in it. That’s why it’s important to involve your kids in planning what’s in the cupboard. Listen to them and take their food preferences into account. Don’t force them to eat something they don’t want. Instead find healthy alternatives to foods they do like.

Family mealtime may seem old-fashioned in this age of cellphones and streaming services, but don’t let all those entertainment options disrupt an important family time. A regular dinner time is the perfect time to introduce new foods, and it helps avoid the formation of unhealthy snacking habits. It may take a little juggling to pick a time that fits everyone’s busy schedule, but the effort is well worth it.

Getting your kids to eat right is a great way to set them up with a lifetime of good health, so try out these tips. It beats chopping up some vegetables into their food and telling them it’s ‘seasoning.’

Healthy Eating for Seniors

on Tuesday, 18 February 2020. Posted in Doctor of Fitness

It’s no secret that things change as we get older. Physical tasks that we once performed effortlessly now take a little more time, and we’re likely to be sore the next day. The same is true with our diets. Our metabolism slows as we age, meaning we need fewer calories. However we also need more calcium to fight the loss of bone density and more fiber to stay regular. It’s tough to recognize these changing needs, which is one reason why nearly one in four older adults have poor nutrition.

A well-balanced diet is an important part of staying healthy as we get older. While our appetites tend to diminish, our nutritional requirements stay the same. That means we need to do more with less. Nutrient rich foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein can supply many of these requirements without the added bulk.

Our immune system weakens as we get older, so it’s important to give it a boost. Foods like citrus, broccoli, garlic and ginger can bolster our immunity. Meanwhile we’ll want to avoid things like mayonnaise and raw eggs.

Like it or not, as we grow older we become more susceptible to chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. While no diet can completely prevent the onset of these conditions, avoiding excess calories, processed foods and foods high in sodium and sugar can definitely help.

Eating right doesn't have to be complicated. Eating a variety of foods from all food groups can help supply the nutrients we need as we age and make sure we get to enjoy our golden years.

Healthy Eating When You’re Eating Out

on Tuesday, 11 February 2020. Posted in Doctor of Fitness

Who doesn’t love dining out, especially on Valentine’s Day? It’s usually a lot more romantic to pick what you want to eat rather than picking through the refrigerator trying to figure out which combination of leftovers to heat up. Even better, there’s no mess to clean up, leaving you with more time to devote to that special someone.

However, if you’re trying to eat healthy, dining out does present a challenge. Research is your best defense. Check online and find out as much about the restaurant as you can. Many restaurants have their menus online and some even have nutrition information. You can find out what’s healthy and what’s not before you ever leave your couch.

Don’t arrive hungry. When your stomach’s growling, anything looks good. If you know you’re going to be eating out that night, plan lighter meals during the day.

Take your time with your meal. You’re paying for it, so you might as well take the time to enjoy it. There’s also a biological reason. Our stomachs work on a time delay. It can take a full 20 minutes before your stomach tells you it is full. Fast eaters are often overeaters.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a healthy option. Check with your server. They know the menu better than you do. Could you have a salad instead of French fries on the side? Or fruit instead of ice cream? There are likely plenty of options available, but you won’t know unless you ask.

Sure, Valentine’s Day can be a little decadent, but it doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Make sure to do your homework before you choose a restaurant, and take your time eating. After all, what could be more romantic than good health?

Healthy Eating for Families

on Tuesday, 04 February 2020. Posted in Doctor of Fitness

Have your kids ever given you a funny look when you tried to feed them broccoli? Has your spouse scrunched up his or her face in horror at the tofu casserole you laid out before them and suggested eating out? Needless to say, eating healthy can be challenging, especially for the whole family. Don’t make it more challenging than you have to.

The first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with basic nutrition. Once you do, you’ll have a pretty good idea right off the bat whether certain foods are good or bad. Fried foods are obviously not your best bet for healthy eating, whereas it’s hard to miss with green, leafy vegetables. However, you need to go farther and get into the habit of reading nutrition labels. What is a recommended serving size? (English and Spanish PDFs) What’s really in that box of cereal on the grocery store shelf?

An equally important component is time. We have busy schedules. We’re tired, and it’s so much easier to just toss something in the microwave. In order to eat healthy, you’ll need to plan ahead. Try to do as much of the preparation as you can beforehand. Pick out what meals you want to have and prepare a menu, so you have the ingredients you need when you need them.

Try to get the whole family involved. Do the Word Scramble together! Plan things together and let each family member have a say in what goes on the table. That way you’re likely to get more cooperation for your healthy eating plan and maybe even a little help with the cooking. It sure beats those looks of horror.

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