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Health prescriptions for the Year of the Fire Monkey

Based on recent national statistics, doctor Monica Cabral has a forecast: more and more people are smoking and are becoming obese.

Thus, just as the fire monkey is very agile, Dr. Cabal of St. Luke’s Medical Center prescribed devoting more time to be more active. According to the Chinese calendar, the Year of the Fire Monkey is a time for adventure, discovery, change and progress. With many risk-taking and challenges ahead, Cabral says it best to watch over your health and well-being.
“Exercise keeps your cholesterol level down, maintains your heart and lung health, and controls blood sugar, so that’s how you can use exercise as medicine,” maintains the doctor, who specializes in internal medicine and endocrinology.
Cabral, herself, is into yoga, which she enjoys for its calmness, help in developing flexibility, and because “you can do it anywhere and anytime and you do not need a machine to do it, unlike aerobics wherein you need a machine and it keeps your heart rate up.
May it be the traditional yoga or the in-trend running, cross-training, triathlons and spinning classes, the doctor advised being more physically engaged.
But, she cautioned, “Just because you’re exercising, does not mean that you have to double, triple the amount of calories that you take. Because exercising is not the main thing you should do if you’re trying to lose weight. It’s still eating less...It’s not hard to lose weight if you’re paying attention to what you eat.”
Keep everything in moderation, she says, by avoiding too much calories, especially those from desserts, fatty food, iced tea and soft drinks, which are all “empty calories.”
“Five hundred calories a day for the rest of your life is not sustainable,” Dr. Cabral notes. “Cut out 500 to 2000 calories a day, and you will lose a pound a week. Instead of six cups, take just three cups of rice a day.”
There is no such thing as “magic food,” she stresses.
“White rice and brown rice, if you eat the same amount, they are about the same number of calories. It’s just that brown rice has more fiber. Maybe your sugar will not go up fast with the brown rice, but if you eat too much brown rice, you’ll gain weight. It’s the same thing,” she clarifies.
The same is true with eating more vegetables, she says, because “If you eat too much of any food, that is still too much.”
Also, some people, Dr. Cabral says, has this misconception that it is healthier to eat more bread instead of rice. “But if you eat the same amount of calories as the rice, that’s the same thing. You actually eat more bread because it’s not as filling as the rice. You cannot approximate the amount of calories that you take with the bread. For Filipinos, rice is a mainstay, so you feel more satisfied when you eat rice.”
She does not recommend juicing as a weight loss option, she says, “especially for those who have abnormal blood sugar levels because you take out the fibers from the fruit and your sugar tends to go up faster when there is less fiber in what you eat, and what happens is you take in more calories from the juice. So, if you’re trying to lose weight, if you’re overweight, don’t think juicing is appropriate for you.”
What one needs, according to her, is a meal with balanced portions of carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits and proteins.
Likewise, she stresses that in shedding off pounds, “There is no magic diet. You really have to cut some calories, so go more for lifestyle modification.”
Among those promising rapid weight loss through healthy lifestyle modification is Cohen diet, which, according to Cohen Lifestyle Centre chief executive officer Barbara Young, can make one lose an average of three to four kilos per month or up to 15 pounds in a month, if one follows a personalized lifestyle and diet plan especially tailored by the program’s eponymous founder, Dr. Rami Cohen, based on one’s lifestyle and medical records like blood test, medical history, and bone structure determined through foot size.
Based on blood tests, Young explains, Dr. Cohen personalizes a program by studying how one’s kidney processes sugar, so one pays for the P60,000-worth program for its “precision” and “no guesswork” methods, including monitoring clients’ progress and teaching them how to prepare healthy but delicious and filling meals.
“It’s hard to follow any diet program if you’re hungry,” Young says. “You cannot live without any sugar,” she notes. So, in lieu of rice, the Cohen diet initially prescribes carbohydrates taken from other sources like simple carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, grated and steamed cauliflower and pounded crackers, so one should not go hungry if under the program.
Salt is also allowed, she says, as the body needs salt but not in excess. The program, however, recommends regular salt without any added flavor.
After the six-month program, Cohen diet clients reportedly reaped benefits ranging from better skin condition, to a slimmer waistline resulting in less heart problem risk and controlled sugar level; to an improved love life leading to marriage and even late but healthy pregnancies. Parents who have tried the diet, Young says, were able to pass on their healthy eating habits to their children.
The weight, according to her, is transformed into higher energy level, which she says, is noticeable four to five days from the program’s start.
As for the upcoming elections, Cabral has this prescription: “I hope that our government officials would practice what they preach. If they’re looking after the health of our countrymen, then they should take care of their health as well.”

For more information about Cohen, visit

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