Research-Based Health Tips for the Season – Dr. Jay


As the seasons change, so do our diet and exercise routines. The weather may feel like a barrier to exercise and our food choices may be enriched with holiday indulgences. It is not uncommon to gain a few pounds during the colder months. The Charleston Daily asks Dr. Jay, how can Charlestonians maintain those svelte summer physiques? Here are her suggestions, with research to back them up.

1. Start the day with a goal for being healthy. There is evidence that when individuals think about exercise, it helps them meet their goals [1]. Whether it is visualizing yourself at the top of the Cooper River Bridge or playing fetch with your dog at James Island County Park, take one of the 24 hours in your day and make it about you.

2. Park a little out of the way. This is not hard at all if you are going somewhere downtown. Having dinner at the Macintosh, you may have to park by the Warehouse. In your neighborhood, try parking on the other side of the grocery store parking lot. This built in space forces you to walk, thus improving cardiovascular health [2].

3. Be romantic and share dinner. Food sharing is a great way to cut calories and to foster relationships. This active area of research [3] can be utilized by best friends, lovers or spouses – anyone you don’t mind getting cozy with. Go to your favorite casual restaurant, sit on the same side of the table and split a dish. Table manners be darned. This may not be appreciated at Peninsula or Charleston Place (actually it may-service is exceptional at both restaurants). I recently shared a great bowl of pho this way (caveat- my dining companion and I now have the same cold).

4. Pack your lunch. I know it can be hard to resist the loaded baked potato bar at the ART cafeteria, but last night’s leftovers or a homemade salad would be better for you. A recent article proved that a healthy packed lunch can decrease a marker of liver inflammation [4]. Have a sweet coworker with home-baked banana bread? Just savor the taste of one bite. Don’t worry, someone brought a batch of holiday cookies in from Sugar for your third afternoon snack.

5. Eat real. Many of my friends and patients tell me that it’s okay to have two scoops of ice cream or sugar-free holiday goodies. The fact is, the sugar-free treats are loaded with non-digestible sugar alcohols. The sugar alcohols can make IBS flare [5] and there you are in the waiting room, waiting for an appointment with moi (and sorry, I’m running late.) If you are not diabetic, consider having some real ice cream or pie but opt for the kids-size portion.


  1. Lebon F, Collet C, Guillot A. Benefits of motor imagery training on muscle strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Jun;24(6):1680-7.
  2. Murtagh EM, Murphy MH, Boone-Heinonen J. Walking: the first steps in cardiovascular disease prevention. Curr Opin Cardiol. 2010 Sep;25(5):490-6
  3. Neely E, Walton M, Stephens C. Young people’s food practices and social relationships. A thematic synthesis. Appetite. 2014 Nov;82:50-60
  4. Iwamoto M, Yagi K, Yazumi K, Komine A, Shirouchi B, Sato M. Eating a healthy lunch improves serum alanine aminotransferase activity. Lipids Health Dis. 2013 Sep 14;12:134.
  5. Halmos EP, Power VA, Shepherd SJ, Gibson PR, Muir JG. A diet low in FODMAPs reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterology. 2014 Jan;146(1):67-75
Categories: Charleston, Eating, exercise, Healthy, Winter | Leave a comment

How Can I Be Healthier – Dr. Jay


The Doctor is IN. Welcome to Healthy Charleston.

 As a physician, I am often asked, “How can I be healthier?”

Honestly, I ask myself that question daily.

The fact is most doctors have about 2 hours of formal nutrition training in medical school – and most of my colleagues cut class or slept through those lectures. Throughout my internship, residency and fellowship, I have had to self teach myself everything that I know about exercise and proper nutrition.  I still have many unanswered questions. Should I run up or down the Ravenel Bridge? Are calories the only thing that matter? Should I graze or eat big? Are grits really good for me?  Are synthetic sugars safe? What is a safe amount of alcohol consumption? Should bacon be banned? Is running or walking better? Over the next several months, I will tackle these topics and more in this column.

That brings me to our first big question: Does the place where we live and work make a difference in our overall health?

Without any hesitation, I say yes!

During my internship and residency in NYC, I found that no matter what I did, I was not optimizing a healthy lifestyle as it is impossible there. The daily threat of getting hit by a car, molested on a subway platform and breathing toxic fumes cannot be denied. After years of the high stress living, returning to Charleston made perfect sense.  Charleston is absolutely conducive to healthy living. The only proof one needs is to step outside and look around or check out the photography page at the Charleston Daily. The pristine marshes, majestic sunsets, and serene beaches combined with manageable traffic patterns, relatively low noise pollution and really polite neighbors, make for a backdrop of relaxation. The stress of the day will melt away, if we let it. So rest assured, just by living in Charleston, you are making a healthy choice compared to living elsewhere.

This column will feature my (sometimes unorthodox) thoughts about how we as Charlestonians, or even as temporary guests, can make healthy living choices while maximizing all of the beauty the Holy City has to offer. Questions, suggestions and comments are very welcome. Until then, be well, Charleston! ~Dr. Jay

Categories: Charleston Daily, Dr. Jay, health, Healthy, wellness | 2 Comments

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