Your HPV Vaccine Questions, Answered

Syringe with flu vaccine. Hand holding syringe with hpv vaccine inside.

If there were a vaccine that could ward off STIs and cancers, people would line up for it—right? 

You’d think the answer to that question would be, unequivocally, “yes!” And yet, plenty of folks say “no” to a vaccine that prevents the cancer-causing human papillomavirus, or HPV. 

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. (It’s so prevalent, in fact, nearly 80% of people will get in their lifetimes.) Human papillomavirus is the cause of nearly all cervical cancers, and can also lead to cancers of the throat, vulva, vagina, penis or anus. 

Luckily, there’s a vaccine for that.

Gardasil 9, the HPV vaccine approved by the FDA in 2014, prevents infection from the HPV types that cause over 90% of these cancers. It also guards against two strains that are responsible for the majority of genital warts.

Since most adults have already been exposed to HPV, the vaccine is recommended for girls and boys ages 11 or 12. However, it can be given as early as age nine—and as late as 26. (Some doctors even recommend it for people as old as 45.)

HPV vaccination is preventing cancer-causing infections—so why aren’t more teens and children receiving them? 

Despite its overwhelming safety and efficacy, fewer than half of American adolescents have been fully vaccinated against HPV. And while adoption is low for a variety of reasons, myths, misinformation, lack of knowledge about the vaccine still are a huge contributing factor. 

To help clear the air about this important and potentially life-saving vaccination, we sat down with Dr. Lisa Taublee, a member of Zoom’s Women’s Health Team. Read on to learn more about the vaccine, who it’s for (spoiler: it’s not just for girls!), and why you should consider it for yourself or your child.

ZOOM+Care women's health doctor

1. Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about HPV vaccinations today. CaN You Tell us WHAT HPV is?

Human papillomavirus, known as HPV, is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. There are hundreds of different strains that infect different areas of the body—some may cause warts on the hands and feet, while others may infect the mucous membranes such as the genitals and cervix in women. The strains of HPV that are considered to be high-risk can cause certain types of cancer such as cervical cancer.

2. How common is the virus?

It’s estimated that about 80% of sexually active men and women will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lives—though many experts believe that all sexually active adults have been infected at some point in their lives

3. How does HPV spread?

HPV is sexually transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact—unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

4. What are the risk factors of HPV?

The risk factors of HPV are dependent upon a patient’s number of sexual partners, as well as their age. If they start having sex earlier, they’re more susceptible to infection.

5. What are some common misconceptions about HPV?

There’s a perception that men are not affected by (HPV) because they can be asymptomatic. The truth is, men and women alike can be exposed to the virus. Even though men might not show symptoms, they play a key role in the transmission of HPV to women.

It’s also important to note that there is no currently approved test for HPV in men.

7. What is the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is a series of three injections over the course of six months. At ZOOM+Care, we use a vaccine called Gardasil 9. It protects against nine strains of the virus, mostly targeting the high-risk strains that can cause certains types of cancer

8. Why are HPV vaccines important and what are the benefits?

To put it simply, HPV vaccination is cancer prevention. The HPV virus is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the U.S., and the vaccine can prevent more than 32,000 of these cancers from ever developing.

9.Who can benefit from the HPV vaccine? Is it just for women? 

The HPV vaccine benefits both males and females. It’s recommended to begin vaccination at age 11 or 12, but it’s approved through age 45.

11. Are there any side effects of the HPV vaccine?

The side effects associated with the HPV vaccination are injection site reactions, as well as possible headaches, nausea, fevers, and dizziness.

12. Are there any myths about the HPV vaccine?

There is a stigma surrounding the HPV vaccine because it targets an infection that is sexually transmitted—and it’s typically given to children who are not yet sexually active. Parents don’t like to think about the fact that their child will eventually be sexually active, but the point vaccinating early is to administer the vaccine well before sexual activity begins. It’s the best way to protect children from life-threatening cancers later on.

Many parents also have concerns that vaccination would encourage or support youth promiscuity, a belief which is not supported by data.

13. What else can you do to Prevent HPV?

Barrier methods, such as condoms, are a form of birth control that can prevent infection—though it isn’t 100% guaranteed to be effective. 1

Studies also show that having an IUD may lower person’s risk of cervical cancer by helping to fight off an HPV infection.

14. Can people already infected by HPV benefit from vaccination?

People already infected by HPV can still benefit from vaccination. There are several strains of the virus that this vaccine provides immunity against—so someone that’s been exposed to one strain can still prevent contraction of strains they have not yet been exposed to. 

More questions? We’re here. Schedule a Women’s Health visit today!

#TogetherWeZoom: Meet Megan Simmons, Recruiter and Talent Acquisition Specialist

#TogetherWeZoom talent acquisition


In case our ten brand-spanking-new clinics haven’t tipped you off, we’re growing—and fast. But all those shiny new clinics? They need hardworking, passionate people to run them.

Enter Zoom’s Talent Acquisition team: the secret weapon behind our rapid growth.

Having the right people is vital to our success, and our recruiters are adept at finding candidates with the right skill set, and—most importantly—the right drive and personality to deliver the outstanding service you deserve.

As demand for ZOOM+Care increases, so will our presence in PNW neighborhoods—which means our recruiters have been (and will continue to be) busting their butts. So, in celebration of all the hard work they do, we sat down with one of our Talent Acquisition all-stars, Megan Simmons.

While Megan has only been with us since July 2019, she’s already had an incredible impact on ZOOM+Care. (Fun fact: she recently won a Zoomie Award for “Most Quality Hires.”)

Effusive, quick-witted, and a keen judge of character, Megan brightens our office with her smile and sly sense of humor every day. Get to know more about her below:

what inspires you most about your work?

Working at a company that is so mission-driven is powerful. We are working to improve healthcare accessibility and change the way that healthcare has traditionally operated. I get to hire incredibly talented people that will ultimately bring patient care into communities in Portland and Seattle and there is literally nothing cooler.

What advice do you have for prospective candidates? 

Do your research! We hire learners here at ZOOM+Care and want professionals who are excited to learn and grow with us. Show me you are adaptable, direct, and transparent.

What are three words you would use to describe ZOOM+Care?

Fast, Transparent, and Innovative. 

What is your favorite ZOOM+Care perk or benefit? 

Working with smart, hard-working coworkers who also enjoy the chicken strips at River Pig is a huge highlight. 

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I enjoy waiting in lines because it builds anticipation. Waiting in line for a table at a restaurant? Don’t threaten me with a good time!


Be Your Own Valentine. Practice Self-Compassion this Feb 14th.

Practice self-compassion this Valentine's Day

Is there any holiday more divisive than Valentine’s Day? For many, it’s a day to rekindle romance and spend an evening with someone special. For others, an excuse to celebrate all the love they feel, whether it’s love for friends, family members, or even four-legged companions. And for some, Valentine’s Day is just plain difficult—a glaring pink-and-red reminder of all their romantic disappointments. 

Whether you recently suffered a breakup, have a one-sided crush, or are experiencing hardcore Tinder fatigue, February 14th is likely to trigger some painful emotions. So, what should we do when everything is not coming up roses on V-Day? 

Science has a suggestion: Instead of focusing on romantic relationships, try showing love to yourself this Valentine’s Day. 

Psychologists refer to the act of being kind to yourself as “self-compassion” or self-love, and—according to burgeoning research—it’s associated with improved mental health and well-being. Numerous studies have linked self-compassion to reduced depression, stress, and disordered eating. Self-compassion may also boost happiness, self-esteem, and even immune function.

But, despite evidence that practicing self-compassion is beneficial, many are resist practicing it. Some of us have a deeply rooted belief that negative self-talk is motivating—that it pushes us to work harder, perform better, and achieve our goals. Others worry that self-compassion is a form of weakness and self-indulgence. Many believe it’s a selfish act that will undermine motivation.

The reality couldn’t be farther from the truth, however. Research shows that being kind to ourselves helps us become stronger, more resilient, and less focused on personal issues. According to a 2011 paper published in Psychological Science, it can even help us overcome adversity. The study indicated that higher levels of self-compassion were related to improved emotional recovery following marital separation and divorce. In another study, veterans who measured higher on the self-compassion scale were less likely to develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

So, how do we learn to practice the invaluable art of self-love and compassion? Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in self-compassion research and Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, describes self-compassion as a three-step process: 

Self-kindness. Chances are, you have a voice inside your head telling you how worthless, dumb, or inadequate you are. Self-kindness is all about replacing harsh self-criticism with kinder, gentler words. Instead of telling yourself, “I’m so unlovable. I’m going to be alone forever,” say “I’m lonelier than I’d like to be. Maybe now is the time to find ways to connect with others.” 

Common humanity. Acknowledge that suffering is a universal experience and not a personal failure. Tell yourself, “Everyone gets lonely sometimes. I’m not the only person who feels down today.” 

Mindfulness. Observe your negative emotions without focusing on them or suppressing them. Simply tell yourself, “I’m feeling sad and lonely  today, and I’m having a hard time.”

We understand that self-compassion seems strange and unnatural at first, so we’ve compiled a few simple exercises to get you started. Go on, send some of that loving-kindness your way this V-Day: 

4 Strategies for Self-Compassion

1. Ask yourself, “Would I talk to a friend this way?”

Think about a time a friend came to you for help after failing or getting rejected. How did you respond to them? What words did you choose? What tone of voice did you use when speaking with them? 

Now, think of a similar situation in which you were struggling, and compare your two answers. Were you as kind to yourself as you were to your friend?

Chances are, you’d never talk to a friend the way your inner voice speaks to you. 

2. Give yourself a loving touch. 

It feels good to receive a warm hug or comforting touch when you’re upset, right? While this exercise might seem silly, trying giving yourself a soothing touch next time you feel down. Place one hand over your heart, hug or gently rock your body, or simply hold your hands together in your lap.

According to Dr. Neff, “research indicates that physical touch releases oxytocin provides a sense of security, soothes distressing emotions and calms cardiovascular stress.”

 3. Memorize a set of compassionate phrases. 

When you find yourself caught in a barrage of self-criticism, close your eyes, and acknowledge your suffering. Say to yourself, “I feel sad. This is a difficult situation, and I’m having a hard time.” Then, remind yourself that everyone struggles. Say, “Sadness is part of life. Everyone feels this way sometimes. I’m not alone.” 

Now, replace your negative self-talk with words of kindness. “May I be kind to myself. May I forgive myself. May I be strong. May I accept myself as I am.”

4. Write yourself a self-compassion letter 

If you’re struggling with self-compassion, take some time to write yourself a short, encouraging letter. Here’s how: 

  • Think of something that you feel ashamed, insecure, or not good enough. It could be related to your personality, the way you behave, or your relationships. 
  • Once you identify something, describe how it makes you feel. Ashamed? Sorrowful? Angry? Try and be as honest with yourself as possible. 
  • Next, write yourself a letter expressing compassion for parts of yourself that you dislike. Take the perspective of a caring friend, and imagine the encouraging things they might say to you in this situation. 

Save the letter, and come back to it when you need a reminder to be self-compassionate. 

While self-compassion is a useful tool for boosting happiness, it’s important to stay in tune with yourself and identify when you need expert advice. If you or someone you know needs guidance this Valentine’s Day (and beyond), we’re here. 

4 Science-Backed Reasons to Love Love this Valentine’s Day 

Health benefits of love this Valentine's Day

Toddler-sized teddy bears, chalky-tasting conversation hearts, a stress-inducing color palette: There are a lot of things we love to hate about Valentine’s Day. But, at its core, V-Day is not a holiday about roses, or even romance. It’s about love. And there’s a lot to love about love—especially when it comes to your mental and physical health.

According to a growing body of scientific research, love boasts some exciting health benefits. So, in honor of Valentine’s day, we’re examining the ways in which loving relationships (and not just romantic ones, either) can help your mind and body. Read on for four reasons to share the love this February—and beyond:

1. Love pushes you to take better care of yourself.

It may seem obvious, but having a loving partner pushes you to take better care of your health. 

Because there’s a lot of denial surrounding medical illness, single individuals may be more likely to shrug off their symptoms. Loving partners encourage each other to go to the doctor—even when they don’t want to. Moreover, couples can often tell if their significant other is suffering from a health problem before their S.O. does. 

The data backs this up, too. Studies show that people who are paired off may be able to detect melanoma earlier than singles since their partners tend to notice suspicious moles right away. 

Beyond helping you spot serious health conditions, your romantic partner may help you change your unhealthy habits. According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, both men and women were around 40% more likely to increase the amount of exercise they got when their partner did. The same findings applied to smokers: People were also about 40% more likely to ditch cigarettes when their partner quit as well. Now that’s what we call teamwork.

    2.   Love can lower your blood pressure. 

It should come as no surprise that being close to your loved one can make you feel calmer, safer, and more secure. But did you know that loving feelings can have physical effects, too, such as improving cardiovascular health? 

According to a recent report published by the University of Arizona, the effects of love are so powerful that simply visualizing your loved one may help lower your blood pressure. 

The study discovered that—when it comes to your body’s cardiovascular response to stressful situations—thinking about your significant other can keep your blood pressure under control just as effectively as having them in the room with you. Guess it really is the thought that counts! 

       3. Love can boost self-esteem and mental well-being.  

According to research from Tallinn University, women in happy, healthy relationships tend to have a more positive body image.

For the study, researchers interviewed 256 women between the ages of 20 and 45. They inquired about a series of topics, including their relationship status, happiness within the relationship, weight, diet, self-consciousness, body image, and self-esteem.

The conclusion? Being in a loving relationship really does impact your self-esteem. No matter how close a woman was to her target weight, being a part of a self-reported satisfying relationship was linked to having a higher self-image. 

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that this study was correlational—it didn’t prove cause and effect. But it makes sense that having a loving partner might make you feel good about yourself, right? 

      4. Loving relationships may help you live longer.

There’s a whole slew of research showing that married people are likely to live longer, giving new meaning to the phrase “’til death do us part.”  

According to a 2011 study conducted by Cardiff University, wedded folks had a 10-15% lower risk of premature death compared to individuals. What’s more, married couples tend to have lower rates of substance abuse and less depression than their single peers.

Research suggests that these longevity benefits are not from marriage itself, but rather from having consistent, loving social and emotional support. In 2010, a review of 148 studies showed that longer lifespans were linked to ALL close social relationships—not just romantic ones. That means the love you experience from your friends and families is good for your health, too.

Love not all you need? We’re here. Schedule a same-day visit at your neighborhood ZOOM+Care today!

Your Intermittent Fasting Questions, Answered.

Is intermittent fasting right for you?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting: The latest ‘must-try’ diet trend that promises to curb hunger pangs and help you shed extra pounds.

Amid the deafening buzz of celebrity endorsements, it can be tempting to dismiss fasting as yet another ineffective fad. However, doing so might be a mistake.

Turns out, intermittent fasting is one fad diet that seems to be backed by real science. According to a review published by the New England Journal of Medicine, there are links between fasting and improvements in cognitive and physical performance, cardiovascular health, and symptoms of diabetes and obesity.

But—before you skip breakfast—it’s important to get the facts. We sat down with Zoom’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Benjamin Burton, to get some answers to your most burning intermittent fasting questions.  Read on to hear his take on the dietary trend.

1. Hey Dr. Burton! Thanks for taking the time to talk intermittent fasting with us. Let’s cover the basics first: what is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a diet philosophy that entails scheduling specific periods where eating will be significantly limited or avoided all-together.  

Several different schedules can be incorporated with the intermittent fasting diet. One popular approach is to pick a couple of days a week where food is significantly restricted (something like eating only about ¼ of what you usually would need in a day) and then eating a normal, balanced diet the other days of the week.  

The other approach is to pick a specific period every day to abstain from eating. This is often done in 12 or 16 hour periods. For example, only eating from 7 am to 7 pm daily and fasting for the remaining 12 hours. Or fasting from 11 am to 7 pm and fasting the remaining 16 hours.  

2. Why is intermittent fasting so popular?

Dieting is intensely personal, and everyone has different needs. Making healthy food choices can be difficult, time-consuming, and exhausting for some. Sometimes, it’s just easier to decide to not eat at all for an extended period. This helps simplify things for a lot of people. For some people the eating pattern is much more intuitive and easier to follow. 

Fasting is gaining popularity in the medical field because there is some evidence that there are a number of health benefits beyond just weight loss. It seems to have additional value in preventing or treating diabetes. Most weight loss programs improve blood sugar, but intermittent fasting can potentially improve blood sugar before a significant amount of weight is lost. 

3. Is it safe?

Intermittent fasting, as it is laid out in most mainstream programs, is quite safe. As with anything, if taken to an extreme can become unhealthy. Generally, fasting for more than 24 hours should be done with caution, and fasting for more than 72 hours should be avoided. In any fasting scenario, it is important to stay hydrated. I recommend that most periods of fasting be a “water fast,” meaning abstaining from food but still drinking water. This allows for the benefits of a caloric restriction but protects against dehydration.  

4. Are there any myths about intermittent fasting? If so, what are they?

I’m not sure there are many myths, but there are some claims that are not fully scientifically validated yet. These include claims that intermittent fasting will improve sleep, prevent dementia, and prevent cancer. These claims may all be true, but we haven’t fully validated these claims in human research. 

5. Are there side effects?

Food provides essential glucose and electrolytes (like potassium and sodium) that we need on a daily basis. The human body has mechanisms that monitor and maintain normal levels of glucose and electrolytes even when a person isn’t eating. However, people that take medications that affect blood sugar (diabetes medication) or medications that affect electrolytes (mainly blood pressure medication) should discuss fasting with their doctor before starting. There are also rare diseases that would prohibit some people from fasting, but generally, these individuals are well aware they should avoid fasting.  

6. What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?

The biggest benefits that are currently well-validated are weight loss and improved blood sugar control.  

7. Will fasting improve overall health?

Intermittent fasting certainly has the potential to improve health. For many people, losing just 10% of their excess weight can result in significant health benefits.  

8. Is there a right or wrong way to intermittently fast?

Dieting is an incredibly personal thing. I recommend beginning with a well established intermittent fasting routine. Once a person is comfortable with that, they can try modifying it a little to suit their life situation better. I would discourage extreme fasting for most people. (e.g., fasting beyond 24 hours).  

9. Is intermittent fasting for everyone?

No, a hundred times no.

If anyone could find a diet that is safe and effective for the majority of the population, they should get a Noble Prize. Intermittent fasting requires a lot of meal planning and diverging from traditional mealtime routines. It is hard for some people to do this in a typical 8-hour workday if they don’t have a lot of flexibility regarding meal times. There are a lot of other barriers that can really make this program difficult.  

10. How many days, if any, are recommended to intermittently fast each week?

There are several different programs. The most popular one currently is a daily 16:8 routine where a person fasts for 16 hours and eats for 8.

11. Is intermittent fasting an effective form of dieting?

It can be. The value of any diet program is calorie restriction and food tracking. Intermittent fasting seems to really click for some people and help them control their food intake.

12. Will intermittent fasting promote weight and/or fat loss?

Intermittent fasting has been found to promote weight loss.  

13. Will intermittent fasting put the body into starvation mode?

The “starvation mode” is an interesting theory, and maybe a myth in first world countries. There is an unhealthy starvation state that is achieved with extreme starvation. This requires a level of food deprivation that is generally only seen in severe poverty or inhumane treatment of prisoners. Some diet philosophies like frequent small meals to “keep the metabolism going” or restricting too much and putting the body in a “starvation mode” aren’t really well validated. More likely, people that over restrict put themselves into a restrict/binge pattern. While these people have periods of little food intake, they then slip and binge, thus overeating in the long run. Intermittent fasting directly challenges these “starvation mode” theories, and to some degree, seems to discredit them. Finding the right balance is tricky. It is important to monitor and be purposeful about eating. There is a difference between intermittent fasting and a binge/restrict pattern of eating.   

14. What is the protocol on exercise while intermittently fasting?

Exercise, like dieting, is intensely personal. Intermittent fasting is generally used to lose weight. Exercise programs targeted at weight loss would be congruent with intermittent fasting. If someone is exercising to train for an endurance activity or gain muscle mass, intermittent fasting can be used, but this would require a high level of planning and coordination. This would require a lot of individualized research and maybe coordination with health professionals like trainers and nutritionists.


#TogetherWeZoom: Get to Know Ebony Blackmon Humphrey, DNP

#TogetherWeZOOM: Get to Know Ebony Blackmon Humphrey, DNP

A lot has been said about our business model, our proprietary technology, and our innovative approach to care. But make no mistake: Our people are the most important component of our success. Always willing to go the extra mile for our patients, this big-hearted group of professionals is what makes us…well, zoom! Our monthly employee spotlight is dedicated to celebrating the incredible work our employees do inside of Zoom—and the lives they lead outside it.

In December 2019, a long-held goal of ours was finally realized: We launched ZOOM+Care Mental Health in Seattle.

Similarly to Oregon, patients seeking mental-health treatment in Washington can face long wait times and limited options. Our newly-opened Bellevue & 4th Street Clinic helps fill a critical need by providing quality, accessible mental healthcare to East Seattle residents.

Leading the charge at Bellevue & 4th is Dr. Ebony Blackmon Humphrey: An experienced Doctor of Nursing Practice and Psychiatric Mental Health NP. (Officially, her title is DNP ARNP PMHNP-BC. Say that tens times fast!)

Keep reading to learn more about Ebony’s passion for helping others, her advice for prospective ZOOM+Care candidates, and her proudest moment on the job so far.

What inspires you most about your work?

My spirituality is the deepest part of me. It is my internal motivation. It helps me give all of myself clinically to each person trusting me to make sense of their story. I value, metaphorically the books called “people” I have read and will continue to read on my journey. Their stories mean everything to me.

What advice do you have for prospective candidates?

Love what you do, as people from all walks of life are trusting you to make sense of their life’s artwork. Stare at their life’s painting and help them understand that all of the markings are not permanent. Some markings will fade away in conversation, others with medication, but most of them will become less meaningful with time.

What are three words you would use to describe ZOOM+Care?

Cutting-edge, daring, and impactful.

What is your favorite Thing about our approach to care?

Zoom’s presence inside local communities makes care local and accessible.

What is your proudest moment at ZOOM+Care?

Anytime a patient returns to tell me about what has changed in their life for the better.

Do you enjoy helping others on their journey to better health? We’re hiring!

New Year’s Resolution: Think Beyond the Fad Diet

Fad diet weight loss

Atkins. Alkaline. South Beach. Cabbage Soup. Carnivore. (?!) There are so many diets masquerading as a panacea for weight loss—a magic potion that will help you shed those pesky pounds. 

There’s just one problem: According to science, super-restrictive fad diets are not a long term solution for weight loss. Studies, both past and present, have shown time and time again that the weight loss from these plans is temporary at best. 

For example, in 2007, researchers from UCLA conducted a comprehensive analysis of 31 long-term diet studies. According to Traci Mann—Associate Professor of psychology at UCLA and lead author of the study—the results painted a “bleak picture” of the effectiveness of fad diets. 

“You can lose five to ten percent of your weight on any number of diets,” Mann writes in the study. “But then the weight comes back. We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more. Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants.” 

A team of Harvard-affiliated researchers came to a similar conclusion in 2015. Their study looked at whether low-fat diets (in which 30 percent or fewer calories came from fat) worked better than those that are higher in fat (including low-carb options, such as Atkins). The conclusion was that all these diets seemed to be equally ineffective. 

According to their research, the average weight loss from fad diets was around seven pounds—an amount deemed insignificant by researchers. What’s more, they noted that most people regained the lost weight after only a year.  

The side effects of fad diets. 

Effectiveness aside, super-restrictive dieting can bring a host of harmful side effects. Perhaps unsurprisingly, crash diets have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. 

Fad diets can also have an alarming psychological impact. Research indicates dieters are prone to elevated cortisol (i.e., the stress hormone); another study found that dieting increased stress, which in turn triggered binge eating

It makes sense, too: When you’re on a super-restrictive diet, you’re essentially demonizing food. Suddenly, the fuel that feeds your life becomes a source of undue stress. 

If not fad diets, then what?

Add, don’t restrict.  

Oftentimes, dieters set themselves up for failure by picking a plan that’s overly restrictive—and, therefore, impossible to maintain.

“Most of the data indicates that the specific diet you use to achieve weight loss isn’t that important,” says Dr. Benjamin Burton, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine here at ZOOM+Care. “Most diets have very similar success rates. The most important variable is your ability to stick with the diet plan you have chosen. So make it something you enjoy.” 

Rather than buying into the fad diet hype, look beyond restricting macronutrients, such as fat, protein, or carbohydrates. Instead, try incorporating healthy foods into your diet in a way you like (and can actually maintain). 

Instead of focusing on what you need to cut out of your diet, ask yourself, “what healthy foods can I add to my meals today?” Choose whole, unprocessed foods that you actually enjoy eating. Challenge yourself to add lots of veggies to your morning scrambled eggs, or eat a handful of antioxidant-packed berries with your oatmeal.  

You can also try substituting one pleasurable thing for another. Love eating something crunchy with your afternoon sandwich? Sub potato chips for carrots. Are you a fan of sodas and flavored lattes? Substitute syrupy beverages with something healthier, such as tea sweetened with Stevia. 

Tell yourself it’s okay to maintain.

“Another new idea in weight loss is a weight maintaining diet,” says Dr. Burton. “Many people achieve some success with a weight loss diet, but eventually find it harder and harder to stick with it. If your eating plan is causing diet fatigue, consider transitioning to a weight maintaining diet for a short time—something that still helps control food intake, but perhaps isn’t as restrictive. Continue with the weight maintaining diet until you are ready to dive in again full force to the weight loss plan.”  

Focus on wellness, not weight. 

Research shows that exercise and nutrition improve health—regardless of whether they lead to a dramatic change in weight. That means eating nutritionally-balanced food has inherent value. So does exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and managing your stress. This year, why not embrace new habits that are good for whole-body health, and let trendy diets take a back seat? Your body will thank you. 

Want help making your New Year’s health resolutions a reality? We’re here. ZOOM+Care’s Internal Medicine team can offer expert guidance on your wellness journey. Schedule now. 

Want to Make Your Health Resolutions Stick? Be S.M.A.R.T.

Make SMART health resolutions

On January 1st, everything seems possible. Shedding forty pounds? Sure, why not! Eating a salad every darn day? Totally doable! Ditching cigarettes cold turkey? No prob! 

Fast-forward to February, and you’re lazing on the couch, hours deep into a Netflix binge, wearing a bag of chips as a glove. The last green thing you ate, (besides maybe a green M&M)? It’s but a distant memory. 

Trust us when we say: We’ve ALL been there. (A mere 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions, while around 80 percent fail to keep them, according to research by the University of Scranton.) The real question is why our health resolutions fizzle.

In a word, they fail because they’re not S.M.A.R.T. (That’s capital S-M-A-R-T, an acronym meaning specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.)

A S.M.A.R.T. resolution has the following qualities: 

It’s Specific. 

Flippantly saying, “I want to lose weight” is not a goal—it’s a wish. To make it real, you need to add specificity. How much weight do you want to lose? When do you want to lose it by? What methods will you use to lose it? 

If you want to shed five pounds in two months, that’s 2.5 pounds a month. Your hyper-specific goal could be, “I want to lose .63 of a pound a week by exercising and following a dietician’s meal plan.” Numbers help you quantify your resolution, and break your big goal down into bite-sized steps. 

It’s Measurable. 

For your best shot at resolution success, create a goal with components you can track, such as duration or frequency. Resolving to exercise more? Make your objective measurable: “I will run for 30 minutes, three times a week.” Trying to get your blood pressure down? Decide how you’ll track your milestones: “I’ll check my blood pressure once a week using the same machine, and I’ll log my results on my calendar.” 

No matter your resolution, tracking your progress in a journal or app can remind you of how far you’ve come.

It’s Achievable. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t shoot for the stars. However, biting off a bigger resolution than you can chew leave you feeling defeated. Does a jog around the block make you wheeze and gasp? You may want to rethink running that resolution to run a marathon next month. A better goal might be to walk briskly for 30 minutes, five days a week—or to alternate between running and walking. Soon enough, that jog around the block will be a breeze, and training for a marathon won’t be such a lofty goal.

It’s Relevant. 

If you want your resolution to succeed, make sure it really, truly matters to you—and that you’re making it for the right reasons. Say your goal is to quit smoking: Are you doing it because your partner is nagging you? Or is it something you want to do for yourself? If you make resolutions out of a sense of obligation or (even self-hate), they probably won’t last long.

If you make resolutions with deep importance to you (rather than ones that are expected of you or things someone else wants), you’ll have a higher chance of making them stick. Think critically about what’s right for you and how your resolution can change your life for the better. Resolve to quit smoking to reduce your chances of cancer, heart attacks, heart disease, and stroke—or because you want to set a good example for your kids. With the right reasons behind you, you’re more likely to succeed. 

It’s Time-bound. 

The best “specific” and “measurable” resolutions are also time-bound. When making your goal, incorporate a realistic timeline towards reaching it. Set a limit that gives you enough time to accomplish your resolution—but not one so far off that you lose focus and forget about your goal.

It’s also helpful to create a timeline with lots of smaller, intermediate goals built-in. Focusing on the little wins will keep you on track as you make gradual progress towards your victory. It also helps you build a habit, which is something that can last you a lifetime. 

Looking for ultra achievable health resolutions?

Our Annual Wellness Exams exams are the perfect opportunity to get ahead of your health in the New Year. You can use your visit to check in about your lifestyle habits and get screened for health issues like depression, diabetes, and cancer. 

Schedule a 30-minute visit from your smartphone and get seen the same day. With zero wait time and meds-onsite, this is one resolution that’s too easy for excuses. 

Schedule Now

Holiday Blues Are Real—Here Are 5 Tips to Beat Them

Broken candy cane signifying the holiday blues

‘Tis the season of merry and bright, but what do you do when your mood doesn’t match the twinkling lights on your tree? 

First things first, don’t be too hard on yourself. Turns out, feeling like a lump of coal during the holidays is a pretty common phenomenon. 

Indeed, the “holiday blues”—feelings of loneliness, loss, or isolation that intensify during the holidays—are prevalent this time of year, and not just among those diagnosed with clinical depression. One survey by the American Psychological Association found that 38% percent of people experience increased stress during the holiday season.

And for those who do struggle with mental illness year-round, feelings of loneliness and depression can intensify during the holidays. According to a survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness find their condition gets “a lot” worse this time of year, and 40% “somewhat” worse.” 

Why do we feel sad in the season of cheer?

Let’s face it: There are hundreds of reasons to feel stressed, down, or just plain overwhelmed during the holidays. While pinpointing the exact cause of your blues can be difficult, possible factors include:

  • Stress. Constant crowds, Christmas carols on loop, and a jam-packed social calendar: Just a few of the things that make the holidays feel extra hectic. All that stress can interfere with feeling the holiday spirit. 
  • Financial strain. An overextended bank account—coupled with the pressure of buying gifts for family and friends—can create an undue burden. 
  • Family fractures. Your family is supposed to be your safe space—a source of encouragement and support. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Spending prolonged periods with relatives—particularly family members you don’t get along with—can be emotionally draining. 
  • Unrealistic expectations. Our society puts Christmas on a pedestal. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, and it comes with a lot of unrealistic expectations for how we should feel. When the holidays don’t live up to these expectations, we can feel seriously down in the dumps.  
  • Feelings of loneliness. The holidays can be an isolating time of year, especially if you’re away from your loved ones and friends. 
  • Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
  • Some people’s depression during the winter is not holiday-related at all, but rather, has to do with the season itself. SAD is a condition that causes fatigue and feelings of depression during the winter months. If you’re experiencing symptoms of the disorder, talk to a doctor to find a treatment that works for you.  

What can you do to minimize the holiday blues?

#1. Set realistic expectations

Who wouldn’t want a perfect, Norman Rockwell-esque Christmas, like the ones you seen on the Hallmark Channel? However, fantasy-fueled expectations can set you up for some serious holiday disappointment. 

Instead of expecting a cookie-cutter Christmas where everything goes smoothly, remind yourself that even the best-laid plans go awry. Go into the holidays with an open-minded, flexible attitude. Tell yourself that yes, cats do knock over Christmas trees from time to time. Relatives can drink a little too much merlot and start arguing about politics—again. Sometimes, people hate their gifts and do a really poor job of hiding it. Take the good with the bad, and remind yourself that the “bad” moments don’t have to detract from the special ones.  

For some, a good Christmas means getting through the day with as little conflict as possible—and that’s totally okay! 

#2: Start saying “no.” 

During the holidays, there’s a lot of pressure to do everything―say yes to every holiday party, buy gifts for everyone, and go out of your way to make others happy. 

At the end of the day, do what’s best for you. Set clear limits on what you’re able and willing to give—whether it’s your time, money, or emotional energy. Sometimes that means saying no, declining social events, and setting strict limits on your spending. 

When it’s not possible to say no, make sure you’re taking time for yourself. Whether it’s listening to music, taking a bath, or doing yoga, carving out a little “you time” can work wonders for your stress.

#3: Find a support system.

Even if you’re away from family, there are small things you can do to ward off loneliness this holiday season. Try picking up the phone and calling an old friend, reaching out to a new acquaintance, volunteering your time at a local charity, or attending a community meetup or event. 

#4: Make new memories.

Did you love Christmas as a kid? Nostalgia for holidays past can leave you feeling blue.

Instead of mourning old traditions, start some new ones—either solo, or with loved ones. Try out a new cookie recipe, start a White Elephant exchange with friends, make hand-made ornaments with your niece, or dress your dog up like Santa Claus and have a photoshoot. Creating special rituals to look forward to will stop the ghosts of Christmas past from haunting your holidays.

#5: Practice moderation.

During the holidays, it’s important to practice self-care—which isn’t just bubble baths and cupcakes. Self-care also includes the tough stuff, like making sure you’re eating and drinking in moderation.

Because alcohol is a depressant, it can intensify negative feelings you may have around the holidays. Be aware of why you’re drinking. Don’t use alcohol to avoid feeling painful memories and emotions, and try your best to limit your consumption to one or two drinks per social function.

In addition to drinking, eating poorly can also exacerbate issues like stress, anxiety, and depression. Take care of yourself, and don’t slack on your regular exercise. Sticking to your routine can give you a sense of regularity and remind you that, hey—Christmas isn’t so different than any other time of year, and you’re going to get through it. 

While the holiday blues are usually temporary, it’s important to stay in tune with yourself and identify when your depression is no longer seasonal. If you or someone you know needs guidance this holiday season (and beyond), we’re here.

#TogetherWeZoom: Get to Know Mallory Bellissimo, PA-C

Nurse Practitioner at ZOOM+Care

From thought leaders to part-time yoga instructors to musicians-on-the-side, we have some incredibly talented (and intensely interesting!) folks working at ZOOM+Care. #TogetherWeZoom is our monthly employee spotlight, designed to celebrate these individuals. Through it, we hope to shine a light on the people behind the scenes, working hard to shape the future of healthcare. 

For this month’s #TogetherWeZoom, we spoke with the magnificent Mallory Bellissimo—a Board-Certified Physician’s Assistant (and secret adrenaline junkie) at our Queen Anne clinic in Seattle.

Mallory is a long-time Zoomer who has been with us for nearly five years. During her time here, she’s become a favorite of both patients and her fellow providers. Don’t just take our word for it, either—according to one of the (many!) positive reviews she’s received, Mallory is “always professional” and makes everyone “feel welcomed, very much listened to, and cared for.”

Read on to learn more about Mallory, what inspires her about her work, and what her favorite day on the job has been:

What inspires you most about your work at ZOOM+Care?

Hands down, the opportunity to impact someone’s health and well-being.  

What is your favorite ZOOM+Care perk or benefit?

I love that Zoom invests in their employees’ lives outside of work. I just booked a hotel reservation in Cabo using our LifeBalance vendor discount, and it was a great deal!   

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I’ve gone skydiving—and loved it!  

What is your proudest moment at ZOOM+Care?

It’s right now.  I’m proud of the way we care for our patients.  Above all other healthcare organizations I have worked with, ZOOM+Care has always emphasized that the patient comes first—but has found ways to care for the well-being of their clinicians and staff as well.  I’m proud of that.  I’m proud that I work for a company that allows me to feel supported, engaged, and prepared to provide great care.  

What has been your favorite day on the job so far?

I love working Halloween in Queen Anne! SO many adorable kids go trick-or-treating down Queen Anne Ave.  

What have you learned while working here?

I’ve learned a lot! I have been fortunate to work with really great colleagues and SP’s in the 4+ years I’ve been here.  I’ve picked up different things from each of them.

Want a job that makes a difference? We’re always looking for talented, creative, and passionate people to help us fix healthcare. Explore open opportunities.