Today’s FitStars takes on a slightly different format. Usually, we get a one-on-one interview, whether by phone or email, to ask all of our burning questions. But Dr. Mehmet Oz—a heart surgeon, frequent medical expert on Oprah and the host of his very own The Dr. Oz Show—is apparently a busy man, so I settled for an hour-long conference call in which he answered the burning questions of myself and other journalists and bloggers. And because an hour of talking translates to pages and pages and pages of written text, I’m including the best highlights, take-home messages and snippets from the discussion.
- What is your regular routine?
- Dr. Oz: I get up about a quarter to six. I always do a morning yoga stretch that’s about seven minutes long. There’s a reason why it’s seven minutes long: because it’s hard to admit to yourself that your life is so out of control that you can’t carve out even seven minutes in the morning. And once I’m out of that seven minute stretch, I usually don’t eat breakfast until I get to work, but it’s still pretty early at that hour. I endorse people having breakfast—I don’t care if it’s the first thing you do when you get up, but it should be something you do within the first hour or so of awakening so that you stabilize the nature of your food intake throughout the rest of the morning. Especially high-fiber, high-protein foods satisfy that purpose for breakfast.
- The other thing I’m very strict about is trying to be on time. I was just in the operating room, which is why I delayed this call for about five minutes, but even that frustrates me. If you’re late then you’re out of control, and maintaining the focus of control is an important part, I think, of us leading the healthiest lives we can. I can go on and on, but it ends with my going to sleep pretty religiously around 10:30 at night so I can get about seven-and-a-half hours by 6 in the morning. That’s probably the single biggest and easily achievable goal that most Americans can commit to in the New Year.
- How would you advise someone in setting their weight-loss goals?
- Dr. Oz: First off, you’ve gotta measure the right thing. I wouldn’t focus on weight; I’d focus on waist. And the reason I say that is because the dangers of obesity are much more related to your waist size than the actual weight you carry around. Your weight can be distributed in your thighs, in your hips, the so-called pear shape, which does not actually offer a mortality risk to you. On the other hand, waist girth in the abdominal area reflects omentum fat—belly fat that’s deep inside the belly, underneath the muscles—that’s fat that’s next to the liver, and it poisons the liver, and it causes inflammation throughout the body. So it is imperative that people have waist sizes that are less than half their height.
- You need to actually clean out the kitchen and get rid of foods that disobey the rule of fives—these are the five ingredients in a food that we know are toxic for you and will increase your belly fat. They include simple sugars—syrups like high-fructose corn syrup. Saturated fat—these are fats that come from animals. Fat that comes from things with faces are often saturated. Trans fats and enriched flours, the simple white flours. Those foods you want to get out of your refrigerator, out of your pantry and replace them with foods that do not have those ingredients in their top five listed, and by doing that you make it easy to do the right thing. So essentially what we’re trying to do is force people to make a difficult decision in the supermarket and not at home.
- If you had to offer only three health tips, what would they be?
- Dr. Oz: If I had to cut it down to three, the first thing I’d say is to have some stretching routine that you do every day. Yoga happens to be my favorite because there’s some muscle-building elements to it as well, and it can be cardiovascular, but the stretch is the important part. Number two is to make sure there is a ton of fiber in the foods you eat because that stabilizes your metabolism so that your mind can work at its best throughout the day. And the third is to make sure there is a purpose for what you’re pursuing. And that sounds sorta soft and touchy-feely for a doctor, but having been a heart surgeon my entire life, when the heart does not have a reason to keep beating, it doesn’t.
- Experts say this generation may not outlive their parents. Do you think that’s true?
- Dr. Oz: I do. I don’t think they’re going to unless we make some changes. I think we can do it. The good news is that obesity rates in kids stabilized last year from the best we can tell. So I think we’re starting to get a lot of people upset about this issue, but we cannot let up at all…I’m just one example, but it is very common for me to operate on 30-year-olds now. That was unheard of when I was training 20 years ago.
- What do you think of TV weight-loss shows?
- Dr. Oz: Of course anything that’s good can be perverted for wrong. At their core, I think these shows are very good shows because they take people having a lot of problems, they train individuals, working with them usually because their show’s investing money to make sure they do well because that’s the foundation for success. And admittedly, sometimes the amount of improvements seen by some of these folks is a little bit greater than you’d ever be able to get on your own, but the challenges they face are representative of yours as a viewer. So I think they’re popular for good reason because so many of us are struggling with weight. And they’re effective if they provide you a role model that you can resonate to.
- During the conversation, Dr. Oz started discussing “blue zones,” areas of the world where it is common for people to live active lives past the age of 100. Dr. Oz discusses the reasons why.
- Dr. Oz: It is true that they never joined yoga clubs, but in Okinawa, they had physical ceremonies. It was part of the culture … it’s fascinating to see how they deal with it. They get up in the morning early—when the sun comes up, they’re out. If it’s nice out, they’re out. It doesn’t really matter that they’re not doing yoga class, their physical activity levels are dramatically greater than ours because it’s part of their lives. I was cutting corn with a 99-year-old gentleman in Costa Rica, and he was showing me how to do it, crouched on his knees with a machete I had trouble lifting—but he’d done it his whole life. How fast could he run a football field? Not much. But I think there’s a lot of evidence now that our physical fitness is curtailed more by our lifestyle than by our genetics.
So although we didn’t get our official one-on-one time with Dr. Oz, as you can see, it was well worth it to sit in on a chance to hear his philosophies on health and wellness. Keep spreading the word, Doc! —Erin