New Year, New You: Getting Fit and Fabulous with Dr. Oz

January 4th, 2012 11:00am EST

Getting Fit and Fabulous with Dr. Oz Holiday season is officially over and you’ve spent these past few months (or just last night) feasting on never ending dishes and drinks with the family-now what? New Year’s resolutions may not matter to some after January 1st, but Dr. Mehmet Oz believes they’re key to conquering upcoming swimsuit season. Simply known as Dr. Oz by fans, including TV mogul and friend Oprah Winfrey, the best-selling author, professor of surgery at Columbia University, and two-time Emmy Award-winning host of “The Dr. Oz Show” believes now is the perfect time to take control of 2012 by getting fit and feeling fabulous. As a means to motivate audiences who’re ready to get physical, Dr. Oz has developed “Transformation Nation: Million Dollar You,” a season-long health challenge that’s set on getting viewers off their couches. Whether you’re seeking to make your goals a reality this time or just need an extra boost of confidence to tackle the New Year, Dr. Oz has plenty of tips and tricks to creating a brand-new, happier you. We chatted with the famous medical expert about getting rid of pesky pounds, what “Transformation Nation” is really all about, and why there’s one food you should stay away from if you really want to get into your favorite jeans.

Do you think it's better to prevent putting on the pounds during the holidays, as opposed to trying to take them off afterwards?

Dr. Oz: We know from experience that most people who put weight on have a lot of trouble getting it off. So without question, you're better off preventing it. Weight gain during the holidays is related to increased alcohol, which isn’t surprising. A lot of it is also related to not getting enough sleep due to social events and dealing with stress from relatives. When you stop sleeping you crave carbohydrates, so you’ll eat things you normally wouldn’t have eaten. The biggest tip I could give is to break your drinks up with a glass of water in between, which will both prevent hangovers and slow down the amount of carbs you take in.

There’s been a lot of talk surrounding the benefits of red wine, but we haven’t been hearing much from someone outside of the wine industry.

Dr. Oz: There's no question that wine is a healthy beverage. If you're trying to lose weight, it becomes a bit of a problem because it sometimes releases hedonistic desires to eat. It also has simple carbohydrates. But wine has a lot of antioxidants and resveratrol, which is found in the skin of grapes. It has significant benefits for the heart and reduces inflammation, so it's probably a generally good thing for maintaining your weight. I'm a fan of red wine. In fact, all alcoholic beverages that are beneficial to the heart are also beneficial for weight when taken in moderation. So basically one drink a day for women and up to two for men, especially when it’s not linked to overeating in other areas because it's easy to defend it as a helpful habit.

Are there any foods during the holiday season you personally indulge in that you wouldn’t normally during the rest of the year?

Dr. Oz: We have more tofu than usual. No, I'm kidding. Yes, I indulge like everybody else does. I drink more during the holidays. My biggest addiction is dark chocolate around nuts. One little trick I have learned, and I use it frequently these days, is to always drink a sip of water after I have a piece of chocolate because it cleanses my palate. Otherwise the salt and sweetness reinforces that I want them. Without that, I'd be 240 pounds. You'd be doing shows about Dr. Oz's transformation, not his 'Transformation Nation.'

In the New Year, the number one thing I'm going to focus on with people is getting a little bit of fitness in their lives. Walking or even fidgeting for that matter is not only helpful for losing weight, but it begins to give you a foundation to do other activities. I do think people in the New Year ought to at least adopt some programs, short because most people are unwilling to acknowledge that they're so disorganized in their lives they can't even shave seven minutes of time to make it. They can then use that as a platform for confidence. It can be calisthenics, yoga, stretching, just something you do every morning. There are also too many people who think they can get a healthy fast food breakfast on the run. It is doable, but hard to do. I'd much rather you make something with protein or whole grains for breakfast, even within an hour of awakening.

What should people be doing on the first week of January to set themselves up for a successful 2012?

Dr. Oz: January 1st isn’t about beating yourself up for making foolish mistakes during the holidays. It's a time for reinvention, revisiting the things you want to do in your life, and committing to them. Starting today, what people ought to be thinking about is their New Year's resolution. Roughly half the people who try to lose weight will be on some kind of a program that will at least last into the summer. Only about 4% or 5% of people who don't do New Year's resolutions will have similar statistics.

New Year's resolutions matter, but there are two important mistakes you make with them. The first is we're not concrete enough. Set a goal that is unambiguous. I'm going to lose seven pounds by this month, by my birthday, or by whatever the endpoint is. The second mistake we make is we don't hold ourselves accountable for the people around us. If you tell people publicly you're doing it, and better yet, if you partner with one or two of them so they can help you in your darker times, this will allow you succeed at a much greater rate.

You don't want to reinvent the wheel. You want to automate your meals, so breakfast and lunch ought to be pretty much the same thing every day or at least close. You don't want to waste time thinking about what snacks you're going to have. You should have all those things close at hand so that you don't have to go through making difficult decisions where you'll trip and begin to fail.

Do you have any health tips for men?

Dr. Oz: I'll speak broadly here. Women have a natural desire to fill themselves up and I'm not just talking sexually. I'm talking about emotionally as well. They want to take in emotions, deal with them, and process them. Men have a desire, generally, to get rid of stuff. This is why women turn to food emotionally more than men will. Men often eat out of boredom and they'll eat because they don't understand the biology of blubber. I'm being overly simplistic on purpose because there are clearly hybrids there, men who do things that women do, women who do things that men do.

But with men, they understand the basic principles of weight loss and will often find it easier to do just because they're emotionally not as tied into using food to medicate the other emptiness they may feel in their lives. Sleep, in particular, is a big issue because men will eat carbs when they're sleep deprived and they think insomnia is a badge of honor. You know, I'm not sleeping enough because I’m working hard is just what guys do because it's macho. Not the case because it takes away some of creative energy you need for the next day.

One thing I’m talking with men a lot is that now is a great time to begin new physical programs. There are wonderful ones that are available on the web now. They're inexpensive. On 'Transformation Nation,' we had a huge physical fitness program. It's all free. We worked on it with thousands of trainers, creating programs you can customize.

What initiated ‘Transformation Nation’ for you?

Dr. Oz: During the first two years of the show, I spent a lot of time talking to people about what I think they ought to do. I would get approached by baggage handlers smoking cigarettes, asking me questions about their arthritis. There's something not right in this picture because you're cherry picking what to hear or, more importantly, you know you need to do it, but you're unable to actually do it. I'm just trying to get you to realize that you can save your own life. You can become the world expert on your body. If I'm getting that across to you and you don't have the infrastructure, the organizational tools, and the team to actually help you accomplish what you need to do, then I need to go one step further.

How can TV help people lose weight?

Dr. Oz: I’m involved with the psychology of change. If you look at the stages of change, we have to move from a phase-it's called precontemplative. Like the name sounds, it's before you've even started thinking about it. We've got to move from there. Television is really good at that. It's very effective at getting people who didn't have on their radar screen the ideas about change. They start to think about it in a way that might motivate them. The actual programs themselves can be problematic because it requires the long-term, consistent, daily interaction. ‘Transformation Nation’ was started as an effort to give you a free and easily accessible program you could rely on when you want to sleep better, lose weight, connect with your doctor, or deal with stress more effectively. The reason I go on the set every day is to make sure you know I care about you, that you have a voice, that you matter, and here are some things you should be thinking about and feeling differently about in order to change. That's a big idea because as a doctor, and I still practice medicine, I spend a lot of my time giving you the facts. People never change based on what they know by themselves. They change based on how they feel. TV gets you to feel differently about a process. Now you have confidence to make it happen. You then partner it up with specific plans, which is what we try to do. Then you'll have a recipe for successful change, including weight loss.

If you could change one thing about modern society, what would it be?

Dr. Oz: Prevention is about making it easy to do the right thing. The human brain is not designed to continually think through new ways of figuring out how to live your life and that's one of the reasons we slip into bad habits. We have created a society where it's easy to do the wrong thing. Classic examples are simple carbohydrates. We have white foods, like white rice, flour, pasta, and sugars in almost everything we snack on. We fall prey to them. Remember, sugar and salt are addictive. They're as addictive as crack cocaine for many people. Salts and sugars are used commonly because they do have that impact, so you'll want them more. Historically, we needed them. The prehistoric man did not have adequate access to salts and sugars, so whenever we found them we were going to want them. But when we get them in the large quantities we find today, it leads us into stray, turbulent waters.

If I had to pick out one thing, it would be those white foods. The number one food without any question that is correlated with weight gain in America is French fries, which is the perfect storm. The potatoes themselves are not a problem. But French fries are fried, simple carbohydrates with salt. That's why it leads to so much weight gain among many Americans.

Do you ever get the feeling you’re battling human nature?

Dr. Oz: I don't think of it as a battle because I feel people beat themselves up for a lot for things they don't need, just like cigarette smokers. Long ago, I started telling cigarette smokers I would not operate on them, which seems harsh, but people who smoke cigarettes know it's not good for them. Why would I waste time telling them that? What they generally suffer from is low self esteem and depression, but they don't say that. If you get people to think differently about themselves and make them realize all they have to do is love themselves as much as people around them care for them, it changes the equation.

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© 2012

Photo Credits: Photos courtesy of Keadrick D. Washington / PR Photos and Chris Travers / PR Photos.

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