All posts tagged weight loss

Dr. Oz: It’s Time to Hand Over the Megaphone

I often describe the dietary supplement industry as the Wild West and it looks like Dr. Mehmet Oz has become its latest outlaw. The celebrity cardiothoracic surgeon and daytime television celebrity of the show, Dr. Oz, took a turn in the hot seat before the Senate’s consumer protection panel Tuesday, defending his endorsement of lose weight quick ingredients and “magic weight loss cure” claims.

It’s about time.

As a naturopathic physician and strategist to the natural and organic products industry, I’ve dedicated my life to the study and practice of natural medicine and to educating others about its benefits and role within our larger health system. As someone who is so invested in this area, I’ve been especially disappointed in the way Oz has abused the platform his show provides for many years.

More than 1/3 of adults in our country are obese, leaving them at risk for deadly conditions like heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Even though research is clear that the most effective way to lose weight is through long-term and consistent diet and lifestyle changes, a weight loss industry consisting largely of lose weight quick products and programs with little to no evidence of efficacy makes an average of $60.9 billion each year.

When paired together these statistics paint a clear picture. We have a crisis on our hands and a society of people who are desperate for tools to improve their health. Right or wrong, our society looks to television, internet and inexpensive and easy-to-access sources of information for guidance.

If there was someone on television with the credentials and endorsements to trust, you would think it would be Oz. A licensed cardiovascular surgeon, professor in the Department of Surgery at Columbia University and go-to health expert for Oprah, he has all the elements to be regarded as a trusted advisor. That’s what makes his misleading and inaccurate claims so stunning.

As Senator McCaskill said to Oz on Tuesday,

I can’t figure this out, Dr. Oz. I get that you do a lot of good on your show. I understand that you give a lot of information that’s great information… you’re very talented and you’re obviously very bright. You’ve been trained in science-based medicine… I don’t get why you need to say this stuff when you know it’s not true. When you have this amazing megaphone, why would you cheapen your show?… With power comes a great deal of responsibility.

I can only hope that Dr. Oz will hand over his megaphone to someone else who has the conviction and ability to use it properly.

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Image by The Gardens Mall

Weight Loss: The “Eat Your Dinner for Breakfast” Diet

For many years, I operated a private practice as a naturopathic doctor in Southern California, specializing in the treatment of digestive diseases and side-effects of cancer treatment.  Although weight loss support was never a service that I proactively marketed, it was an all too common issue that I found myself needing to address with my patient population.  Really, this wasn’t a surprise to me, given that close to 70% of all adults in this country are overweight or obese.  Every doctor, no matter their specialization, can likely relate to my experience – given the epidemic of overweight and obesity in our country, the need to treat these diseases is fundamental to successfully addressing the vast majority of other symptoms and illnesses plaguing our society today.

The weight loss protocol that I created was conceptually quite simple and consisted of two basic recommendations:

  1. Decrease reliance on packaged and fast foods and increase consumption of whole foods
  2. Make breakfast the biggest meal of the day, lunch the next largest and dinner the smallest

I consciously avoided complicated rules and trends such as those found in diets like The Zone or Atkins Diet.  My goal was to create a mental shift in my patients from seeing a diet as a temporary thing to do to lose weight to a life-long way of approaching food in a healthy manner.  Personally, I don’t have the time or interest to count calories, weigh my meals or eat the same frozen dinners over and over.  Perhaps it was my own irritation with these trendy plans that played the biggest role in the advice I ultimately shared with patients.

To get started, I would often suggest a patient make one simple change: eat their dinner for breakfast and their breakfast for dinner.  So, if they typically ate a chicken breast, green salad and slice of bread with butter for dinner and a bowl of cereal for breakfast, they’d just switch them up, simple as that.  Although the idea of eating chicken breast and salad for breakfast was often a bit of a mental struggle, it was about as easy a change as you could make…no modifications to your grocery shopping list, no new recipes, no calorie counting.

More times than not, when I would see them at their next appointment, they had lost weight…amazing but true.  With the idea planted (and some nice weight loss results as motivator), I would then work with them to find more suitable meal ideas grounded in whole food ingredients that followed the same approach of eating the largest meal at breakfast and the smallest meal at dinner.

Last week when I came across a study recently published in the journal Obesity that followed this same approach I was incredibly excited.  I was even more excited when I read the results of the study that found significant weight loss as well as other improvements in fasting glucose, insulin and triglyceride levels in the treatment group.  How wonderful it was to see this approach studied and to see it demonstrate such positive and measurable results.

I have often joked that I discovered the next diet fad and have even come up with a few potential names, “The Dinner-Fast Diet”, “Eat Steak but Only at Breakfast Diet” or maybe, “The Upside Down Diet”.  Too bad I don’t have a publishing deal…it seems like I really may be on to something!

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Breaking the SAD Cycle: Mark Bittman’s VB6 (Vegan Before 6:00) Diet Plan

I’m a Bittman fan all the way, but I admit my first reaction to the concept of this book was skepticism.  In my experience working with patients, some of the worst nutrition decisions tend to be made at dinner (after 6pm).  Could being vegan until 6pm and then opening the flood gates to whatever you want to eat really be a good approach?  However, with more thought I became curious (plus I heard there were recipes in the book and Mark Bittman always has great recipes) so I bought a copy.

My curiosity grew as soon as I began reading.  It’s ironic to me that the foreword to this book was written by Dean Ornish, MD.  After all, Dr. Ornish is the doctor whose philosophy when I began reading his literature in the mid-90s was that drastic diet and lifestyle change were the best (and really only) approach to successful outcomes in the long run.  Little changes didn’t provide results quickly enough to maintain a patient’s motivation.  This logic stuck with me through my med school days as I worked with patients and saw firsthand what worked and what didn’t.  Ultimately, I netted out that people are individuals and for some small changes are all that’s possible, for others, jumping in with both feet does the trick.  It seems Dr. Ornish has come back to center as well as he states,

If you eat vegan before dinner and indulge yourself afterward, you’re likely to notice great improvements in your health and wellbeing without feeling deprived.  As you start to feel better and notice how much healthier you are, you’re likely to find yourself in a virtuous cycle in which you may want to do even more.

This book is really a description of Bittman’s personal journey to find the bridge between health and his love of eating.  It’s just the right balance of science, personal testimony and practical DIY tips.  As a doctor whose primary tool is food, I appreciate the time Bittman takes in this book to walk the reader through how we (collectively as a society) have gotten to this place of high-calorie, processed food that is largely absent of nutrition.  Bittman’s description of the Standard American Diet (which he dubs “SAD” through most of the book),

…food that either contains no nutritious value whatsoever—like soda—or foods that are loaded with chemicals and so highly processed that even though they might contain some nutritional value, they bear little resemblance to their origins.

He provides the reader with a 28-day plan to get started and (thankfully for those of us who have all but given up hope of ever having time to cook on a regular basis) he provides a list of “wildcards” (page 120), super quick vegan meals that can either be quickly thrown together at home or found on the go in a restaurant or even in a pinch at a friend’s wedding reception.

To be a healthy vegan, a diverse mix of whole nuts, seeds, grains, vegetables and fruits is essential.  Eating in this way quickly breaks down the confines of the Standard American Diet and provides a crash course in nutrition 101 as a result.  If you’re looking for a way to engage with the power of food as medicine but are not sure you’re ready to swear off your go-to comfort foods, this book is an approachable guide told through a voice that’s done it and is living the benefits eating vegan before 6:00 can provide.

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Image by MarkBittman.com