Dr Oz: Obesity More Dangerous for Americans than Economic Crisis

By Cemil Özyurt - Dr Mehmet Oz is a cardiologist, author, TV host, one of our most influential celebrities, and a true guide for Americans to have healthier life. He is a two-time Daytime Emmy Award-winning host, authored seven New York Times Best Sellers, was named Forbes’ #3 most influential celebrity (2010-11), and has been honored as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People (2008). Dr. Oz is also the eighth Turk to grace the cover of Time magazine. Following the path of his father, Dr. Mustafa Oz, Mehmet received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University (1982) and obtained a joint MD and MBA (1986) from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Wharton Business School.



His Dr Oz Show, which debuted on September 14, 2009, has transmitted more than 500 episodes. He shakes the nation with his shows. A while ago, he also transformed the nation, with a  reality show that focuses on transforming America through physical fitness, nutrition and time management. The contest began September 26, 2011 and ended May 23, 2012 and over one million people took part in it, to lose weight to win 1 million dollars.

Taking some time from his busy schedule, Dr Oz talked to Cemil Özyurt, Editor-in-Chief of TurkofAmerica at his Rockefeller office in New York.

Which is the more serious problem for Americans, the economic crisis or obesity?
I think is obesity more dangerous for Americans. The reason is because the economic crisis will pass or be absorbed by other issues, but obesity is mortgaging the future of the country. There is no way for us to build affordable health care, which is the major drag on businesses competing overseas. This is the number one health issue in our country. The number one health issue that drives at least a third of health expenses is obesity. A sedentary life style, processed foods, weight gain that leads to high cholesterol, high blood sugar, it leads to hypertension and it’s something that we know to be reversible by losing the weight.  Unlike jobs which are hard to make, losing weight, it something you control. In the other things individually, if you control your own body, you can control the world outside of it. So it’s that connection that’s driving a lot of the desire to change.

When I watch your program, I can easily understand what you are trying to explain even if it’s a very complicated health problem.  What is your secret?
This is from my mother because she taught me how to listen to people. She taught me how give information to people with the right energy. I have to able to give you bad news and have you still respect me.  That’s what being a doctor is all about, and too often I find that we are giving people news that they want to hear, not news that they need to hear. And if we can get better at giving people news they need to hear, making it accessible, making it uplifting, and playful, these are very important tips to allowing people to be the change agents. The show lives there. The show seeks to visit you in your home. Give you information that maybe you didn’t think to know, or maybe you thought you knew already, but do it in a playful, fun, uplifting way but still change you.

So they have been entertained and learned at the same time.
Yes it’s like Edu-tainment.

Do you think doctors’ terminology is very complicated for people?  
The better you understand the problem, the more you clearly you can explain it. When you talk to a world class person who really understands their field, they can make it very simple. Whether it’s computers, or rockets, or medicine, it’s same story. So we use big words because it helps us talk to each other in medicine, but we should be smart enough to use other words, that are English words, to help you. It’s like a priest telling you how to pray using a foreign language. It is not going to work. It shouldn’t work. It’s not your fault.  The audience should not feel badly that they don’t understand the words. There is a word, iatrogenic, which means that we don’t know why it’s happening. We should just say we don’t understand why it’s happening.  That would be just as effective.

What do you think about having Turkish heritage?
I feel we are so blessed with our Turkish heritage. Being able to see the East and the West. Living in the place they meet – the confluence of paradigms is Turkey. It allows us to effortlessly --  we shouldn’t underestimate how important this is.  I can see very complex problems and find solutions. So I can connect the dots others can’t connect because I’ve grown up in a culture where we could see and respect different philosophies, bring them together, we’ll find better solutions. So I think as Turks we have an opportunity and obligation. Especially if we leave Turkey, to bring that wisdom to other countries you go to and go out and see back to the country Turkey. That’s why this magazine exists because there is a value coming from the heritage. The pride that we should all have, having been blessed with that background, it should infuse everything we do here.

You have lived in the greatest wealthy nations in the world but when you have traveled and you have seen different cultures, countries, and poor people. How do the differences between two worlds affect you and your career?  
I struggle a lot with how you provide health in a country where there’s not a lot of wealth. But yet if you  look at America, we have lots of wealth but we don’t have health. You cannot be a healthy country unless you understand how you do it in your our home. You cannot be a wealthy country if you are not a healthy country. So ironically some times poor countries have a better quality of life because they are healthier in their homes. I don’t think you have to be rich to be healthy. Often times it hurts you to be rich. You start to take short cuts. The ability to actually get up and lift a bucket of water and carry it to the top of the hill keeps you healthy. For example, when I go to Southern Turkey, I see people who don’t have a lot of wealth but they are blessed by sun, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish. Foods that are naturally healthy for them. They have vision, purpose. A big message here is if your heart has a reason to keep beating it will.
They have to have a purpose. That all comes from simplicity. The big lesson I am focused on these days is silence. I think the world has gotten so noisy. Between our cell phones, instant messaging, websites, television. It has become so busy. You don’t have five minutes of  silence you need every day to put things in perspective. That would be a recommendation I make to the readers. Try to find those five minutes. You can go to the bathroom to be quiet. You can meditate.  Free your brain to not think at all. You will than get wisdom. Which naturally the brain is trying to work out anyway.

Are you planning to write a new book?
I am pretty busy. I still operate on Thursdays. The show is a fulltime commitment. I am writing a lot for the website. Droz.com has 40 million pages view a month now. So I think my time is better spent crafting on content work on the web.

How many hours do you sleep every day?
This is important. I sleep seven and half hours every night.

Doesn’t it matter how busy you are?
No. I set my alarm for 10.00pm at night. I get in bed every night at 10.00pm. A good friend of mine called me on Tuesday. It  was 09.50pm. He said, “I just want to talk to you a few minutes.”  I said “No.” He said, “Just for a couple minutes, it’s 9.50.” I said, “No. I am going to bed. You never talk less than10 minutes anyway and you’ll say things that’ll keep me awake.”  You have to be assertive.

TV host or writing a book?
I like being a TV host even more than writing. I like talking to people, seeing people.  I like having a team around me helping make me these toys I get to use, models, animations. I like to use all that.
You’re on TV every day. You have passed 440 episodes already. Are you ever afraid of repeating yourself?
As many people as there are in the world, there are that many stories. So much of what we talk about is based on how you’re interpreting it. So I can do weight loss 100 different ways. I can do the biology of blubber, the science of weight loss, I can do the emotions of weight loss, I can do people who don’t know better, they can’t lose weight, I can do the strife within a family causing weight issues, I can talk about hormone replacement therapy, HCG injections, gastric bypass surgery, I can go with 50 different ideas. They all work because they are all different ways of fueling same elephant. That’s reality.  And the show – and this is important. This is not a health show, it’s a show about life.  I’m looking at it through the lenses of a doctor, but the show is about life itself. If you are comedian, actress, or doctor you can talk about life. You just have very different ways of coming to the issues.  You have more gravitas on some things.  You have to deliver to people what they want from you.  People don’t want their doctor to be a comedian, they only want him to be accessible.

What are your suggestions to Turkish students who pursue their career in the U.S. as doctor?
I have a lot of students; doctors from Turkey come to the hospital to visit me. I always say them, do what is your passion is about. Don’t do it for the money. If you’re passionate about it you will be the best at it and you will make money. If you do it for money and you do not love it you will not be good at it and you will not make money.

After Ahmet Ertegun passed away, the Turkish-American community needs a role model to lead us. Muhtar Kent said he was too busy and he couldn’t do it. What do you say?
Ahmet Ertegun was my patient. We were very close friends. I would love to help play that role. I think for sure Muhtar Kent, in the business community, which is big part of your readership, is the ideal. I love him. (Photo: By Bahri Karaaslan)

Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07