Oz launches weight-loss challenge

Dr. Mehmet Oz touts tips for wellness on his popular daytime show, but even the health-conscious heart specialist isn’t immune from indulging his sweet tooth during the holidays. The doctor admits baklava is among his weaknesses.

Dr. Mehmet Oz

Dr. Mehmet Oz

TORONTO — Dr. Mehmet Oz touts tips for wellness on his popular daytime show, but even the health-conscious heart specialist isn’t immune from indulging his sweet tooth during the holidays.

The doctor admits baklava is among his weaknesses.

“I’ll tell ya, I just got a shipment in today,” he said in a recent conference call with reporters. “The stuff is just so good, and I have to cut it in little pieces.

“Between baklava and chocolate-covered nuts, that’s like the one-two punch that puts me over the edge. I could just rifle through a pound of the stuff.”

Oz said he soothes his yearning for the sticky, sweet pastry by having a bit, washing it down with water and then moving away.

“The water cleanses my palate,” he said. “I still have the sense that I tasted it, because I have to have it, and once it’s in the house I know I’m going to get at it.”

“I have to make sure I don’t have the taste in my mouth, otherwise my hedonistic drive, like all of us have, will force me to keep going.”

While he can exercise self-restraint when it comes to calorie-laden confections, Oz knows countless others lack such willpower.

With fitness and diet top of mind for many drafting their resolutions for 2011, he is kicking off the new year aiming to help others get — and stay — onboard the wellness wagon with a new weight-loss challenge.

The Emmy-winning host of The Dr. Oz Show is launching the 11 Weeks to Move It and Lose It program on his Jan. 3 broadcast, which airs in Canada on CTV.

The free, online initiative includes interactive nutrition and fitness tools accessible on www.doctoroz.com.

Participants can take a quiz to evaluate diet and exercise based on their current health, use a food log to track their eating, and access exercise videos to help them shed the pounds.

Also featured is a customized calendar to monitor progress and set goals with reminders of where individuals need to be daily, based on height, weight, body mass index, age and lifestyle.

Oz said the biggest mistake people make is trying to lose too much weight quickly, which then becomes an unsustainable life change.

“You need to have a dietary program that is sustainable so that you’re not starving yourself every single day,” he said. “Part of the challenge is figuring out where you are today and where you need to be. What’s your actual weight-loss goal?”

The program will also feature an online social platform to interact with others working towards their weight-loss goals. Oz said such social ties can be forged anywhere, including drawing on support of those already in your life.

“We tell people to exchange sneakers: give your friends your sneakers and you take theirs so that when you go running they have to come with you or else you won’t have your sneakers,” he said.

“These are simple tips that force people to do things together, ’cause you’re not going to let your friends down. If they walk every morning at 7 o’clock, even if you don’t feel like it today, you know they’re going to be there and you’ll get up and get there.”

When it comes to diet, Oz said the best way to cut calories is to consume foods that are filling, such as leafy green vegetables and those that contain omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts and flax seeds.

“The reason we have so much obesity, I think, is because simple carbohydrates that have become dominant in our food supply don’t offer us nutrients,” he said.

“So the brain says, ‘Wait a minute, I know you got the calories in there, but you didn’t get any nutrients, so you have to keep going.’ And so you keep eating until you get the nutrients that you need, and if you don’t get them all day long, you’re still hungry.

“That’s why you have a doughnut for breakfast and by 10 in the morning you’re still hungry.”

When it comes to his top three health habits, Oz first cited physical activity.

“You don’t have to go running a marathon, you can just do simple, basic things, but over and over again,” he said, citing weight-bearing activity and walking as examples. He also emphasized the importance of eating wholesome foods, and finding connection in life through creating community.

“What allows us to weather that stress and regain those years of life is the social fabric around us,” he said. “The connectivity that has allowed humans to always weather these storms in years bygone, it works today, too.”