Admittedly, I do not know a lot about Dr. Mehmet Oz, having only watched him sporadically during random channel surfing over the years. When I do watch him, I find him to be intelligent, well-spoken, and extremely knowledgeable about medicine. Recently Oz appeared on The Piers Morgan Show, and while he came across as his usual articulate self, I also found him to be somewhat robotic, mechanical, and lacking understanding around why so many millions of people make “bad” or “wrong” choices in their daily lives when it comes to healthy living. In other words, most people these days have a basic working knowledge about healthy living, it’s the inability to follow through on logical behaviors that are often impeded by emotional thinking. More simply, not many people would argue that eating a lot of bacon is bad, but find it very, very difficult to resist eating bacon when it’s sitting on the plate in front of them.
Personally, I found Oz’s advice to come from a position that views people as computers capable of carrying out algorithms without interference. “Just don’t eat those foods” was the kind of response Oz gave Morgan when confronted with the difficulties of making healthy food choices, but in the real world it isn’t always that easy (in fact, is it ever that easy?).
Why it’s not always so easy…
Most people really want to live healthy lives, but often struggle with the battle between logic and emotions (the rational mind says “don’t eat that” while our emotions scream “that looks delicious!”). While it is true that we can make healthy decisions, it is the emotional jolt and stress reliever people often experience when they choose to eat a cheeseburger instead of a handful of bland tasting pine nuts (as Oz might suggest). This doesn’t excuse the choice of woofing down the burger, but it may help us better understand that it’s quite “human” to struggle with making sound health choices.
As a clinician, I would love to sit across from my clients and program them to live mistake-free. The problem is people are human, filled with emotions, irrational thoughts, poor coping mechanisms, and many more things that make it awfully difficult to stay on a perfect daily regimen like Oz (who more or less lives like a robot, timing out meals, exercise routines, etc.). I applaud Oz for having tremendous discipline (and this is putting it lightly), but most people either choose or are unable to keep such an incredibly regimented and linear lifestyle.
Is living longer always better?
Oz regularly mentioned in the Morgan interview about how certain decisions could add longevity to a person’s life. Assuming Oz’s projections were accurate, I would still invite a more thorough discussion from Oz that not only delves into the quantity of life, but also the quality of life. In other words, if you decided to eat a diet as Oz suggests, you might live longer — but would you live better? Oz never eats things like cake, ice cream, or cookies — but aren’t those foods part of the joy of living? Of course, unhealthy and fatty foods need to be eaten in moderation and balanced by regular exercise, but is keeping a timer in your pocket reminding you to eat bland tasting raw foods like cauliflower every 17 minutes a more enjoyable choice? Is it worth it to exceed the minimum health standards (as Oz encourages), but in doing so you stop “living” and instead just follow a set of daily food intake instructions?
I am writing this blog today because I think that while healthy living is something we should all strive for, we should experience this pursuit using level-headed – not perfectionist – thinking. The reality is that trying to keep up with an Oz-prescribed lifestyle will not only set most people up for failure, but may even zap a lot of the “life” out of living (like when you chew on a piece of plain lettuce while your child eats a piece of cake on his birthday). Healthy living is about balance, not keeping a stopwatch and calorie counter from sun up to sun down. And living “longer” isn’t always “better,” especially if you are miserable with your daily food choices and feel as though you spend more time preparing and planning out your food intake while missing out on other, life-enriching experiences with friends (like occasionally going out with friends for coffee, ice cream, or drinks). It’s also misleading for Oz to direct people to simply make “better choices,” especially without taking into account how much emotions intertwine and interfere with living.
We all want to be happy, healthy, and productive in life – but it isn’t always easy. It is for this reason that I recommend people be patient and understanding whenever breaking an old habit or starting a new one (like a diet change). It’s important to realize that not everyone has (or wants) to have a mindset as strong as Oz’s, and that they still feel extremely happy with life being a little less than “perfect.”