Calling (out) Dr. Oz

Photograph by Ethan Levitas, The New Yorker.

Photograph by Ethan Levitas, The New Yorker.

There is a fascinating article in the latest (February 4) issue of The New Yorker by Michael Specter, on Dr. Oz. I say fascinating because the man that Oprah dubbed “America’s doctor” has bounded over the barricade that separates celebrities from the rest of us relegated to anonymity, or perhaps semi-obscurity.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Mehmet Oz is a real medical doctor. In fact, he’s actually a renowned surgeon, and holds joint degrees from Harvard, one being an M.B.A. and the other a medical degree. This differentiates him from his daytime counterpart, Dr. Phil, who only plays at being a doctor on Tee Vee (although he once held a license to practice psychology, but let it lapse).

Just like Dr. Phil, the Oz man has found a way to pander to American’s insecurities, unhealthy habits, and he seeks to justify much of what passes for being a doctor on Tee Vee is all about; hucksterism, “alternative” medicine, and strange claims that aren’t based in science. He uses convoluted pretzel logic to explain it all away during the interview segments with Specter in the very lengthy, long-form piece that readers of The New Yorker expect from the magazine.

The  article is just another in a tidal wave of criticism directed at Oz, including an avalanche of negative activity after his Time Magazine opinion piece came out where he called people who buy local, organic, non-GMO food “snobs” and “elitists” and “snooty.” Critics of Oz include Gary Null and Mike Adams editor of, who minces few words in calling Oz a “sellout.” It’s interesting that Null has his own dubious past in advocating questionable treatments at odds with western medicine.

The general justification for it all seems to be that Dr. Oz doesn’t see a problem at all in his dubious medical claims and the “medutainment” that passes for his show. No, apparently he believes that he can help more people via television, than if he was a mere medical professional performing open heart surgery.

There is a penchant in America to imbue mere mortals like Dr. Oz, Oprah, Dr. Phil, and others, with unique qualities and talents. We think that if we could touch the hem of their garments, which in our hustling culture now is akin to buying their latest supplement, book, video, or cathartically letting go of emotion with tears (a primary component of The Oprah Winfrey Show) that somehow all our pain, obesity, flawed relationships, and whatever else ails us, will just disappear, like magic. Sadly, their followers mostly likely remain moored on the same rutted pathway where they began and most likely will remain.

I hate to come across as harsh and burst anyone’s bubble, but there’s no easy way out when you are hip-deep in the Slough of Despond, or in the midst of a bad situation. Here are a few tips that, unlike Dr. Oz’s brand of self-help, won’t cost you anything other than effort.

1) If you’re heavier than you would like to be, then you need to cut your calories and ramp up your activity.

2) If you can’t find a way forward making $8.00/hour, the stars aren’t aligned against you—you’ve got some skill deficits and need to figure out how to minimize them, or get some additional training.

Of course, celebrities like Dr. Oz, for whatever reason, feel the need to exploit and manipulate their followers. In fact, the more they do, the more followers they seem to attract. It’s all really quite pathetic, in my opinion.

3) Save your money, or better, take the cash you were going to send to Dr. Oz for green coffee extract or red palm oil, or some other supplement or quack cure, and invest it in a $10/month gym membership at a robo gym like Planet Fitness.

It’s worked wonders for me, when I originally lost nearly 60 pounds in 2009. I’m back there, as I’d put on a few pounds and now, I’m back doing what works. Oh, and I’m down 13 pounds this month and I’ll be running a 5K on February 16 and my first sprint triathlon in June.

4) Figure out what constitutes a healthy diet, one that’s low on processed and highly-packaged foods. Get out to a winter farmers’ market and support your local farmers. Put down that bag of Doritos and substitute some sliced carrots.

You’ll be better off in the long run, especially if you can commit to three or four workouts a week and start eating healthy foods.

I’ll dispense with advice on the emotional or psychological side. Unlike Dr. Phil, without a license and the proper training, I don’t feel qualified to offer any prescriptions in that area.

Success starts small and before you start gathering some downhill momentum. It takes work and the patience and character to stick with something. If you want an easy or a quick remedy, then my model of reinvention isn’t for you.

Oh, and one more point about Dr. Oz. The article described him as having a “perfectly tamed helmet of brown hair and lengthy sideburns.” I’m sorry, but I’m rocking longer sideburns that the good doctor. I might also be offering more legitimate advice, and I’m not taking your hard-earned dough for it.

Winning the war on sideburns and maybe, self-help.

Winning on the sideburn front and dispensing some self-help advice, free of charge.