Dr Oz on Oprah, the importance of sleep, and his verdict on Eastern and Western medicine
Dr Oz will see you now
Call him a household name, cardiothoracic surgeon, talk show host, author etc. Dr Memhet Oz lives up to all of the above. The man first caught the attention of the public when he made a recurring guest appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, before spinning off into his very own — The Dr Oz Show, which has been running without a hitch since 2009. Apart from balancing life inside the operating theatre and taping shows at the studio, Oz has also managed to co-write a couple of bestsellers.
Still, that's more that the legendary Dr Oz can do, and it involves him being a Six Senses Wellness Board Member. The innovative programme entails in-house experts at Six Senses to cultivate and provide guests with lifestyle and nutritional advice, plus a personalised schedule of spa treatments and fitness and wellness activities. What's special? You'll find the preventative principles of Eastern medicine approach and the result-oriented Western influences within the entire treatment.
During his short visit here in Singapore, we sat down with him in none other than the stunning Six Senses Duxton, and quizzed him on working with Oprah, how one can sleep better, and what exactly his secret is to living a busy, healthy life.
Tell us more about your relationship with Six Senses and what the programme is all about.
So, a friend of mine actually bought Six Senses. I knew of these spas because they were always embedded into local communities, which I've always appreciated. They would actually figure out what made the community cool, which goes hand in hand with each culture — with its own different way of keeping people healthy. In terms of the chronic problems that people face, we would source for different facilities in different countries that share the best practices, so the food has to be organic, locally-sourced, and free of things like MSG. You want to build these to be well-designed and energy efficient, but you also want to make sure that you can do intakes for the guests and to understand what their limitations are. We look at muscle strength, bile markers for illness, and then we give you ideas. The ideas can be surrounding traditional Chinese medicine, or Arabic medicine, or ideas from Portugal. Based on what seems to work for most people, you can overlap these treatments.
What's your role in all of this?
We work with the devices, technologies, and tools that that better the health conditions of our guests. Based on that, we off-prescribe so to speak. We offer them solutions that might work better. For example, these kind of foods are in your best interest because your blood sugars are high, this kind of massage will work well because we notice that your right neck is causing issues, this kind of exercise will be good because you are asymmetrical, meaning your left side is weak. I can identify all kinds of things that probably are going to bother you, if they aren't already at that stage.
"Too many times in the world, we've picked one over the other [Western and Eastern medicine], and you miss out on a huge opportunity to help."
When you mentioned Western and Eastern medicine, how do you evaluate whether someone wants more than the other?
I think you want both. Just like yin-yang, it's a balancing act. The benefit of traditional Chinese medicine and Arabic medicine — and they overlap — is that they are energy-based. They look at more common symptoms that we feel — mucus, heat, whatever. And then from there they extrapolate day-to-day strategies. The Western approach is much more based on targeting specific problems that you are facing. It's not both about prevention. Because you don't have those problems, you don't have too much heat or mucus or whatever the scenario is, so you can't intervene early in the process, and that's where you realise pretty quickly that you want both to exist. Too many times in the world, we've picked one over the other [Western and Eastern medicine], and you miss out on a huge opportunity to help.
How about combating stress?
Stress is universal. A lot of times, we feel it because we have a complexity management problem. We can't deal with all of the incoming. That phone you are holding, the way life has gotten more fragmented; it's not so clear what your responsibilities are and there's no clear social web that supports you anymore. But please understand that you are not alone, and feeling stress is normal. The number one most under appreciated problem is sleep, and it is incredibly helpful for stress management. Some ways to sleep better include turning the lights down, refraining from using your phone, disconnecting for about 20 minutes before you go to bed, and giving your brain time to secrete melatonin to know that it is time to fall asleep. Omega 3 fats are also helpful. They allow your brain to be a bit more flexible to cope better with the stresses around it.
What can we do to keep our hearts healthy?
The most important thing? More physical activity, because you have to ramp the heart. We want to have a very low amount of saturated fats, but you can have other fats if you want. So you can have it from plenty of food, but you just can't have it from too many four-legged animal sources. The things that cause weight gain are the things that cause heart disease.
"I try to only eat 12 hours a day. So I start my breakfast at 8am, and then I'll try to finish my dinner by 8pm."
You live quite a busy, eventful life. How do you ensure your lifestyle remains healthy through all of this?
I'm very regimented. I'm not strict in what I eat; I will eat all of this, but I'm pretty strict in when I do what I do. I plan ahead so that I don't have to eat because I am starving. I take two shows a day, or I go to the hospital to operate so it's one or the other. I get up at around 6am, and rehearse for the show from 7am to 8.30am. While I'm there, I eat yoghurt with blueberries, so that's my breakfast. The first show is at 10am, so I will have a handful of nuts to give me some energy for the show. At noon, I have whatever food that was made on the show so it's usually healthy. In the middle of the afternoon, I have chocolate because there's caffeine in it — dark chocolate, 70% cocoa. Real chocolate. And then I nap everyday for 15 minutes. It's usually around 1.15pm. That gives you a lot of energy. Then I practise for the second show from 3pm to 5pm and have my dinner at around 6pm. I don't go out to eat when it's late; I only eat dinner with friends who eat at 6pm. I try to only eat 12 hours a day. So I start my breakfast at 8am, and then I'll try to finish my dinner by 8pm.
Prior to this, you've been on the Oprah show. What is she really like?
Fairest woman I've ever met. She's wonderful. First of all, if you call her for advice, she will let you talk and talk and talk, and eventually you will tell yourself the answer. And then she will just underline it, she's very good with that. She gives you a lot of leeway, always supportive, and she's earnestly curious on how you are doing.
"If you watch Oprah, she won't give you the facts, she will tell you a story. Or get you to feel emotionally about a problem, and then you will care about the facts."
What is the biggest life lesson you've learnt from her?
I think it's that people don't change based on what they know, they change based on how they feel. So if you watch Oprah, she won't give you the facts, she will tell you a story. Or get you to feel emotionally about a problem, and then you will care about the facts. Because people don't care that you know until they know that you care. So it's really, really important to start there. Make sure that people connect with you emotionally. That's why as a surgeon, my best asset is getting the family to come in with the patient. And I say, "You know these people love you. Your children, your parents, whatever. If you don't take care of yourself then you are abandoning them."