Dr. Mehmet Oz, known by millions as television personality “Dr. Oz,” is famous for his Oprah appearances, handsome looks and a canon of healthy living advice that has been under intense scrutiny in recent months. Healthcorps, his youth-focused nonprofit, has received comparably less time in the spotlight.
The celebrity hit Roseville on Saturday for a KCRA-sponsored event featuring Healthcorps, a program for high school students that he founded with his wife, Lisa Oz, in 2003. About 10,000 audience members packed into two floors of the Galleria to listen to Oz’s gospel.
He spoke to an energetic morning crowd about optimal waist size (less than half a person’s height) and how to eat healthily without depriving the body of needed nutrition. He advised against conventional diets and diet supplements and denied any connection to the various weight loss scams he has been associated with.
He instead recommended eating not “healthy foods,” but foods you enjoy that are also healthy. He urged natural foods, exercise and positive mental attitude.
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“Biology will always beat out your willpower,” he said. “What you can do is nudge your biology in the right direction.”
The message carries over to the philosophy of Healthcorps, which teaches fitness, nutrition and mental empowerment to low-income students at 55 schools across the U.S., including six in Sacramento and two in Stockton.
The program, initially conceived by Oz as the “peace corps” of health, recruits aspiring health professionals to serve as Healthcorps coordinators at each school. They teach about 40 minutes each day and also provide extracurricular and drop-in support, said Michelle Bouchard, Healthcorps president.
“A lot of these kids are hearing negative messages at home,” she said. “They need mentors and role models who are feeding them these positive messages and thoughts.”
Students from local Healthcorps schools manned resources tables Saturday, where they shared healthy tips through arts and crafts, gardening demos or, in one case, a bicycle-powered smoothie maker.
“It keeps kids thinking about what it means to be healthy and how to combine daily life activities with health and wellness,” said Krystal Bell, Healthcorps coordinator at Sacramento Charter High School, of the program.
The event also featured the Sacramento Kings dancers, a teen chef competition and an acroyoga performance.
Ann Chavez, a Sacramento resident and longtime Dr. Oz fan, said she knows Oz’s practices have been under question recently – a group of physicians last month requested his removal from the faculty at Columbia University – but still considers the cardiothoracic surgeon an informative speaker. She brought her daughter Sara to the event to hear Oz and visit the student tables.
“We’re going to do this first, before we go buy the clothes,” Chavez said. “We have to learn some healthy habits.”