How to avoid my operating table

Health is not a matter of luck, it is a matter of intentionality. But even if you do and say all the right things, you may not be closer to your goals.

I know because I was there.

As a heart surgeon, I was very good at following the rules.

But I was still morbidly obese.

I followed the food pyramid to a T.

I exercised for the recommended amount of time each day.

I thought I was doing everything right. And yet, my heart was at its breaking point.

I knew there had to be something more. So in 2015 I started digging into what modern science had to say about maintaining metabolic health.

And it changed my life.

To date, I’ve lost 100 pounds – and kept it off. Not only was it durable, but it was simple to follow. You can do it too.

Here’s how you can stay off my operating table and achieve optimal metabolic wellness.

1. Reframe your health as a system rather than a goal. You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: health is not a goal. It’s a journey.

This has been key to my health journey. Once I reframed my thinking, I was able to overcome those obstacles between me, my state of mind, and the imaginary finish line in my head.

Try to think of your trip as a gradual change rather than a short-term fad. Instead of saying, “I can’t eat sugar anymore,” you can say, “I can eat all these new foods that are better for my body.”

Push the boundaries of a single gigantic goal and complement it with smaller, more achievable milestones.

You’ll be glad you did.

2. Make one lasting change at a time. Going all out with metabolic health can be overwhelming. Worse still, it will make you want to quit before you see tangible results.

Start small with your healthy changes. I recommend changing your foods a little at a time. Start with 15 minutes at the gym, then expand to 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or even an hour.

You owe it to yourself to stay in the game. If you want additional community or accountability, metabolic health coaches are a great place to start.

3. Daily movement. Thirty minutes a day is enough to make a difference.

And you don’t have to be a gym rat to get started.

Move throughout the day. Start doing resistance exercises rather than cardio alone. And if you can’t stay consistent, at least stay focused and catch up when you can.

You can even start exercising today. Take a 15 minute walk around your home, neighborhood or apartment complex. You may not see or feel the changes right away, but you will feel them soon enough.

4. Eat real, whole foods. Healthy diets don’t have to be smoothies and salads. Foods that come from the ground or are raised on the ground need to have a place in your nutrition system.

I have found the most success with real, whole foods like:

animal protein

Nuts and seeds

Fruits and vegetables

Real, whole foods will kick-start your metabolism. For me, this was one of the biggest keys to losing excess weight and keeping it off.

5. Get enough sleep. Sleep plays a bigger role in metabolic health than we realize.

Too little, and you put a lot of stress on your heart. Too much, and you might experience troubling side effects.

I’m not going to give you a hard number to follow. Your body may be happy with 7 hours of rest, while others need 8 or 9. A lot of it is trial and error.

Either way, practice good sleep hygiene as best you can. Try reducing or limiting electronic light for 30 minutes before sleeping. If you’re concerned about underlying factors like insomnia or sleep apnea, see a doctor. And above all, wait three hours after eating before sleeping.

6. Relieve stress. Stress is one of the main reasons people end up on my operating table.

Being stressed increases your risk of heart disease. It’s also harder to lose weight, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and get results from your diet and exercise programs.

When you’re stressed, your body goes into fight or flight mode. Cortisol forces your metabolism to slow down, which means you don’t digest food as well and can store more fat.

In other words, you need to find ways to relax – today. It means picking up a new hobby, finding time to relax, and taking a well-deserved vacation.

And no: you are not lazy. Your body needs it to survive.

So seek stress relief accordingly.

7. Get a doctor who gets it. Your primary care provider should be associated with your health goals, not a barrier to your success. They should support your journey to metabolic wellness and be interested in bringing you closer to your goals.

Not all doctors see it that way. There is a lot of outdated science and flawed conventional wisdom that hasn’t caught up with modern research. And if your doctor isn’t committed to your goals, you might want to look elsewhere.

I suggest shopping around for a new doc because you have time. You can also work with a metabolic health coach for more personalized suggestions for your health goals.

You need to start today:

These seven steps are just the beginning. In truth, the principles are only a starting point for your next journey. Although they may seem intimidating, they really aren’t that complicated and you’ll quickly find yourself in a groove.

If you want to make lasting changes to your metabolism, you have to start somewhere. The best time to start making improvements is today, not tomorrow.

So be serious. Advance.

And for what it’s worth, I can’t wait to see you on my operating table.

Philip Ovadia is a cardiothoracic surgeon and author of Stay off My Operating Table: A Heart Surgeon’s Metabolic Health Guide to Lose Weight, Prevent Disease, and Feel Your Best Every Day.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com


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