The Challenge of Switzerland

You might think that stepping on the bathroom scale and seeing my all-time high weight blinking back at me would be all the motivation I’d need to get in shape. That shameful number between my feet actually put me in the same weight class as the world’s fattest dog. But he’s got a legitimate excuse for his extra heft – he’s 7-feet long, and bred to pull a lifeboat full of shipwrecked people to shore. Me, on the other hand, I’m about 5’6”, mid-life, medium build and the only thing I have to haul across water is myself on the commuter ferry I ride to my job at The Dr. Oz Show. I’m a supervising producer at the show and I love my job. I run the Medical Unit where we work with Dr. Oz to find the latest and best health and wellness information for our viewers. My own personal challenge with diet and fitness isn’t lack of information; it’s figuring out how to take all that research I have at my fingertips and put it into practice in my own life. Overall, I’m pretty healthy for my age, (let’s just say in TV terms that I’m much older than Snooki, but much younger than Barbara Walters) but I do face the same demons as most of our show’s guests: I’m super busy at work and home, and I put my own health needs on the back burner. Like I said, if you watch our show, you’ve heard my story before.

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You might think that stepping on the bathroom scale and seeing my all-time high weight blinking back at me would be all the motivation I’d need to get in shape. That shameful number between my feet actually put me in the same weight class as the world’s fattest dog. But he’s got a legitimate excuse for his extra heft – he’s 7-feet long, and bred to pull a lifeboat full of shipwrecked people to shore. Me, on the other hand, I’m about 5’6”, mid-life, medium build and the only thing I have to haul across water is myself on the commuter ferry I ride to my job at The Dr. Oz Show.  I’m a supervising producer at the show and I love my job. I run the Medical Unit where we work with Dr. Oz to find the latest and best health and wellness information for our viewers. My own personal challenge with diet and fitness isn’t lack of information; it’s figuring out how to take all that research I have at my fingertips and put it into practice in my own life. Overall, I’m pretty healthy for my age, (let’s just say in TV terms that I’m much older than Snooki, but much younger than Barbara Walters) but I do face the same demons as most of our show’s guests: I’m super busy at work and home, and I put my own health needs on the back burner. Like I said, if you watch our show, you’ve heard my story before.   

In fact, being overweight just makes me the average American woman, right? (I know, I know.  As Dr. Oz likes to remind us in the Med Unit, being average isn’t the same as being healthy.) But here’s the trend that really scares me: according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of obese American adults now outweighs those who are overweight – 34%are obese compared to 32.7% who are overweight.  I’m terrified of that slippery slope. Over the years, I’ve started various diet and exercise plans, but never stayed on them, so the pounds have slowly but consistently crept up on me, about 2-3 pounds a year. That adds up. 

Something else worries me - at my last physical exam my usually perfect blood pressure and cholesterol numbers were a bit elevated. As an economist might describe my current health status, my fitness reports are bloated, my weight has been steadily trending up and I need to force a correction. But it wasn’t the shock of those dreadful statistics, measurements or pounds that turned out to be my personal “wake-up/shape-up” call. No, what’s made me “snap out of it,” (as Cher says in the movie “Moonstruck”) has been something positive, life-enhancing and ultimately, downright magical. 

It began when my husband suggested we take a special vacation this year to the clean, fresh alpine air of Switzerland. It had been an intensely busy and stressful year, and I was thrilled with Tom’s idea, envisioning myself hiking through flower-filled meadows, invigorated and rejuvenated. The following morning, however, reality hit, as I struggled just to climb up the stairs in the NYC subway. As my heart pounded and my breathing quickened with each step, I knew the jig was up.   

The choice was clear: I could get on that flight to Geneva in a few weeks in the same old sorry shape or I could embark on an even bigger journey – starting right now. I was smart enough to see what I had going for me. Like Dorothy in my own version of Oz, I had it all at the click of my heels: great information, supportive friends and family, and amazing guides in Dr. Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen – as well as the inspiring stories of the women and men on our show this season who lost weight, got fit and saved their lives. 

I decided I was going to make the famous YOU-Turn and get on the road to better health. Goal #1: Could I actually hike a mountain in Switzerland, and not die trying? First thing on the agenda: a new pair of sneakers and a pedometer. Because to paraphrase 2 of my favorite wise men, Confucius and Dr. Mike, I knew that my dream of the Alps would have to begin with those darn 10,000 steps. So, just how far can one out- of-shape city girl travel on the promise of a walk in the Swiss clouds? Stay tuned.

Blog written by Susan Wagner
Before coming to the Dr. Oz Show, Susan worked at ABC News as a health producer for more than 20 years. She co-created the first...