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                    Recent Media/Press                              

Daily Record

NJ doctor won personal battle with obesity

Symposium focuses on control of weight

Written by Kathleen Hopkins

Staff Writer

7:06 AM, Jan. 30, 2012  
 
Dr. Jeffrey Levine, who appeared on “The Biggest Loser,” talks about his weight loss.
Dr. Jeffrey Levine, who appeared on “The Biggest Loser,” talks about his weight loss. / Jody Somers/Staff Photographer

 

Hillsborough Patch

Doctor, ‘Biggest Loser’ Contestant, Urges Fitness in Town

By Eileen Oldfield

January 30, 2012

 
 
Seven years ago, doctor Jeff Levine never thought he'd considering two half marathons or running in at least one 5k race month. 

All of that changed after he joined the cast of the Biggest Loser in 2005.

Now he wants people to know they can lose weight too, and keep it off.

At the time of the 2005 taping, Levine was around 400 pounds, and had the health complications to match his weight—sleep apnea, elevated blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, and degenerative joint disease in his left ankle.

Yet, he hadn’t heard of the show when he saw a call-out for contestants in late 2004.

“It was kind of ironic,” Levine said. “I don’t watch a lot of TV, so I didn’t know it was a weight-loss show. I had never seen it.”

One five-minute audition video, made to the tune of Sir Mix A Lot’s Baby Got Back and called Doctor’s Got Fat, landed Levine a spot on auditions and, eventually, a spot on the show. He remained a contestant until week ten of that season.

It kick-started the fitness routine he adheres to today, and helps him maintain the weight he lost in 2005—which includes 30 pounds before the show began, 103 on the show, and 50 after coming home. Since then, he’s established a routine of exercise and healthy eating to maintain the weight loss.

Planning is an integral part of that routine, according to Levine. With four daughters, his wife, a position as a professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey, and family activities, it is the part of the routine that is most important.

“It really comes down to making a schedule,” Levine said. “We have a big calendar in our kitchen for various appointments. It helps me plan if I’m going to be able to get around to (the men’s over-40) basketball league or when to go to the gym.”

His typical workout schedule includes basketball and volleyball, both on township leagues and twice-weekly trips to the gym or going out for a run. He usually runs one 5K race per month and is training for a half-marathon too—both despite a dislike for running.

“I don’t like running,” he said. “I actually find it really boring. But I don’t want to not finish a race, so I know I have to train in order to finish.”

The family also takes time to establish each family member’s schedule and to create a menu for the week. The menu and schedule allows them to fit home-cooked, healthier meals into their routines, while also compensating for busier nights.

“I know if there’s a week that we forget to make a menu, all hell breaks loose,” Levine said. “If you plan out your meals, if you plan out your exercise, you are much more likely to do it. It should be as important as your other appointments.”

Though he admits sleeping enough each night is one of his greatest trials, he finds that motivation and planning are the biggest hurdles for patients and community members.

Luckily, he said, Hillsborough has opportunities to work out, like its hiking and biking trails and recreation leagues. According to Levine, the recreation leagues offer opportunities for adults and children—and it’s something he finds can distract a person from the fact that they’re exercising.

“I think we have a town that promotes health and fitness in a lot of ways,” Levine said. “I haven’t seen any other town that has the recreation opportunities we have here. There’s so many things—the  Sourlands to go hiking. There’s bike groups that I’ll see on River Road.”

Another key is understanding self-defeating behaviors or triggers that lead to an eating mistake or a missed workout. Levine’s found that his family phased out soda and potato chips at home, among other factors. Levine recommends keeping gym clothes in the car to allow for a workout immediately after leaving the office, rather than sitting down and relaxing at home.

“You have to find what your barriers are and work around them,” he said. “For instance, my weakness is eating in the car. I know not to have food in my car or I’ll eat it.”

The process—and success—at losing weight is understanding those behaviors and countering them.

“I tell my patients I’m enrolling you in a course and it lasts the rest of your life,” Levine said. “The subject is you.”

 

Read Online: http://hillsborough.patch.com/articles/doctor-biggest-loser-contestant-urges-fitness-in-town

 

 

Obesity: A Q&A with N.J. doctor Jeffrey Levine

Published: Thursday, January 12, 2012, 12:22 PM

 

jeffrey-levine-2010.JPG

Dr. Jeffrey Levine, appears at his leanest in this photo from 2010, having dropped 180 pounds -- from his original weight of 400 to 220.

It’s that time of year, when resolutions to eat right and lose weight bloom into full-fledged, life-changing habits ... or wither and die on the vine.

Physician Jeffrey Levine, who lives in Hillsborough with his wife and four daughters, knows all about it. Levine is a family physician and women’s health specialist at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick. He also was a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” in 2005. Levine, who will turn 50 next month, weighed in at more than 400 pounds prior to joining the TV show. He was eliminated in the second to last week of the show, but Levine counts himself a winner.

Competing on the show gave him a jumpstart on losing more than 180 pounds. He now weighs between 270 and 275, and still struggles to keep the pounds off.

Today, he’ll speak at the UMDNJ President’s Lecture Series: “New Jersey’s Obesity Epidemic: the Role of the Health Care Professional.” Last year, the Trust for America’s Health found New Jersey, although among the least obese states, had an obesity rate that grew by 90 percent in 15 years. Editorial writer Linda Ocasio spoke with Levine about the battle of the bulge.

Q. Why are we so fat?

A. We’re consuming a greater calorie load, with lots of sugar and without nutrition in terms of protein, and it’s our portion size — there’s portion distortion. There’s less physical activity. Kids don’t run around outside anymore, they sit in front of the TV or computer. Forty percent of meals are eaten outside the home, and when you eat out, you eat twice as many calories. All these factors are interrelated. Physical education is often cut when school budgets are tight. That’s taken a toll as well.

jeffrey-levine-2003.JPG

Dr. Jeffrey Levine, a family physician and women'??s health specialist at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, appears at his heaviest in this 2003 file photo.

Q. How can health professionals help us?

A. You have to address this as a family approach. We treat one patient, but that might be a child or adult who doesn’t do the shopping or cooking for the household. You can send a kid to fat camp, but they return to a culture where it’s accepted to be overweight. If you single out a child or an adult, someone will undermine that, sometimes unintentionally. You need to look at it as a family health issue. And we need to make this a priority in medical school, train doctors to address this issue. We treat symptoms of obesity, such as painful joints and sleep apnea, but we don’t individualize and we don’t address emotional triggers of eating. We need to customize our approach for individuals.

Q. What’s your approach?

A. I go through what I learned from the show about myself. For some, weight is not a priority, it doesn’t affect them. They’re not ready yet. You have to get people to start thinking about their weight. For example, people who have problems with their knees don’t tie it to weight. I come up with a realistic plan. There’s no cookie-cutter approach. I don’t tell people what their ideal body weight is. That’s not realistic, not even for me. I focus on little changes: Lose 10 percent of your body weight and you’ll see a decrease in cardiovascular problems and diabetes. Focus on one or two pounds a week. Those who lose steady are more likely to have long-term success.

I tell people to keep a diary of what they eat and record their exercise. It’s therapeutic, you’re more conscious about what you’re eating. Why are you eating when you’re not hungry? I’ll suggest healthier alternatives, such as low-fat mayonnaise, or 93 percent lean ground beef vs. 80 percent. If a patient eats at Wendy’s every night, I help her look at the cost of that meal, not just in terms of calories.

Q. What about doctors and others who say some of us are genetically disposed toward obesity?

A. If you have one parent who is obese, that increases your risk of obesity to 50 percent; both parents obese, that rises to 80 percent. Both my parents were obese. I have many patients with genetic dispositions to things.

You can’t pick your parents, but you can significantly modify genetic risk through diet and exercise. I’m not going to wallow in self-pity.

Q. What is the secret?

A. Eat a good breakfast. Your body is a furnace and you need to give it twigs, not donuts. You have to eat to lose weight. If you don’t eat breakfast, you’ll make up for it later. People also underestimate the power of sleep. If you don’t get adequate sleep, your metabolic rate drops and you’ll compensate by eating. That’s my biggest problem — getting enough sleep.

Q. What advice can you give our readers?

A. Plan, plan, plan. This is what has helped my family. Pick a day when your family is not busy and make a menu for the week together. … My daughters are in every sport. When it’s really crazy, my wife will make a chicken salad wrap, which takes five minutes to make. Or she’ll heat up a soup that she made earlier in the week. We order out one day a week. The other six days, we cook. It’s healthy and we save enough to go away each summer.

Q. Other strategies?

A. Eat a salad before a party, or bring a healthy dish you like, such as turkey chili. And plan family activities that involve physical activity. We play soccer in our front yard at night and we go whitewater rafting. It’s fun and I don’t look at it as exercise. I’m still heavier than I should be. But I’m healthier than I was and I feel great. I know what it’s like and I understand, and we have to help doctors understand. No one wants to be heavy.

Read online: http://blog.nj.com/njv_editorial_page/2012/01/obesity_a_qa_with_nj_doctor_je.html

 

 

 

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