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Women Who Inspire: Actress and Author Lisa Oz

Lisa Oz is the wife of Dr. Oz, but she’s never languished in his shadow. She has her own career as an actress and author of a book on relationships, called Us, and The Oz Family Kitchen cookbook. She is also the woman who developed, produced, and shaped much of her husband’s empire.

Today, she has taken a U-turn, literally, with the recently launched podcast “You Turns,” which she co-hosts with Jill Herzig, former editor-in-chief of Redbook and Dr. Oz: The Good Life magazine. It’s a show intended for anyone grappling with life changes in which both women explore “how to get fearless about transformation and actually enjoy the ride.”

We shared several laughs with Oz, who is now 55, when we chatted with her about transitions and aging with honesty.

How did you get together with Jill for “You Turns”?

When we worked together on Dr. Oz: The Good Life we became very good friends, and around that time my youngest went off to college, I became an empty nester, and much of my identity had been around my kids and being a mother. Jill and I both were experiencing a real shift in how we saw ourselves and wondered what was next and who would we be? Every woman around us seemed to be going through a personal shift — and it didn’t matter what age. One had a daughter graduating from college, another was getting divorced, another starting a new serious relationship. Everywhere we looked, girlfriends were in moments of transition.

We thought it would be a perfect area for us to explore. So we started the podcast to give us an excuse to talk to experts. The goal is to discover how to help make life a little easier through big shifts of change. We have the luxury through the podcast to tap into the world’s most brilliant thought leaders for usable strategies, bracing truths, and unlimited optimism. Anyone who’s ever grappled with life change or wants to be ready when they do (smart!), will relate, learn, and find new direction by listening in.

That moment when you look in the mirror and think, “Whoa, wait! I’m starting to age here!” can be a slow, creeping shift or hit you in the face. How do you view aging?

My approach has literally been the ostrich approach: Don’t think about it! Avoid it! Yes, I’m not as fast or as strong or have as much stamina, and it’s frustrating. But it’s normal; it’s not a tragedy! Some aspects of aging are less traumatic than others. You have to unpack it. Look at physical aging: You lose your eyesight so don’t notice your wrinkles and you need your glasses to put mascara on. It’s the universe winking! “Well, honey, you can’t do anything about that, and it really doesn’t matter.” It’s about redirecting your focus. Some things aren’t as important.

But seeing our parents age and getting a taste of one’s own mortality and knowing it’s around the corner — you have to confront that with some seriousness. When you’re younger, you think somehow they’ll have cured death by the time it gets to you. So it does make you re-evaluate priorities and how you’re spending your time and wasting time watching another bad TV show. We need to grasp moments and not waste time. It’s so fleeting and so finite, and we’re never going to get it back. So don’t watch another bad TV show. Explore something new.

What has been your own most impactful transition?

One big one was when I decided I was going to stop acting and not even produce my own stuff anymore, and focus on Mehmet’s entertainment career. It was more out of cowardice than anything else. He’s really fearless when it comes to putting himself out there, not at all afraid of judgement, whereas at auditions I’d be racked with fear. When I started creating shows for him rather than for myself, helping him build his health and wellness brand, which changed the trajectory of his career, it was great. But, on the other hand, it was hard for me, because I never thought of myself as someone in the background. I love being a supportive wife, but I’m now at a point when I want to do my own stuff again.

Do you have that slow-burn angst inside many of us feel when we’re not true to ourselves or denying our goals?

It’s self-recrimination, isn’t it? There’s anger there because you made choices that were cowardly rather than what the universe wanted you to do. Not answering the call is a bad thing for us as people, but especially women. It’s easy to say, “I’m not doing it because I’m afraid and because I’m busy doing this other thing.” But what voice in your head are you talking about?! Let’s be honest — it’s really about regrets.

Many of us have regrets over food and fitness and what we do to ourselves through bad choices.

Ha! I used to be able to exercise and lose weight doing it. That doesn’t happen now — exercise doesn’t seem to make any dent in my weight. As we age, our resting metabolic rate goes down. I exercise three or four times a week — mostly spinning class and weights — but I get bored doing anything for too long. I used to do dance classes and a lot of yoga for years, then interval training a few years ago, running, rowing, weights. Now I spin, mostly because the music is so good. It’s over in 45 minutes, and I have other stuff to do!

You’ve been a vegetarian since you were 14. Have you had to make nutritional changes as the years pass?

I haven’t changed my nutrition at all. It’s funny, because when I met Mehmet he had, let’s just say, a less than optimal way of eating. Everything he talks about is integrative wellness and whole organic foods, and he got that all from my family. The best way to lose weight fast is a very low-carb, high-protein diet. As a vegetarian, that’s not easy to do. Weight loss has been a real struggle for me. I can maintain till the next Ice Age. Losing it’s more difficult. It’s not what I eat. I eat well. But I’m a total emotional eater. It’s like a serotonin hit; it’s an addiction.

Many of us are, and it’s so illogical. Do you have conversations with yourself about how emotional eating makes no sense?

Incessantly! But it’s like a switch, like for gamblers and alcoholics. We turn off that part of our brain that says it’s not really a good idea, and the conversation goes on. You’re doing it because you don’t want to feel the emotion you’re avoiding. Mehmet does it with emails when he’s annoyed. Doesn’t switch off. Believe me, if I knew the conversation to have with myself to cure emotional eating, I’d be a size 2! I just think it’s a lot of willingness to be uncomfortable, and it’s not pleasant. We spend a lot of time on the floor in a ball crying when we think about things we don’t want to. It’s not the stuff you’re eating that makes it unpleasant. It’s the emotion.

You’re right, and that means tending to our souls. What do you do for yours?

I meditate, but not religiously. I like it but I don’t feel I need it to stay focused and grounded. I’m more of a prayer person. I’ll do spiritual readings and contemplative time around that. That’s more of a regular practice for me. I don’t go to church, and as I get older I’m not any more religious. But I’m much more interested in things that are that way inclined — anything where there’s something under the surface that’s bigger.

You and Mehmet are known to be avid practitioners of yoga, which has a meditative component.

I still do yoga but not every day how I used to. Mehmet is religious about his daily morning 15-minute yoga stretch. I do it less often. At home, I don’t do the hard poses I used to do because basically I can’t do them. At retreats when they’re all doing handstands, I just don’t have the upper-body strength any more. When I see others doing wacky inversions I want to do, it’s frustrating but I’m OK with it.

Has being in the public eye shifted your lens on beauty?

In some ways, as I get older, I feel it’s less pressure. I look at younger people and they’re all beautiful, radiant, and glowing, but they don’t know and can’t see how absolutely beautiful they are. Personally, I think the pressure to be attractive eases up as you get older. For women growing up, there was always that competitive thing about physicality, but seriously, no amount of Botox is going to rewind time. Whenever I did the red carpet, I’d get a new outfit and hair and makeup. These days I just dig something out, and if I brush my hair that’s good! I’m just being me now.

You have beautiful skin, though. What do you do?

I occasionally wash off my makeup before I go to bed, but it’s rare. I’m really bad that way. And I’ll go, “Yeah, this cream looks good,” then have it months and not use it and give it away. I do moisturize at night, though, and I do wear makeup. I may get a facial once a year — they’re fun — but that’s about it.

You seem really easy going about aging. How do you maintain that attitude?

We need to be kinder to ourselves and kinder to the people around. It’s about making choices. So often we act out of habit with an unthinking response, on autopilot, even with ourselves. But we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for getting older. We need to be comfortable with ourselves and learn to relax.

To buy Lisa Oz’s books, go to amazon.com. To listen to her new podcast, go to youturnspodcast.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Lisa Oz

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