10/14/2013 05:21 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Sexy, Vital, Lean and Ageless: The Magic Formula!

When you saw that title, maybe you rolled your eyes. Maybe you thought sardonically, "sure!" But you stopped by just to see what balderdash was being used to bolster the outlandish claim.

Or, maybe you thought it was a game of sorts, and would prove to be a joke. Maybe you were looking for a laugh, something in the vein of the inimitable Gail Collins at the New York Times.

Or, perhaps you read me somewhat routinely and thought: "Dr. Katz has sold out!" Maybe you were horrified. After all, I have a pretty consistent track record of arguing against magical formulas.

But maybe you thought: "yes!" In which case, I am thinking: "oh, no."

You do know there is no magic, right? You wouldn't trade in your car (or cow) for magic beans, I trust. You wouldn't sign your child up for a wave of some wand as a replacement for four years at a good college. You wouldn't turn over your hard-earned cash to someone who told you, "I have no actual financial management expertise, but I have a magic formula." You wouldn't even be tempted.

So, if I may put it quite bluntly: what the hell is it about weight control and health that makes us into a pack of naïve nincompoops?

I can think of only one thing. In most of those other areas, the legitimate "experts" have proved themselves to us. But maybe nobody's made losing weight or finding health seem manageable to you. Perhaps desperation breeds gullibility.

But gullibility isn't going to help you any. Gullibility is great for sellers, but really bad for buyers. Do yourself a favor -- at the first talk of magic, step away from your credit card and you won't get hurt.

Why haven't the experts in the weight loss/health promotion space proved their worth to us all? Several reasons, I think.

1) The voices of genuine experts are substantially drowned out by pseudo experts. If we treated flying the way we treat weight control, everyone who had ever been on a plane would speak with the same authority as an experienced pilot or the engineer who built the thing.

2) Academic experts mistake hard for complicated (in my humble opinion). The tendency for serious scholars to miss the forest for the trees is famously captured in the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Losing weight and finding health in a modern world that conspires against both is somewhat hard, but really -- it's not complicated.

3) Too many academics have fallen in love with their particular tree, another great way to miss the forest. There is no question, for example, that we eat too much sugar -- but that in no way makes sugar the ONLY consideration important to health and weight. But that's just what we hear, while hearing from others it is wheat, or grains, or glycemic load, or fats, or animal foods, or dairy, or GMOs, or pesticide residues, or corn, or portion sizes, and so on. Here again, imagine just this manner of nonsense in any other branch of science. It would be as if mathematicians competed to assert that only multiplication matters; only division matters; only addition matters; only the square root function matters; and other such numerological nonsense. Mathematicians seem to understand that we need all relevant functions to make sense of math. We need all relevant considerations about good nutrition to make sense of dinner, too.

4) There is also the military-industrial complex, or the relevant part of it: so-called "Big Food." Even those times the experts in nutrition have made legitimate points about a particular problem, they have wound up putty in the hands of the food manufacturers. None of the early advocacy for lower-fat eating said anything about eating more cookies. The idea was to eat more vegetables and less cream. But the food industry looked on and thought "bingo!" and came up with SnackWell's cookies. There has been a recurring problem in this area, compounded by the careful engineering of foods that we just can't seem to stop eating.

I could go on, but you get the idea. But unfortunately for you, none of these challenges makes magic real. We really do have to let that sink in, and deeply. Magic will work no less well for losing weight or finding health than it does for literacy, or advanced education, or managing money, or anything else that matters in life.

So let's get back to my title. If you believed it, even for an instant, I'm afraid we have to append another adjective: gullible. Care to buy the Brooklyn Bridge? I mean no offense. Trust me, you are in the best and most commodious of company.

But you didn't really believe it. You simply wanted to believe it. But here, we can perhaps save ourselves with a bit of help from that new-age messiah, Mick Jagger. You can't always get what you want, but if you acknowledge that, you just might find you get what you need.

I can help you get what you need, but it begins with both of us being honest. I have to admit that I have no magic to offer you. You have to admit that you know there really is no magic.

Then what? Then this is just like any other worthwhile endeavor in life. It takes someone with genuine and hard-earned expertise willing to teach, and someone willing to put in some time and effort to learn the ropes and acquire the applicable skills, because the prize is worth it. I think that can be us; I'm willing if you are.

As for that title, ageless per se, isn't possible. But truly durable vitality is, and once we accept our mortality, that's really what counts. We can add years to life, and certainly add life to years. That's what the Blue Zones are all about. But there's no need to point at examples so far from home. I live this advantage every day. So does my family. And yours can, too.

As for sexy, you are sexy if you think you are. Better yet, you are sexy if someone else thinks you are -- and especially if the right someone else thinks you are. Either way, sexy is in the eyes of the beholder.

But lean and vital, healthy and substantially disease-proof -- those are objective, and objectively within reach. Ideally the world would change in ways to put these on a path of lesser resistance. I, and many others, work toward that goal every day. But in the meantime, your fate is to a remarkable degree, in your own hands.

Folks, you truly can get "there" from here. It just requires the exact formula that every other worthwhile thing requires. Acquiring the relevant skills and knowledge, and applying them. I can teach them, but you have to learn and apply them. The formula involves some effort on your part, a bit of time, treating what matters as if it matters. It requires being realistic. There is no magic involved.

"There" is a very good place. "There" is a place that is, to a stunning degree, disease free. "There" is a place where you can share the benefits of vitality and the pleasure attached to it with those you love. There is a place where health is better, and consequently, life is better. Healthy people truly do have more fun.

You can get "there" from here. But only if once and for all you accept that when you hear promises of magical formulas, there is certainly no "there," there.


Dr. Katz' latest book, Disease-Proof, which both he and his mother insist is both entirely honest and REALLY good, is available at bookstores nationwide and at:

Dr. David L. Katz;