Extreme Makeover Q&A with Dr. Terry Schaack

Featured Article, Weight Loss
on June 6, 2011

We asked "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition"’s medical expert a few questions about extreme weightloss. Here’s what he had to say.

SpryLiving.com: What is the very first piece of advice you give to someone who is super obese and just beginning their weight loss journey?

Dr. Schaack: I reinforce that weight loss is possible, but it is a lifetime journey.

SL.com: What are the most major risk factors that obesity carries with it? And can weight loss reverse these risks?

DS: When weight loss is accomplished by increasing percentage of lean body mass and not just starving oneself, the risks associated with obesity are reversible. Risks include musculoskeletal injury, prolonged recovery from injury, increased risk with surgical procedures, type 2 diabetes, gout, pancreatitis, liver disease, infertility, heart disease, sleep apnea … the list goes on forever.

SL.com: When someone hits a weight loss plateau, how do you recommend they break through it?

DS: The first thing is to understand that plateaus are a normal part of weight loss.  Your body needs time to make adjustments to the changes in weight distribution, changing metabolic demands, and organ function.  That said, you might be able to make these natural plateaus shorter by changing your routine. That doesn't mean a fad diet, but changing the types of vegetables or the way they are prepared. Change the types of exercise without changing the amount of calories burned.

SL.com: If you love someone who is super obese, how can you motivate and/or encourage them to make a change and lose weight? How do you begin that conversation?

DS: This is the most difficult question because of the variety of interpersonal issues that exist in all relationships. The first thing to do is to make sure you are not enabling the other person. To start the conversation, it is often easiest to discuss health and fitness, not weight loss.

SL.com: What is a safe rate at which to lose weight?

DS: This depends on your underlying health. Unsupervised weight loss should not exceed 2 lbs per week.

SL.com: Why do men seem to lose weight faster and easier than women?

DS: The hormonal differences make the weight loss experience difference for men and women.  A woman's cycle causes weight fluctuations men don't experience. Testosterone makes building muscle easier for men.  But the bottom line is the same for both sexes. With portion control, nutritious foods and exercise, weight loss can be achieved.

SL.com: What is the single most important piece of advice you can offer someone who is either just beginning or newly on the weight loss journey?

DS: Einstein's definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. There are no magic short cuts for weight loss, but choosing a sustainable diet and exercise program works, so give it a try.


Dr. Terry Schaack is the medical director at California Health & Longevity Institute and was the medical expert for season 1 of “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition.” He has been in private practice for more than 20 years, providing primary and preventative care to patients in Southern California. Currently, Dr. Schaack is the primary investigator for two National Genetics Institute studies on DNA breakdown and repair