'To lose weight and stay fit, exercising is second only to healthy eating,’ says adolescent doctor


Some people like to offer health advice even though the extent of their medical knowledge is what they’ve gleaned from watching “Dr. Oz” on TV. Vincent N. Cefalu, on the other hand, can say with some confidence he knows what he’s talking about.

The retired Hammond, Louisiana doctor worked as a coroner for 14 years, performing more than 1,500 autopsies, and spending 30 years in medical practice, including stints at clinics specializing in mental health, drug abuse, and family planning and sexually transmitted diseases. He has also had health challenges of his own. He developed atherosclerotic disease from weighing over 400 pounds for over 30 years and had a stroke in 1999.

Cefalu went on to lose 272 of those pounds in 10 months and keep it off.

ALSO SEE: 9 steps to healthy eating

With personal and professional experience to draw from, Cefalu has also written several books, including the just released A Young Person’s Guide to Healthy Eating & Longevity: Obesity Is Not Just an Adult Problem.

“Obesity is running rampant in every age category, especially in youngsters,” Cefalu tells Yahoo Canada. “Since I personally experienced the problems related to overeating, I felt that my advice to young people could help them prevent many of the consequences.

“I wanted to let people know what stress and being overweight can do to the human body,” adds the grandfather of 13. “On this basis, I hope to convince youngsters that getting our emotions under control and eating healthier at an early age can be life-savers.”

A Young Person’s Guide to Healthy Eating & Longevity touches on a vast range of health hazards: including toxic chemicals; mould; radiation from cell phones, computers, X-rays, vitamin deficiencies, overuse of supplements, smoking, car accidents, sun exposure and anabolic steroids. The list goes on.

In a conversational tone, Cefalu also advocates abstinence over safe sex, saying the former is the only sure way to avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted illnesses.

ALSO SEE: The 12 worst foods for your skin

But much of the book focuses on losing weight. Some of his top tips for young people looking to be shed pounds eat well include:

  • Always using non-fat or sugar-free products whenever possible. Over a long haul, this can make a tremendous difference

  • Eating as many raw or cooked vegetables as you want. Salads are extremely low in calories, considering that you only use a low-fat or light dressing, tomato sauce with no added sugar, or vinegar. And since vegetables, including frozen stir-fry varieties, are available in supermarkets, produce stands, and many dollar stores year-round, you can always find them. “By using vinegar, tomato sauce, or low-calorie salsa liberally, along with the various seasonings and spices, any bland food or vegetable can be transformed into something incredibly tasty,” Cefalu writes.

  • Staying away from as many starches—rice, spaghetti, potatoes, bread—as you can. If you must have them, use wheat products or reduced-calorie varieties.


To lose weight and stay fit, exercising is second only to healthy eating, he says. Get moving, whether it’s going to the gym or doing sports like running, gymnastics, racquetball, skiing, or tennis.

Other tips for health-conscious young folk?

Don’t ignore symptoms

If you experience a sudden pain that doesn’t quickly resolve, regardless of where it is located in the body, see a doctor physician for a proper evaluation and to rule out a serious problem.

If you are dissatisfied or uncomfortable with your family doctor, find another one, he says. You must be able to place your complete trust in him or her.


It’s hard to beat for its physical benefits and the mental relaxation it fosters.

Know that marijuana isn’t harmless

Cefalu supports decriminalization, but as a doctor he has seen first-hand the drug’s effects.

“I witnessed an enormous number of individuals insisting that they could stop the marijuana any time they so desired, but very seldom did that turn out to be the case,” he writes. “Simply put, they became addicted. Short-term complications would include lung problems, such as experiencing recurrent upper respiratory infections leading to pneumonia, and acute psychotic reactions (impaired mental functioning).”


Long-term effects, meanwhile, include chromosomal aberrations and brain damage, very similar to chronic dementia.

Consider alcohol’s harmful effects

“Alcohol abuse causes numerous medical problems, including permanent damage to the nerve cells and liver, and the development of cancer,” Cefalu writes. “In fact, it has been associated with cancers in the mouth, the entire gastrointestinal tract, liver, and breast”

Alcohol also has a high caloric content, making it a deterrent to healthy eating.

Avoid energy drinks to boost energy

“The person experiencing lack of energy should seek medical treatment to determine the true cause of the symptoms, so that a longterm solution can possibly be found, rather than becoming dependent on these disasters,” Cefalu writes. “Once a young individual takes that first drink, he or she is ‘hooked;’ this little sip resulting in instantaneous relief will require progressive indulgence, often leading to a physiological consequence….These drinks are not for anyone, especially kids.”

The five most toxic over-the counter products:

  • Energy drinks, the most dangerous by far

  • Estrogen and progesterone

  • Testosterone

  • Laxatives

  • Nose drops

“Many adults don’t feel comfortable unless they receive a separate medication for each symptom or disorder, and other individuals are abusing laxatives, nose drops, and energy drinks,” he says. “In my opinion, I feel that drugs are literally destroying the earth.”


(BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)

Controversially, he also links the prevalence of such toxic products to the rise in cases of autism.

What do you think of Dr. Cefalu’s take on obesity in adolescents? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting to @YahooStyleCA.

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