Health guru and "F.O.O." (Friend of Oprah) Dr. Mehmet Oz has found a new way to motivate America to lose weight and eat right. He's getting help from former NFL great and Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and his wife, Taj of the R&B singing group SWV, who have become regular contributors to "The Dr. Oz Show." The trio has created the Dr. Oz Ultimate Health Challenge where 20 moms of NFL players are making their health issues public for the good of helping other women who may be experiencing the same roadblocks. Eddie and Taj are responsible for the exercise portion of the challenge but offer advice on everything from food choice to finding time to just breathe. The pair talked to ESSENCE.com about how they got involved with the show, their thoughts about the health issues that affect African-Americans, and the secret to maintaining an exercise routine with an impossibly busy schedule.
TAJ: It was almost like divine intervention. Eddie got an e-mail from someone he had worked with a while ago and it said that Dr. Oz wanted to meet us and see if we wanted to do something for the show. We were like, hell yeah!
EDDIE: It all started about two years ago when my mother asked me to come up with a workout plan for her and her girlfriends and that lead to the idea of a competition between the NFC and AFC moms. We wanted them to lose weight, change their eating habits, and look into the psychology behind their eating. So I put together this lifestyle challenge to the NFL moms teaching them the basics of living better from a holistic point of view. What people don't understand is that the moms travel just as much as their sons. If we could get them to change their eating and exercise behavior, we believe we can get them to change the whole household.
ESSENCE.COM: How has it changed their lives?
EDDIE: One mother realized that she needed a triple bypass heart surgery after getting a body scan and seeing that her arteries were blocked. She was on the brink of a heart attack and wouldn't have known had she not done the challenge. We want these mothers to teach people how to take a hardcore look at their overall health by making changes for the better.
ESSENCE.COM: What unique qualities do you two bring to the show?
TAJ: I'm Eddie's sidekick. This has been his brainchild and I stand right beside him and cheer him on. But I talk to a lot of the moms and tell them how I stay healthy. I did the show "Survivor" and the minute I came home and started eating, that weight came right back in a flash. I hit the gym five days a week, watched what I ate, and I gave up candy for six months. If I had a drug it would be candy. I bring that type of realism to the show and let these women know that I know it's not easy.
ESSENCE.COM: Taj, a lot of women struggle with losing that post baby weight. How have you managed to get rid of it?
TAJ: I had my son April 4, 2005, and lost the baby weight in December 2008! It was so hard. My problem was, I kept approaching my workouts as if I were still pre-baby. It wasn't working for me anymore. I had to realize I'm not in my 20's anymore and attack this from a different mindset.
ESSENCE.COM: What do you think is missing from Black households that are causing us to be so unhealthy?
EDDIE: It's about knowing what you can do differently and what's available to you. You have to understand what sugar does to your body and the link to Type 2 diabetes and obesity. We have to be more conscious of that. It's okay to have a piece of cake at times, but you can't have it for breakfast and lunch. There is a proper balance for everything. When I was growing up, what was cheapest was unhealthy. But there are ways now that you can eat healthy that is also affordable.
ESSENCE.COM: What are some suggestions for eating healthier on the cheap?
EDDIE: Whatever comes off of a tree, buy it and eat it. Buy vegetables and fruits by the pound. If you don't like to eat vegetables, you should try vegetable juice where I get everything that I need in one take.
ESSENCE.COM: What type of exercises are you teaching the NFL moms?
EDDIE: We're having them approach things from a different mindset. It's less about exercising and more about adult playtime. Whatever you do in terms of being active, you've got to enjoy doing it. You shouldn't look at it as a workout because then you're going to hate every minute of it. Whether it's Yoga, water aerobics, or running, you have to find that enjoyment in it and your body will reap the benefits in the long run.
ESSENCE.COM: Taj, many of our readers are like you. They're working moms with a lot going on. How do you find the time to work out with such a busy schedule?
TAJ: I want to tell them I do this and that, but I'm just like everyone else—I'm running from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep. As a mom, we feel like we have to complete everything perfectly because that's a reflection of who we are as parents and as women. I don't have a specific plan. I get up and get my workout in and go through my list of things I have to do and I just try to check it off as I go.
EDDIE: One thing she does very well is get her sleep. She's usually in bed by 8:30 P.M. Just as much as we like to preach exercise and eating well, getting six to seven hours of rest a night is a key component of that.
ESSENCE.COM: What other projects are you guys working on?
EDDIE: I'm just finishing up my MBA program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and will graduate in December. I want to find other businesses that I can grow and put this education to good use.
TAJ: I'm really happy about the comeback of SWV. We're headed to the studio to work on some new material. I'm also still promoting my book "Player hateHER: How to Avoid the Beat Down and Live in a Drama-Free World."
ESSENCE.COM: You guys have so much going on. How are you able to balance it all and still keep your marriage healthy?
TAJ: We find a balance. There are things that he's passionate about and that I'm passionate about. We both had careers before we came together and that doesn't mean either one of us should stop. We're going to make it work.
EDDIE: Our marriage is always changing and evolving. We've both learned to be flexible on the fly. Neither one of us has the standard 9 to 5 job every day. One day she could be in Africa and I could be in L.A. It's a challenge for us and we look at it as a way to take our marriage and our love to a new level.
Look for Eddie and Taj George on "The Dr. Oz Show" weekdays. Check your local listings.