2017 Top Doctor: Robert Ziltzer, M.D.

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Profiles Issue: April 2017
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Obesity Medicine
Med School/Year Graduated: Albany Medical College, 1987
Years in Practice: 26

Obesity medicine is one of our new Top Docs categories this year. Can you explain it for the layperson?
People wrongly think weight loss is a self-help problem. You can’t lose weight through a book or commercial program. If you had cancer or heart disease, you would see a doctor. When you have obesity, you should see an obesity medicine physician.

It seems ironic to practice obesity medicine in Scottsdale, which has such an image-focused stereotype. What attracted you to the area and its patient population?    
We have patients who could not walk a block who can now run marathons, hike tall peaks and enjoy chasing after their children or grandchildren. Helping people achieve things they thought were impossible is what most makes my day!

Other than our food intake and exercise habits, what else can cause obesity?  
Genetics, stress, not getting at least seven hours of sleep and medications are some of the most common reasons. In truth, each person has a different reason, and it is critical to tailor the treatment to each person.  

There’s been a cultural shift to be more accepting of bodies of all shapes and sizes, including a movement to normalize the word “fat” and stop using “overweight.” What are your thoughts on this trend?  
I discourage the use of any label. Someone who has excess body weight may “have obesity.” We don’t say they “are obese.” Obesity is a serious medical disease like cancer and diabetes. It is not an identity or character flaw.

Have you ever struggled with your weight? If so, how does that help you work with your patients?
I love to eat, and lost control of [my] weight in my 30s. My weaknesses are ice cream and pizza. I teach my patients to plan every day, aim for success, be forgiving and indulge on occasion. Don’t aim for perfection.

If you could get all of your patients to stop eating or drinking one thing, what would you ban?
Juicing is so overrated. It packs fat-building sugar, breaks up healthy fiber and promotes diabetes.

What is new or exciting in the field of weight loss?
The newest developments are the use of new prescription medications to keep the weight off. Most will regain weight without ongoing treatment from a doctor.

You’re an avid marathon runner. What do you enjoy most about running?
Running clears my head and lets me indulge in the foods I like. I love the challenge of pushing myself to my limits. My 40s were about marathons, my 50s started with an Ironman Triathlon. I’m looking for my next challenge!

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be...”
I would be an economist. The interworking of the world economy is fascinating.