Your Teen had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Mehmet Oz and his teenage daughter, Zoe. Dr. Oz, host of the Dr. Oz Show, launched HealthCorps, an initiative to fight childhood obesity and released a book, YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens, written with two Cleveland Clinic doctors, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Ellen Rome.
Both Dr. Oz and Zoe have chosen a healthy lifestyle with regular physical activity and sensible food choices, even when they snack. Zoe likes Cheetos, but she doesn’t like how she feels after she eats them, so she prefers to snack on frozen grapes. Dr. Oz loves German chocolate cake for his birthday, but he doesn’t like how he feels after he eats cake, so he prefers to snack on tree nuts.
Dr. Oz and Zoe set the bar very high. They live a model life that most of us won’t achieve. Still, we can all adopt pieces of advice that will improve our health and wellness. And, according to Dr. Oz, parents are the first step toward changing unhealthy habits in their family.
“Kids will not treat themselves the way you treat them,” Dr. Oz warns. “They will treat themselves the way you treat yourself.”
Only after you’ve dealt with ground zero, can you address outside influences like peer pressure. Generally, peer pressure is considered a negative influence. But, when it comes to positive habits, peer pressure can be valuable. As parents, Dr. Oz and his wife, Lisa, pay attention to their kids’ friends.
“We will nudge Zoe to spend time with friends who we know do the right thing, in both their personal behaviors and health,” Dr. Oz says. “And, we will actively discourage certain friendships. We ask probing questions, and nudge her in the right direction by helping her get to one friend’s house while making it more difficult for her to get to another friend’s house.”
Older siblings can also impact lifestyle choices. Dr. Oz’s oldest daughter, Daphne who hosted the ABC show The Chew, had a weight problem at one time. Once she learned to manage her weight, Daphne taught her sisters what she learned and influenced Zoe to become more interested in healthy eating.
And of course, don’t diminish your own clout as the buyer of groceries. Dr. Oz believes that parents can still influence changes in eating habits, without making it a battleground. For example, many parents use a snack drawer to teach moderation, but Dr. Oz suggests removing the temptation entirely.
“Celebrate your teens, whoever they are—obese, thin, muscular, frail—but then do subtle things to make it easier to do the right thing.
Teens like sugary foods. If you bring those foods into your house and try to dole it out in moderation, you will almost certainly fail; the power struggle will create a civil war. Instead of buying the junk and having a constant battle, don’t buy the junk and there is never any reason to have the discussion because the junk won’t be there at 10 o’clock when your teen is tired and searching for a snack.”
Dr. Oz practices what he preaches. He does not allow any junk food into his house unless there is a special occasion, like a birthday. Dr. Oz and Lisa also have other systems that make it easier for everyone to make healthy choices.
“In our house we have a big vat of water in the kitchen with cut fruit. We don’t have soft drinks in the house. It is just easier to go to the visually appealing glass water jug with fruit in it and grab a drink. Instead of opening the fridge to look for a drink, they just grab a glass of water. For breakfast, we mostly have what we call The Magic Drink (recipe below). Fast food is never an option.”
At home, Lisa, a life-long vegetarian, prepares vegetarian meals, but Dr. Oz and two of his four children will eat meat outside their home.
“I don’t have a problem with meat, but it should not be the foundation. I occasionally eat meat but I eat healthier choices of meat; I’d never eat a hamburger. I took my son Oliver to Morton’s last night. He ordered the NY strip steak and took the leftovers home for breakfast. He likes it, and I don’t mind.”
Dr. Oz’s own childhood home resembled most of ours. There was a candy drawer. The family ate a home-cooked dinner every night, and red meat was a regular part of their diet. His mom cooked simply, but it wasn’t today’s definition of healthy.
So what inspired him to change? Dr. Oz attributes the transition to three main factors. The earliest influence came from sports. Dr. Oz played football in college and learned how healthy food could improve his physical condition. The next influence was Lisa, who prepares healthy and delicious meals for her family. Lastly, Dr. Oz is a cardiac surgeon, who sees the real effects of poor habits.
“I witness the impact of unhealthy lifestyles every day as a cardiac surgeon. I see damaged hearts of patients who have been eating junk their whole lives.”
No junk drawer, water as a main drink and vegetables as a mealtime staple. The self-control of the Oz family fascinated us, so of course Your Teen had to ask: “Don’t you ever want a vacation from your healthy lifestyle?”
“You know, the reason that I don’t actually crave that is because I don’t feel good when I don’t eat well. I am not doing it to live longer. God knows I have as many chances to hurt myself as anyone else. But I like the way I feel when I have eaten well.”
An Interview with Zoe Oz
Zoe Oz, the third child of Lisa and Dr. Oz, is atypical in many ways. First, she adores her parents and speaks lovingly of her family. Also, she worked as a teen advisor with her dad on the book, YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens, helping to translate the professional jargon into teen speak. Now, she has a blog on teenDailyStrength.com. Your Teen asked Zoe some questions.
Q: As Dr. Oz’s daughter, do you feel pressure to make healthy food choices?
Oz: I don’t feel any pressure, and I don’t feel like people are watching me. My dad just genuinely wants to feel healthy, and I feel that way also. I want to eat healthy and live healthy. I feel better that way.
Q: What do you snack on?
Oz: I love the taste of Cheetos, but I feel gross after I eat them. We don’t have junk food in our house. I mostly snack on frozen grapes, raisins or pretzels. We eat dinner together mostly every night. My mom cooks healthy foods that taste great.
Q: How would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Oz: I have a great relationship with both my parents. My parents are very good at recognizing each kid’s strengths. They push each of us toward what we love. I feel like they balance parenting with giving us the space to grow. My dad’s success can be intimidating, but it also inspires and drives me. I want to impress him.
Q: What caused you to adopt a healthy lifestyle?
Oz: Both my mom and dad encouraged all four children to be involved in sports and to get good grades. I was raised with a focus on a healthy lifestyle. We spent time playing sports as a family. My dad would organize “Oz Olympics,” and everybody played. We played tennis, basketball, and Ultimate Hide-and-Seek.
Q: What do you do for exercise?
Oz: I have been dancing since I was little: ballet and jazz. In sixth grade, I started tennis, basketball and lacrosse. Lacrosse is now my main sport. I enjoy different forms of exercise. Dance is focused on flexibility and lengthening muscles while competitive sports focus more on strengthening muscles. I like both, but I am very competitive, so I do prefer the competition of team sports.
Q: How do you get your exercise?
Oz: During the school year, I am very busy with team sports, so I get plenty of exercise. In the summer, I go to the gym. I prefer team sports, but I push myself to the gym in the summer because I feel so much better when I work out.
Q: You have a driver’s permit. So, who taught you to drive?
Oz: My dad taught me to drive. My mom is terrified to drive with me. I really don’t know why. I have driven golf carts since I was a kid, so I have a good driving sense.
Q: How do your friends react to your celebrity father?
Oz: Actually, my dad will make snide comments about what my friends are eating. But, he says it in a teasing and joking way, so nobody minds.