Your Teen spoke with Dr. Jim Sears about his roles as advisor to parents of teens in his private practice, as a parent himself, and to the viewing audience on The Doctors.
Do you use social media to communicate with your son (14) and daughter (18)?
I try to keep my kids’ lives private. I don’t tweet them, because EVERYONE will see it. However, I do follow them on Twitter and I’m friends with them on Facebook. That helps me keep up to speed on what they’re up to, and what their friends are up to and if any trouble seems to be brewing.
I try to connect by being part of their world. I sit with them when they are watching their favorite show on CW, and I listen to their radio stations. Then I can bring up those hard-to-talk-about topics based on the show or music. This breaks the ice, and then we are talking about it, and it often ends with, “Dad, you don’t need to worry about me.”
How do you regulate the food in your house?
I have an 80/20 rule for my family and my patients. 80 percent of our food choices need to be healthy ones. Home is the 80 percent so I only have healthy food in my house. It’s 10:00 pm and you’re hungry. When you open the pantry and see junk food, it is hard to say no. At 10:00 pm, you don’t have any will power. So we make our decisions in the grocery store, not staring at the pantry. The key is creating healthy habits. Try to snack on things like mandarin oranges, whole grain toast, granola bars, protein bars, healthy chips, cereal, peanut butter and apples, and whole grain muffins.
Do you have any cooking tricks?
Well, when I cook I am a big substituter, and my kids can’t really tell the difference. I replace sour cream with non-fat Greek yogurt. In fact, I put the Greek yogurt in the sour cream container, and no one knows. Sour cream is bad for you, full of saturated fats; it’s not neutral. Yogurt, on the other hand, is good for you. So you go from a bad to a good. I put it on chili, tacos and potatoes.
My daughter definitely appreciates my homemade pizza. Last spring, her sorority had a pizza night. My daughter tweeted, “Looking forward to pizza night but not as good as my dad’s. #lookingforwardtocominghome”
Do you have any concerns about dairy products?
I worry a little. I buy organic cow milk, so it is hormone free. Whether it is a real problem remains to be seen. I have seen a lot of my patients who complain about various problems – stomachaches, headaches and allergies – and when they go off dairy, they feel better. It hasn’t been a problem for my family though.
What do you tell obese patients?
I lost 40 pounds, so I speak from experience. I stopped eating hospital food and started thinking like an athlete. I took up cycling and joined a team. I am training three to four days per week for triathlons. While training, every meal counts—it affects how I feel when I run, bike or swim. I think of my breakfast table as my training table. Donuts and cheeseburgers affect how I feel. When I eat crap, I feel like crap. I try to connect performance (of any kind) with diet. Music—the brain will work better with healthfully nourishment; sports—healthy food enhances endurance and balance, dancer—increased flexibility. I show them why cheeseburgers will affect them negatively. An apple, orange, fish or whole grain will make them better at their sport.
What do you like most about The Doctors?
I love the fact that I’m giving advice to millions at a time, not just one at a time in my office. I also like all the crazy stuff I do on the show. I like to goof around, like jumping out of an airplane, a NASCAR ride-along, flipping on a trampoline or getting a goldfish pedicure. I am the guinea pig on the show.
What is the scariest thing you’ve done?
Jumping out of an airplane. I am afraid of heights but when I was at 12,000 feet with the door open and looking down, it didn’t look real—so it was easy! Looking over the side of the Sears Tower is much scarier. You can see the ground.
Do you think that your kids will follow in your footsteps?
My daughter changed her major from writing to exercise physiology, and she wants to go into physical therapy. At least it’s a step in the medical direction. My son wants to design video games like every fourteen year old.
–Interview by Susan Borison