Child Health Issues with John Petrozzi

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Child Health Issues with John Petrozzi

JOHN PETROZZI:     Hi and welcome to Living is Easy with John and Josh. I’m John Petrozzi.

JOSH HARPER:    And I’m Josh Harper.

JOHN PETROZZI:     This show is about you. It’s about health and wellness and everything in between. You will learn how to improve your health, you will listen in on inspirational interviews, and it may even change the way you live your life. But by no means are we a substitute for your medical advice, so listen up and get healthier.

JOSH HARPER:    What’s on the show today, John?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Well today, we’ll be talking about child health issues, specifically, how to teach your kids how to maintain healthy weight and stay fit.

This week’s topic came to me the other day when I was talking with a patient about weight management for their young child. We might know someone who’s been struggling with weight gain throughout their life. Today, we’ll be talking about things that you can teach your kids about they can develop a healthy attitude to food and also fitness.

JOSH HARPER:    So stay tuned.


JOSH HARPER:    So what were you like as a kid, John?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Well, Josh, when I was a kid, I was a bit chubby and I found it hard to eat the right foods. I actually found it hard to do enough exercise as well. I actually went through a couple of stages when I was younger. I was ruddy and skinny, and then after that I went into another phase when I was a bit chubby. So it took me a while to actually lose it.

JOSH HARPER:    Was this due to the exercise and food that you ate?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Yeah, it was, I think. Particularly, just not doing enough exercise probably, and probably eating the wrong foods.

So what I did is actually went along to Weight Watchers. I still remember this day, I used to go to soccer training on a Wednesday night and that would finish at about 7:00. Then straight away, I’d be really excited to go right to Weight Watchers, because I want to see how much weight I lost that week.

So I remember, one week, I lost a kilo and a half and I was just a kid. I thought, “Cool.” But there’s some weeks I only lost like 100 or 200 grams, which is not much at all. But still, it all adds up. It’s good to lose a weight but you’re going to learn how to lose it but also how to maintain it – maintain a good, healthy weight.

JOSH HARPER:    So would you recommend doing more sports over going to something like Weight Watchers?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Not necessarily. For me, Weight Watchers was good, because it gave me a really good understanding of what kind of foods are good for you and also how much exercises you needed to do.

So if you do have some weight issues, we’ll go through a couple of tips today that might help you. Speaking from experience, I’ve been through it and I know it’s not that easy to do sometimes.

Here are some tips for parents who want their kids to manage their weight a little bit better: Avoid classifying foods as either good or bad. Try “everyday foods” or “sometimes foods” instead.

JOSH HARPER:    What do you mean by that?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Well, what I mean by that is, chocolate, for instance or lollies. These are sorts of foods that are high in fat or sugars and you want to try and eat sparingly or-

JOSH HARPER:    So “sometimes foods.”

JOHN PETROZZI:     “Sometimes foods” – exactly. But if you call them bad foods, then every single time your child goes and eats a chocolate or a lolly, they’re associating that food with the word “bad” so they’ll feel guilty about it, too. So you don’t want to try and make people feel guilty about the food that they eat. Just call it “sometimes foods” because “sometimes foods” is exactly what’s happening, you’re eating them sometimes only – like chocolates and lollies.

“Everyday foods” – fruits and vegetables and all sorts of things you want to eat every day.

JOSH HARPER:    And should parents set good examples of eating well?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Yeah, definitely, Josh. Just like everything, a parent needs to set a good example for their children. If they want their children to behave well, then the parent needs to behave well as well.

And it’s the same with food. If you want your children to eat good food, then you need to model the way. Prepare a nice meal with fruits, vegetables, and all the good things in between. For instance, carbohydrates – make sure there’s some protein in there, too and some fat. And the thing I’d like to use for the sort of nutrition guideline is that old triangle of diet.

JOSH HARPER:    Nutrition.

JOHN PETROZZI:     Yeah, nutrition – exactly.

JOHN PETROZZI:     So you want to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and cereals and breads and those sorts of things. And the things right up the top of the pyramid are sweets and chocolates and processed foods.

JOSH HARPER:    Sparingly.

JOHN PETROZZI:     Sparingly – yeah. Try and minimize the amount you eat on that.

JOSH HARPER:    When I was young, my mom used to reward me by being good with giving me chocolate or lollies. Is this a bad thing?

JOHN PETROZZI:     It’s hard, isn’t it? Because you always want to reward your kids when their doing something good. But try and avoid using food as a reward item, because they’re associating sweets and food that’s laden with fat, like hot chips and those sorts of things, as a reward. So if they’re going to be associating good times with fatty foods, then hopefully, their kids are going to lead a good life, but you don’t want to associate fatty foods with that interaction as well. So avoid using foods as either punishment or reward.

JOSH HARPER:    If you do have a son or a family member that is overweight or unhealthy, what’s a good way to confront them?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Lovingly, to start off with, because it can always be a sensitive topic. If you’re holding a bit more weight than you otherwise should, then you can become very sensitive and conscious about that. So always approach it with extreme love and just be aware that the person may be a little bit sensitive as well. So avoid giving children instructions to lose weight. And don’t say that you’ll love them more if they lose weight, either. It’s not a good buy card.

If you’re going to sort of work towards losing weight or your child losing weight, then it’s good for the family to work as a team so they can all model the way and help that child out.

JOSH HARPER:    So eating well at dinner?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Eating well at dinner is really, really important. Exercising as a family as well, whether that’s a walk after dinner or taking the kids to sports – doing it together.

JOSH HARPER:    Or even a picnic.

JOHN PETROZZI:     Even a picnic, yep, because you get to eat well and get together for some sports and play some soccer or something in the park.

JOSH HARPER:    Can you approach anyone professional about doing this sort of thing?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Yeah, definitely. If you’ve got concerns about your child carrying too much weight or needing to lose weight, then definitely seek the advice of a professional like a nutritionist or other person who has some knowledge in weight loss, and do it safely. It’s really, really important because you can lose weight very quickly if you do the wrong things.

JOSH HARPER:    And what is the amount that you could lose at a certain time?

JOHN PETROZZI:     It just depends on how much weight the person’s holding. But you don’t want to lose too much too early. But that may happen if you’re holding too much weight because as soon as you start exercising and eating better, you’d drop a whole lot of weight very quickly within the first couple of weeks.

But the thing is, most of that might be water and fluid and it won’t necessarily be fat because fat metabolism does take a little while to kick in. But once it kicks in, well, you can’t stop it unless you do something drastically wrong to stop it. Because exercise and eating the right foods is definitely on the right track to lose weight.

So again, if you’ve got some concerns, seek some professional advice because they’ll make the job a whole lot easier for you.


JOHN PETROZZI:     Welcome back to Living is Easy with John and Josh. Today, we’re talking about raising healthy and fit kids.

JOSH HARPER:    What other main attributes a healthy kid and a sluggish child are likely to have, John?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Well, there are two different types of kids, like you’re saying.

A healthy kid exhibits these sorts of attributes: He’s a champion who’s organized, motivated, and loves life. So you can just imagine the sorts that just jump out of bed, ready to tackle the day.

JOSH HARPER:    More academic as well.

JOHN PETROZZI:     Can be, yeah – for sure. Or more sports orientated. But whatever they do, they do it with love and passion. They love to eat healthy breakfast, which gives them plenty of energy to start the day – really, really important. Because he or she eats well and drinks lots of water, the champion kid has no problems going to the toilet. It’s really important. Goes in, goes straight out. No hassles.

The champion kid is alert at school and enjoys learning new things. After school, this champion kid loves to play soccer with friends, or other sports. And these other people love being around this champion kid because they feel motivated positive, because he or she exudes confidence, positiveness, and fun.

JOSH HARPER:    What about the sluggish kids?

JOHN PETROZZI:     A sluggish kid – I can actually sort of relate to this one because this is probably what I was when I was a young kid and I had to really work hard to break out of that. A sluggish kid someone who’s lethargic and tired and just can’t seem to get going in the mornings. They’re sort of drawn out in the mornings so they don’t have time for breakfast. The sluggish kid sort of doodles around the house, spends a long time in the toilet, pushing and grunting and straining. And the sluggish kid doesn’t eat enough fiber, that’s why they sort of struggle in the toilet. Also, they don’t drink enough water so going to the toilet really hurts.

There’s no energy for school. They find it hard to concentrate and become sleepy in the class. Grades aren’t as good as they could be. After school, the sluggish kid sort of plunks down in the afternoon in front of the TV with plenty of high-fat snacks to keep them going until dinner.

JOSH HARPER:    A lot of healthy kids plunk themselves down in the TV as well, though.

JOHN PETROZZI:     They do, too. Yeah. But again, there’s moderation. And like we were speaking before the break, we were talking about “sometimes foods” and “always foods.”

So with the “sometimes foods,” they are the sorts of TV snacks that you can have from time to time. We shouldn’t get the kids to feel guilty when they have them, because it’s just part of being a kid, really. But again, they’re “sometimes foods.” You don’t have them all the time especially not every afternoon after school.

The “always foods,” we’ll talk about that a little bit later but we can touch on it now. “Always foods” are the things like fresh fruit and veggies. So I think a good healthy lunch box would consist of a couple of pieces of fruit – maybe half an apple, half an orange, and a banana or whatever the child likes to eat; a sandwich with some bread and some sort of protein filling and some cheese; and a good healthy drink as well.

With the drinks, make sure they’re not too high in sugar. Particularly, stay away from Cokes and those sorts of coloured drinks. You don’t need that sort of sugar especially at school. So try and encourage kids to drink lots of water because water is going to definitely sustain their metabolism.

So when I was a kid, I was both of these – I was the sluggish kid and I was also the motivated champion kid. It does take consistent effort to convert a sluggish kid into a champion kid, but it can be done. And it’s imperative that it is done because their life depends on it.

JOSH HARPER:    John, you mentioned before that you were quite a chubby child when you were younger, and obviously, you’ve lost that weight. How did you do this?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Well, yeah, you need to be really specific with what you’re measuring, and you set a goal as well. When I was a kid, I sort of had enough of being chubby and slow and I wanted to be fast and fit, really. So I wanted to be all those sorts of things.

I learned it from sort of a young age – how to set goals. I found it really useful. So a wish is definitely different than setting a goal but you need your goal to be measurable. So for instance, if I was to say to myself, “I just want to feel better.” That’s not very measurable. So you can’t really feel or measure your feeling.

JOSH HARPER:    What can you measure?

JOHN PETROZZI:     What you can measure is the way that your clothes fit. So if it’s a weight loss thing, you can sort of put your pants on and say, “My goal for until the next three months is that I go into one notch in my belt or two notches.” That’s measurable and anybody can see that; you can see that. But also, your helpers, which could be your mom and dad or other people around you, can help you with that measurement.

These should be written down as well. I find it useful to write down my goal. Again, I mentioned before that I’d go to Weight Watchers and they gave me some useful paperwork that I could write the goals onto. So I could write down what I was then and what I wanted to be in a short period of time – in three week’s time. And what I wanted to be in three month’s time and nine month’s time, etc.

JOSH HARPER:    So others also that can see this that can help you on the way?

JOHN PETROZZI:     That’s right. Yeah. Don’t do it alone. There are too many people out there that want to help you, so get as much help as you can get. It makes the whole job a lot easier.

JOSH HARPER:    What else would you recommend?

JOSH HARPER:    I’d recommend that the goal be specific as well. So for instance, if I was a kid who wanted to be a life saver or just get fit, then what I would write down in my goal is that I’d want to firstly, do my resuscitation and get my bronze medallion, and I’d be specific in that to say exactly when I’d like to achieve that.

JOSH HARPER:    Also, when you’re swimming, you can set times for yourself to get better and better.

JOHN PETROZZI:     That’s right – spot on. You can say, “In three weeks, I want to beat my last swimming record.” Use a stopwatch to tell you.

So be specific. Write it down. Make sure that it’s measurable and make sure that it’s structured as well and prioritized.

So for instance, if I said, “I wanted to run a marathon,” I wouldn’t just get up one morning and go run the marathon. I’d have to do some structured work before that to go and achieve that goal. So I’d need to do some short-term goal setting, which would be getting stretched out and flexible. Then after that, it would be getting strong, and getting a playing coach, get someone around to help me. So these are the goals that you need to set along the way to achieving that big goal of running a marathon, for instance.

Also, make the goal realistic and achievable as well. For instance, when I was a kid, I was overweight. I saw other kids around me; some of these kids were really skinny but they’re also shorter than me. So if I was to say, “I wanted to be the way that kid over there, who’s a little shorty but he’s really skinny, and here I am, a taller sort of person and chubby.” To make that goal happen, I don’t think it’s going to be very achievable or realistic. So make sure the goals are realistic. But also, don’t think small; think big, because most of the time, if you do think big, you’ll actually get what you want.

So there a couple of guidelines for setting goals for a kid who wants to lose some weight and also get fit and healthy as well.

JOSH HARPER:    Before you lost all your weight, John, were you teased?

JOHN PETROZZI:     When I was a kid? Yeah. Partly, I think. I think I took it as a bit of a joke but, you know, it was one of those motivating factors that I used in my advantage to lose weight.

JOSH HARPER:    It is hard.

JOHN PETROZZI:     Yeah, it can be hard – exactly. So I think it’s important for parents to identify these things, and the kids to see if they’re getting teased at school. If they are, make some proactive changes towards it to try and stop these things from happening.

So for instance, help a child deal with teasing by discussing suitable replies and planning ways of dealing with teasing. Mum would always tell me this, and I really got uncomfortable with it sometimes. She’d say, “If they’re teasing you, just say this and this and this.” My general reply was, “But that doesn’t really bother me.” She’d say, “Okay.”

But if your kid is bothered by it, then sort of coach them through a couple of scenarios and role play, just so they can get passed that hurdle and they can make a bit of a joke of it, really. Maybe approach the child’s school about adopting and enforcing policies supportive of all children.

So our concern about a child’s size is really a family issue. Like we were talking about before, Josh, the family needs to work together to help this child through those difficult changes. So any change should focus on the healthy food choice for the whole family and activities for everyone as well. It makes the job a whole lot easier.

Encourage active possibilities and limit any inactive possibilities. So what that means is really encourage outdoor play and try and limit the amount of time that you spend indoors, watching movies and TV and video games. Because they are the sorts of things that really slow down your metabolism. So you want to get out and do things that increase and get your metabolism kicking.

JOSH HARPER:    So buy them a football instead of a PlayStation.

JOHN PETROZZI:     Beautiful – fantastic. Yeah, they’re the sorts of things you want to try and do.

It’s much easier for a child to make good food choices when access to less healthy choice is limited. So try and avoid stacking the freezer with chocolate ice cream. Avoid the pantry being filled with chocolate as well, because if it’s there, it’s too easy to go and grab – it really is.

Almost plaster the bench top in the kitchen with fruit and vegetable, so every time one of the kids says, “Mum, Dad, I’m hungry,” instead of grabbing for one of those little snacks in the pantry, pass them an apple and say, “Here, wrap your lips around this one.”

JOSH HARPER:    Did your whole family get all rid of the chocolates and muesli bars?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Yeah. It was hard, so I hated it. Coming from an Italian background, we’ve got fantastic chocolates, fantastic sweets and it’s difficult to say no sometimes. So if it’s not there, it’s so much easy to sort of stick to a great regime of fruit, vegetables, and those other sorts of things. Because if it’s there, I would have always gone for it – bam! Straight into the mouth

JOSH HARPER:    I think we all would have.

JOHN PETROZZI:     Yeah, it’s just too easy.

Help your children understand and appreciate the way the body works and to recognize the body’s needs. So it might be an idea to take a kid to a doctor and talk about the way the body works because that educates them about the way the body works. Or to a chiropractor – again, I’m a chiropractor. In our office, we talk about things varied as keeping the body healthy, exercise, good attitude, rest, relaxation, good food.

So someone who’s going to give them some sort of positive message towards the body will be someone you want to introduce them to. It might be a soccer coach. It might be a teacher or a PE teacher at school, anyone you can think of. Maybe a next-door neighbour, someone who has some sort of positive outlook towards their body, fitness, and health is going to be a good influence on your children.

JOSH HARPER:    And what are the warning signs that your child is obese?

JOHN PETROZZI:     There’s actually three that you could look at. If your child’s weight is more than 10% above or below that expected for height and age, then that’s a warning sign.

JOSH HARPER:    And where can you find this level up?

JOHN PETROZZI:     You can find them in nutrition books or health books. But better still, just go and see your GP, because they have all the percentiles in one of their text books or something.

A second point to seek advice is if their body mass index percentile is greater than the 85th percentile or below the 10th percentile. So what that means, if the average population of that age group and height of kids, if they’re in the 85-percentile range or above, which means they’re carrying too much weight, then that’s a risk factor, so take them along to see somebody. Also, if they’re below the last 10%, they’re not carrying enough weight, so that’s another warning sign to get you thinking.

A third one is also market changes from their growth line your child has been following. So what that means is if your child’s been putting on two or three or four kilos per year and they’ve been doing that for last four, five years, but all of a sudden, their weight goes up by 10 kilos or 15 kilos, then that’s obviously a warning sign to tell you that their body has changed, because either they’ve been eating too much or not exercising, or something else.

So if you don’t have the answers, go and find the answers from somebody. The people you should go and look at for help and advice would be local GP and other health professionals, including chiropractors, physios who have an understanding of this as well, and naturopaths – a whole lot of people.

JOSH HARPER:    Or even their PE teachers.

JOHN PETROZZI:     Or even their PE teachers as well. Yeah, they’ll be able to send them off to somebody as well.

JOSH HARPER:    So, what did you have for lunch when you were young?

JOHN PETROZZI:     I had lots of good food. Again, I came from an Italian background. Sometimes my lunchbox was called “the never-ending lunchbox,” because something always came out of it. It wasn’t huge. It’s kind of a good decent size, but we had- actually one of these things that Mum used to make for lunch – I used to love it – this Lebanese bread, and inside was cut-up cucumber, tomatoes. There was some cold meat in it like salami or something, cheese and some lettuce, and a little bit of mayonnaise, and wrapped up into a big roll. Oh, it was delicious. I used to love it.

JOSH HARPER:    And you still eat it to this day?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Yeah, yeah, I do. It’s quite healthy.

JOSH HARPER:    It sounds healthy.

JOHN PETROZZI:     Yeah, it is. Well, that’s the thing with lunchboxes. You want them to be full of stuff that the kids are going to eat, because we were saying just before the break there that if the kid doesn’t have something they like to eat in their lunchbox, they’ll go and buy it from the shop.

JOSH HARPER:    Exactly. And you need more of a variety, like what you’re saying with your sandwich before. If I had that in my lunchbox, I wouldn’t run off to the canteen with $2, get an icy pop and a chocolate.

JOHN PETROZZI:     Exactly.

JOSH HARPER:    Actually, I had a friend. His parents are into a bakery, so every morning his parents would get up and make these delicious donuts at six in the morning. Of course, he’d come to school with bags of donuts. He was the most popular kid at school.

JOHN PETROZZI:     I bet he was. Well, it’s hard because if you’ve got these things around you that are so easily accessible like donuts. They taste great you’re going to eat them – they really are.

So if you’ve got a child around the house that is planning on losing weight, they’ve set their goals and they’ve got this support team around them, empty the cupboards out with the chocolates or whatever and lollies and fatty biscuits. Just get them out. Give them to some Vinnies if you haven’t opened them yet, and put in some fruit and vegetables and healthy snacks, dried fruit or whatever.

JOSH HARPER:    Do you have any ideas of some lunchbox combinations?

JOHN PETROZZI:     Yeah. Well, some sweet things that you can put in there, fruit-wise would be things like grapes or blueberries, strawberries and mix them all together. You can put a bit of fruit juice syrup or something on them; otherwise, just leave them as they are. That’s always a good little snack for kids at little lunch.

Other sorts of things would be corn or rice crackers with maybe a peanut butter spread or some other spread that the kids like to eat. Muesli bars and energy bars – stay away from energy bars. They’re not a good health choice for kids because they can be high in sugars and high in fat and high in lots of things that you don’t want a kid to have at school.

So try and stick with foods that take a little bit longer to metabolise. Muesli bars are great but they can also be high in sugar. So it might be an idea to buy yourself a couple of books from the bookstores that talk about healthy snacks. Go and look through them. Look for the ones that are most healthy with not too much processed fats and sugars, and that’s got a high amount of natural things – natural sugars.

Thanks for joining us. You’ve been listening to living is easy with John and Josh. I’m John Petrozzi.

JOSH HARPER:    And I’m Josh Harper.

JOHN PETROZZI:     Until next time, stay well and stay happy.

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