FamilyLife Today®

Practical Steps to Take

with Todd Chobotar, Walt and Barb Larimore | January 5, 2007
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On today's broadcast, well-known author and family physician, Dr. Walt Larimore, along with his wife, Barb, gives parents practical advice for helping children lose weight.

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  • On today's broadcast, well-known author and family physician, Dr. Walt Larimore, along with his wife, Barb, gives parents practical advice for helping children lose weight.

On today’s broadcast, well-known author and family physician, Dr. Walt Larimore, along with his wife, Barb, gives parents practical advice for helping children lose weight.

Practical Steps to Take

With Todd Chobotar, Walt and Barb...more
January 05, 2007
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Bob: Most families share a dining room table and as a result if Mom and Dad are obese, the children can be obese as well.  If that's the case, what can a mom and dad, who are struggling with weight problems themselves, do to help their children?  Here's Todd Chobotar.

Todd: People are often willing to do things for others that they might not even be willing to do for themselves, and if I do what's right for my family, then I'm going to have a better future for my children.  And so you often find that people are willing to say, "This is important to the future of my family.  This is important to my kids.  I don't want them to have to struggle with these issues, and I'm willing to put myself out there for my family."

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 5th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We have some strategies for families today on how you can tackle the problems of overweight and obesity together.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  I don't know that we mentioned this to our listeners, you've been very self-disciplined in not making a big deal out of this, but what was it, a couple of years ago that you decided you were going to shed a few pounds, right?

Dennis: I did.  I lost – well, let's see, I lost about 30 pounds.

Bob: Yeah?

Dennis: And, for the most part, I've kept it off.

Bob: For the most part, you have.

Dennis: I've gained about 7 to 10 of it back but have hovered near there, and I'm about to go get a physical, so I figure the day is dawning where I'm about to have to lose a few more again but you know what?  What happened, Bob, was a looked in the mirror, and I also talked to my doctor at the time, and he said I was a candidate not for the type of diabetes that comes about because of genetics, but because of just carrying too much weight.  Practically, my body was not going to be able to process food in normal way, and that was going to have a dramatic impact on my health down the road.

Bob: Now, I would like to point out that when we had lunch the other day, you got the cheeseburger and onion rings.

Dennis: I did.  I splurged.  And you know what?

Bob: I had the salad.

Dennis: And Barbara noticed that, and so I have a question for you.

Bob: Yes?

Dennis: Because this was Barbara's …

Bob: Let's move on and introduce our guests, shall we?

Dennis: This was Barbara's question …

Bob: Yeah?

Dennis: She said, "Is Bob trying to lose weight?"

Bob: You know, I'm just trying to eat healthy.  Let's not make it about weight loss.  Let's just talk about being healthy, do you think?

Dennis: I think that's a great idea, Bob.  We have a couple of guests here who know a little bit about weight loss and health – Dr. Walt Larimore and Todd Chobotar join us on FamilyLife Today.  Todd, Walt, welcome back.

Todd: Thank you.

Walt: It's good to be back with you.

Dennis: Walt is a family physician, has written a book called "Supersized Kids, How to Rescue Your Child From the Obesity Threat," and if you didn't listen to the earlier broadcast on this, you need to go online at and listen to this, because obesity is a threat to the next generation.

 Todd is director of publishing at Florida Hospital in Orlando, and together they're kind of championing the cause of healthy families.  I want to ask you this, Walt, because you're a family physician – what percentage of diseases are you now seeing or is the health community seeing, that are related to obesity?

Walt: Dennis, we're seeing not only diseases in adults related to obesity but diseases in children that we used to only see in adults related to obesity, whether we talk about diabetes or high blood pressure or arterial disease or heart disease or strokes are arthritis or skin diseases or cancers that are all related to obesity.  Ten to 20 percent of our cancers are related to obesity.  One-third of the increase in our expenditures for medical expenses are related to obesity.

Bob: Hang on – a third?

Walt: One-third.

Bob: One dollar out of every three is obesity-related.

Walt: Obesity-related.  The second most preventable cause of death is obesity, and it's now epidemic in our children.  And although diet and nutrition impact that, activities and exercise impact that, sleep and rest impact that.  The biggest impact is the parents and the family and the family decision.  So our approach has been a family approach.

Dennis: You know, the governor of Arkansas, frankly, had a pretty good-sized barrel chest.

Bob: It wasn't his chest, it was a bigger barrel waist.

Dennis: That's right.  Well, the chest dropped into the drawers.  Remember that joke?

Walt: Dunlop disease.

Dennis: Yeah, there you go.  But he decided he was going to take it off, and he's kept it off.  He lost 105 pounds, and Governor Mike Huckabee.  When he started talking about this, and I'll never forget this, Walt.  I was coming back from having been hunting.  It was a Saturday afternoon, he was on some talk show locally, and he was talking about obesity in our state, and he was talking about the 105 pounds that he'd lost and what a better position that put him in as a man, and I thought, "What a great act of leadership for the state."

 Now, what you're doing, I think even better, because what you're doing is you're calling the dads to take an act of leadership for the family.  Because you ultimately believe that this issue of supersized kids is because dads haven't been dads and aren't taking the leadership in their families.

Walt: Dennis, we do step on some toes in this book, and we do it on purpose, because pain can be a motivator for families.  Governor Huckabee was a wonderful example not only for the state of Arkansas but for the country.  He not only lost that weight but, if I remember the story correctly, he got off his diabetes medications and his blood pressure medications, and when Governor Huckabee decided to endorse our book, along with Senator Tom Coburn, along with weight-loss experts around the country, it was one of the highest honors that we received.  Why?  Because he's walked the path.  He's seen the impact that it made.

Bob: And, Todd, you're shaking your head over there like you've heard Governor Huckabee's story over and over again as people have gotten involved in the Eight Week Program that you have at Florida Hospital.  There is more than just a sense of good health.  There is a sense of accomplishment and well-being that comes with this.

Todd: There really is, and part of the reason that that sense of accomplishment comes is because people are often willing to do things for others that they might not even be willing to do for themselves. 

 Two quick examples – one, of course, is Governor Huckabee, although he was doing this for himself, certainly he was doing it as an example to his state and to be able to say, "This is a problem across our state, and we want to do something about it, and you know what?  It better start with me."

 So there was motivation there, not just personal, but for something greater.  We find the same things happening within a family.  Sometimes mothers and fathers that have struggled with weight problems in the past and might be willing to give up will say, "You know what?  This is important for me to be an example to my children.  If I lead the way, and if I do what's right for my family, then I'm going to have a better future for my children."

 And so you often find that people that might not be willing to do all the things that they should do health-wise for themselves are willing to say, "This is important to the future of my family.  This is important to my kids.  I don't want them to have to struggle with these issues and possibly die an early death.  I want them to have a strong, healthy life.  And so I'm willing to put myself out there for my family."

Bob: You know, we can talk about the issue and the fact that it's an issue and that people need to do something, and I imagine a lot of our listeners are going, "What I've tried to do before hasn't work."  Get practical with us, if you're sitting down with a family today, and everybody would look around and go, "All right, we want to make some changes."  What would you tell them?

Walt: In the Eight Week Program, we actually give them choices in six areas of activity.  For example, one might be television watching.  We know that for every two hours of TV per day that a child watches, his or her risk of obesity goes up 23 percent, and the risk of diabetes goes up 14 percent.  Well, how many hours of TV does the average child in America watch?

 Well, if we take, Internet, video games, it's about six and a half hours a day.  It's almost a full-time job.  Do you, as a family, think you can cut from six-and-a-half to five-and-a-half?  Most families go, "Yeah, we can do that."  Well, and then the next week can you cut to four and a half and two weeks later can you cut to three and a half?  Can you increase your child's sleep slowly over an eight-week time?  Can you begin to make some nutrition choices, as a family, that are fun for the family?

 For example, when Barb and I were raising our teens, when Kate and Scott were teens, we were all getting a little bit overweight.

Bob: Yeah, Scott brought this up at the table.

Walt: It was his idea.  He said, "We need to do something as a family."  Now, he was the pot calling the kettle black because Scott was wrestling with more weight than anyone else.  But we decided as a family, yes, we will.  What do we want to do? 

 Well, we kept a diary of what we ate over a month, and what we found was that there nine meals that we ate across a month.  It might be hamburger three or four times a month, or fried chicken three or four times a month, or pizza 15 times a month, whatever it was.

Dennis: Uh-huh, that is the preferred choice of adolescents and parents of adolescents, because it's simple, and you can order it …

Walt: Absolutely, quick, and so we decided then over the next nine months to just substitute one meal a month.  And what we started with was fried chicken.  It was our Sunday after church, loved fried chicken.  And so Barb actually got a healthy diet book, and we started looking through the recipes.  We tried several of them and hit on a lemon chicken recipe that everyone in our family loved – all four of us just loved it.  Guess what?  We just substituted the lemon herb chicken for the fried chicken, and we were happy campers.

 The next month we went after lasagna.  Now it's getting personal, Dennis.  I mean, lasagna is some good stuff.  So we tried substitute recipes.  Well, one night I came home, and Barb and Scott had cooked up our normal lasagna, and so we're going back to normal lasagna, and I was so happy we were going back to the good stuff.  So I'm sitting here eating this lasagna, which was wonderful.  It was delicious, and they're kind of snickering.

 Well, it turns out that it was a substitute lasagna with low-fat cheese and, get this, if this is cruel …

Bob: Oh, no, you're going to say "tofu," aren't you?

Walt: It was soy crumbles.  I have touched a soy crumble not in this lifetime.

Dennis: What is a soy crumble?  I've never heard of that.

Walt: This one they found …

Dennis: Is it from outer space?

Walt: It tastes like hamburger.  It tastes identical and we, to this day, eat that lasagna.

Dennis: Okay, I've got a question, because Bob and I just had a guest stop by the studio, and just give me a second here to go over to my briefcase and get this, because I need to know what kind of substitute we need to make.

Bob: I know what this is going to be.  I've got it right here.  Yeah, what's your substitute for dark chocolate with lime.

Dennis: She was from France, and she gave us lint sensation fruit.  It is dark chocolate – how do you pronounce that, Bob?  Citron?

Bob: Citron Vit [sp], oui.

Dennis: That isn't the way you pronounce it, you know that's not the – but, okay, here is a great illustration, what are you going to recommend, Dr. Larimore, that Bob and I …

Bob: You got a substitute for this?  You got some soy crumbles for this?

Dennis: She sold this, too.  She said, "This dark chocolate with this lemon is just magnificent."

Bob: She said it would change our lives is what she said.

Walt: One of the fun things about this book is that there is no forbidden fruit.  The co-author on the book is Sherry Flint.  Sherry is a dietitian, she's head of the Florida Hospital Center for Nutritional Excellence, and what we tell families is it's not about just cutting out all the fun stuff, but it's about making healthy decisions.  Can you have chocolate from time to time?  Absolutely.  It's fun.  It's a great food as part of a healthy diet, it's just not great to have 16 ounces three times a day.

 So in choosing healthy decisions, it doesn't mean cutting out everything that's fun, but it's finding what works for you as a family in nutritional choices, in fast food choices, in extracurricular activities, in television and Internet activities, in sleeping activities.

Dennis: I want to stop you there.  You keep mentioning that sleeping has an impact on our obesity as a nation.

Bob: Which, by the way, if this is true, this will be the one I'll go for first, okay?  In fact, sleep is good, I love it.

Walt: This is good.  We always have talked about exercise and nutrition.  People always think of those as the two sides of the seesaw.  In fact, the research is showing it's kind of a stool with three legs.  Yes, activities and exercise are important.  Yes, nutritional choices are important.  But sleep is the new discovered secret of childhood and adult obesity. 

 What we have found is that for an adult, a teen, or a child, as they get less sleep per night, they are more likely to be obese.  We think we know some of the reasons for this. 

 There is one hormone in our body that stimulates or increases appetite.  There is another hormone that decreases appetite.  As we get less sleep, those hormones get out of balance.  We actually have more appetite, less appetite suppression with less sleep, and look at the amount of sleep that adults, teens, and kids are getting.  It's far less than it was even 10 or 15 years ago.  The average teen, to be highly healthy, needs between 10 and 11 hours of sleep per night.  The average teen in America is getting about seven hours of sleep per night.

Bob: Ten to 11 hours a night?

Walt: It's the most highly healthy.  So maybe your teen can't get that much or wouldn't want to get that much, but what can you do to go from seven to seven and a half hours?  So one of the simple steps in the Eight Week Family Plan is just simply – if that's something you want to do as a family is figuring out – we have a whole chapter on rest, on sleep, on how a family can have more sleep, more rest, in the midst of all of the pressures that they have on a day-to-day basis.

Bob: Okay, I know what I'm going to do.  I'm going right to be as soon as this interview is over.  I'm going to start now.

Dennis: Okay, what I want you to do right now, though, is, Todd, I want you to take your headphones off, step out of the chair, and I want to ask Barb to come up.

Bob: Barb Larimore.

Dennis: Barb.

Bob: Walt's wife is in here with us.

Dennis: She's coaching from the sidelines.  She's been coaching Walt throughout.  Both of these interviews we've done, and, Barb, you – go ahead and put the headphones on, it will help you feel like a real radio person.  You're pretty passionate about this issue of diet and especially the portions that are served to families.

Barb: Yes, I am.  Portions are key.  American children today know the words "supersize" as an adjective.  You know, you drive through the fast food restaurant at the drive through, and you hear the question – "May I supersize that for you for only 39 cents?"  The children buy into that.

Dennis: And so how did you approach that as a mom raising teenagers when you guys got on this program that we just talked about?

Barb: I did a little research, and I found out that if you use your fist as a guide for portions …

Bob: I'm glad that's what you're using it for, by the way.  I was worried when you were going …

Barb: That's right.

Walt: So was I, Bob.  I've seen that fist.

Barb: A woman's fist is smaller than a man's fist, yes.  And a woman's fist is about the size of a portion of a piece of meat or a dab of potatoes or a spoonful of corn or beans.  And if you can get in the habit of dipping out of a pot or a casserole dish a portion about the size of your fist and eating in a very relaxed manner with conversation.  You know, you're not in a hurry to get through the meal, and if you are, that's something that you need to deal with.  You need to back up your schedule a little bit to plan a time to enjoy your meal, enjoy the conversation, enjoy your company.

Bob: Let me ask both of you about teenage metabolisms.  When I was in the 9th grade, I remember that my daily routine tended to be to have lunch at school, which was always a sandwich, a bowl of applesauce, and two Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls, okay?  I would walk home from school, and there was a Dairy Queen on the way home from school.  I would stop at Dairy Queen and get something.  I'd get home, I'd take a frozen pizza out and put it in the oven and cook it, and then I'd sit down for dinner and have dinner a couple of hours later. 

 I wasn't putting on any weight.  I was just – see – and I've got teenagers now, and I watch what they can eat and stay skinny.  Is there just something about teenagers that they can do that?  Should we be portion controlling them?  Should we say, "Don't eat that frozen pizza?"  What do you do?

Walt: Yeah, and that's a great question, Bob, because some teens have that wonderful metabolism but what happens is they age.

Bob: Well, and I'm here to testify to that, too.

Walt: And the habits that we teach our children remain with them for life.  The research is clear that we, as parents, can establish highly healthy habits that our children will tend to follow.  Children learn what is caught not what is taught.  It's by what they see practiced not what they're told to do.

 As Barb and I researched this topic, we found a whole bunch of studies that impacted us.  One was teenagers – it takes about 25 minutes from when they ingest something to when their brain gets the message that they're full.  How much food can a teen put down in 25 minutes?  A lot.

 So slowing down a meal not only is highly healthy for them, it's highly healthy for the family.  We know that families that eat two or three courses – maybe they'll have a fruit first, the main course second, and then a dessert third, will eat fewer calories as they slow down.

 We know that, from studies, that kids who are served food on a small plate, a medium-sized plate, and  large plate will tend to finish their plates – all three sets of those kids.  Guess what?  Twenty minutes later, they're equally full.

 So combining that research together, we just used smaller plates, several courses, more time with the family.  Dinner became a priority in the Larimore family.

Dennis: Yeah, that's what I want to comment, and I want Barb to share her own convictions on, but my Barbara, my wife, was adamant about us sitting down, TV off, just having a family time, and I think if there's a revival that needs to occur along with this weight loss, it's a revival of family time where the dinner table becomes more sacred in the American family today.  Because if it becomes sacred relationally, I think that will help with this issue, an epidemic of obesity.  Talk about that, Barb, because I know you have convictions on it.

Barb: Yes, I do, but it wasn't always just dinner.  Breakfast was required at our household.  Breakfast and dinner were sacred times.  It was the time that we began the day, it was the time when we ended the day.  We talked about what happened in between and impressions of the day and what God had taught us and what we had observed about God and our fellow man, and anything and everything was open for discussion. 

 And, of course, being married to a doctor and raising our kids in this medical family, believe me when I say anything and everything.  We heard it all, but it was a wonderful time.  It was a safe place that we felt we needed to have for our children in which they could thrive, and they could be themselves, and they could come to us with their honest questions, and we could honestly answer them in return.

 And then that gave me an insight as to what had gone on in their day and how I could pray for them for the next day, for the next week, the month and see God at work in their lives in a very real way.

Dennis: Well, I want to thank Todd, first of all, for giving up his seat and allowing a mom to have a seat here at the table.  Todd, thanks for being on the broadcast.

 And, Barb, you're a good sport to step up to the microphone and share.

Bob: Sharing the portion control. 

Dennis: Yeah, absolutely.

Bob: I'm going to start looking at portions like my fist from now on and say, "Add a few more potatoes, that's a little unfist-like there."

Dennis: It doesn't mean, Bob, that you can have a doughnut.

Bob: That's fist-sized, isn't it?  I just can't have two.  It's not a two-fisted doughnut.

Dennis: And, Walt, I want to thank you, too, for your book, "Supersized Kids," and just for your faithful witness in the Christian community, and we just appreciate you and thrilled to have you on the broadcast.

Walt: Well, Dennis, I've waited almost 25 years to say this, but when Barb and I began our marriage life together, we did not know how to be married.  We didn't know God's biblical principles for that, and we attended a weekend that you hosted.  We've attended it several times since, because Barb's married to a fellow that learns slowly.  But this ministry taught me how to be a husband, it taught me how to be a dad, and I want to thank you and Bob for how you've allowed God to work in our lives through what you've done through the years.

 I suspect, Dennis, there's millions of listeners who would wish they could be here to tell you the same thing.  Thank you for what FamilyLife's done in our family.

Dennis: Well, thank you.

Bob: You know, that's the way it's supposed to work, isn't it?  I mean, we do what we do, and the Lord uses that in your lives, and you do what you do as a doctor in writing a book like "Supersized Kids," and God uses that in the lives of other families to promote healthier living and families and that's how the body of Christ is supposed to work. 

 I just want to encourage our listeners, if you don't have a copy of Dr. Walt Larimore's book, "Supersized Kids," we have it in our FamilyLife Resource Center along with "The Family Fitness Fun Book," which provides fun, creative activities that families can do together that will help get a little more activity in your life.

 Go to our website,, in the middle of the home page, you'll see a red button that says "Go," and if you click that button, it will take you right to a page where there is more information about the book, "Supersized Kids," and about "The Family Fitness Fun Book," and if you want both of these books, we can send along with them at no additional cost to you the CD audio of our conversation this week with Walt Larimore.

 Again, our website is  Click the red button that says "Go" in the middle of the screen for more information about the resources that are available from us.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, and someone on our team will make sure that we get these resources sent out to you.

 Well, I hope you have a great weekend.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday.  Greg Vaughn is going to be here to talk with us about a unique idea for dads – something you want to make sure you don't miss leaving to your children after you're gone.  We'll talk about what that is on Monday.  I hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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Episodes in this Series

Modesty And Appearance Day 1
Defining the Problem–It’s Bigger Than You!
with Todd Chobotar, Walt and Barb Larimore January 4, 2007
Today on the broadcast, award-winning medical journalist and author, Dr. Walt Larimore, talks to parents about the seriousness of childhood obesity.
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