Dr. Jim O’Toole Shows Us How To Be a #FITFAM
By Abby Dudley | Photograph by Michael Fornataro
Urging kids off of the couch and onto the field (or gym, ice, or turf) is an increasingly difficult feat, considering all of the attractions that 2016 has given said couch. As if TV and video games weren’t enough, you’re now just as likely to catch kids idly scrolling through a phone. But, especially in their earliest years (pre-preteen), it’s imperative to get kids moving.
“When you’re growing up, you’re able to reproduce more fat cells,” says Dr. Jim O’Toole, double board certified plastic surgeon and owner of O’Toole Plastic Surgery. “Once you get to your preteen years, you stop reproducing them. Individual fat cells get bigger or smaller, but the number is set.” So, those who grow up active, healthy, and fit are less likely to develop a weight problem later in life, simply because their fat cell count limits weight gain potential. Biologically, it’s a crucial way to set children up for a long, healthier life. “As a family, it’s important that you remain active.”
And that is saying nothing of the habits that form in early years and are carried on, especially when it comes to eating. Dr. O’Toole raises his own three kids with that in mind. “My wife [KDKA-TV’s Susan Koeppen] and I have always attempted to start with the simple basics,” he says, “and the most basic thing is healthy eating habits and patterns so that eating healthy is an ingrained part of life instead of something you have to force on them later.” Teaching healthy habits comes from providing kids the knowledge that they need to make their own informed choices. For example, understanding that food is fuel for our body, or that foods of lower nutritional value should be limited when possible and not all calories are created equal. “You only get one body, so be conscious of what you’re putting into it,” O’Toole says, an important fact that he teaches his own kids.
Understanding weight, health, activity, and the correlation between all three on a very fundamental level sets kids up to make the right decisions for the rest of their lives. As with all things, the process of educating children is not one size fits all. “As the kids get older, what you do evolves,” says O’Toole. This is true of both the activities that they’re involved in (by exposing them to a range early on so they may find their favorite) and the level of comprehension that you can expect about a healthy lifestyle. But one thing is certain: the earlier kids start, the better. “It’s not some casual thing you do,” says O’Toole. “It has to be a way of life.”
O’Toole Plastic Surgery, otooleplasticsurgery.com.