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Should Parents Let Teens Drink at Home?
Aired May 9, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: The Casey Anthony case. Why are we so transfixed by it?
Also, underage drinking. Some parents actually condone it. They say they`re helping their kids.
Plus, overweight, heavy, obese? Why can`t we just say the f-word? You know what I`m talking about?
And I`m answering your questions about drinking, sex, and more.
So let`s get started.
All right. In case you haven`t heard, jury selection -- that`s right, jury selection -- finally began in the Casey Anthony case today. Watch this. Then I`m going to have something to say about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The start of jury selection in Casey Anthony`s murder trial.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: The capital murder trial of Casey Anthony.
MEREDITH VIEIRA, "THE TODAY SHOW": The Florida mother accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": Casey Anthony begins her fight to avoid the death penalty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty people. That`s 12 jurors, eight alternates.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- to decide whether Casey Anthony is guilty of killing her daughter.
NANCY GRACE, HOST, "NANCY GRACE": A death qualified (ph) or a death jury?
STEPHANOPOULOS: The judge said last week that this case is going to rival in coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial.
PINSKY: We are seemingly so profoundly obsessed with this case. And I just have to ask myself, why?
Somehow it tickles something deep in all of us. I mean, infanticide exists throughout the animal kingdom, especially in primates, and we are those. And the fact is this young lady has got serious mental illness.
Let`s be fair. I mean, whether she`s guilty or not, there`s something really not right going on.
In my world, somebody that ignores their child for a month, doesn`t know where she is, and tries to party it out, that`s a drug addict, a sex addict, even sometimes, frankly, a disassociative, somebody with, like, a multiple personality disorder, sometimes with severe trauma issues. And if you read the transcripts of some of the depositions, you see they keep alluding to things that happened in the past, the family keeps fighting about the things that were in the past, something awful happened here, a lot of drugs, a lot of alcohol, a lot of partying.
You know, I think there`s more than just what you -- what your fantasy is. That, oh, my God, this is just somebody next door who went on a infanticidal rampage. It doesn`t work like that. It doesn`t work like that. That`s the fact.
But the real tragedy here is that there`s a little girl that`s dead, and like JonBenet Ramsey, once again, the death has become a circus. And I really want my viewers to think about what they`re watching and what it evokes in them, why they need to watch this thing. And then we`ll all keep watching it, I guess.
I`ll try to give you my thoughts on it, but I`m going to go to a different topic now.
Teens right now are celebrating everything from prom to graduation. School`s coming out -- being out soon. My kids are getting out of school and going to college. And the parties these days almost always involve alcohol, some with adult supervision and participation.
So I want you to know this. The May issue of "The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs" states this -- this is a peer reviewed scientific study. This is not debatable. "Teens who drink with adult supervision are more likely to develop problems with alcohol."
So, parents, you might want to take note of this. Underage drinking also is illegal even if it`s under your own roof. I don`t know what other illegal activities you allow in your home. Just curious.
So how do you help a teenager handle alcohol -- let`s call it the right way?
Joining us are Bob Forrest, drug counselor from "Celebrity Rehab," a program we both work on.
Thank you, Bob.
And Julia Louiza. She`s a mom who says it`s OK to let her son Charles drink alcohol I guess in the home. And Charles is with us, as well.
OK. So, Julia, we`ll start with you. How old is Charlie? And how old was he when you first started allowing him to use alcohol?
JULIA LOUIZA, ALLOWS HER KIDS TO DRINK ALCOHOL: He`s 14 at the moment. He`ll be 15 in about a month`s time.
He first tried alcohol around the age of 13 -- 12, 13. But not in a sense of drinking it, you know, one bottle after another kind of thing. Just --
PINSKY: This is the European way? It was diluted at the dinner table or something?
LOUIZA: Yes, it is. I mean, that`s how I`ve been brought up. I`m half Greek and half English. So, with that, I used to have a glass of wine with the food, whichever food it is, on celebratory Christmases or --
PINSKY: I want to talk about the European model in just a second.
Charlie, for you, were you curious about alcohol? Was this an important thing for you to do?
CHARLES RICK, TEEN WHO IS ALLOWED TO DRINK ALCOHOL: I didn`t think it was important, but I was curious about what it would taste like. I wouldn`t have a big jug, or I didn`t have, like, a big wine. I`ll have a little sip.
PINSKY: Does that give you status amongst your peers, that you get to drink at home?
RICK: No, not really.
PINSKY: Do you talk about it with your friends?
RICK: No. I don`t think it`s something to talk about really.
PINSKY: OK. Do you have difficulty -- this is what a lot of young people have difficulty -- saying to yourself, well, my mom says it`s OK here at the dinner table, but when my buddies bring out the beer at the party at the high school, that`s not OK?
RICK: It is not OK, but I don`t -- I wouldn`t drink it. I wouldn`t use it. I wouldn`t really -- I`ll have a little sip. I won`t chug it.
PINSKY: Wouldn`t drink a draft.
Two questions, Julia, for you. And I hope you don`t mind answering this. But is there any history of -- genetically any history of alcoholism in his genetic heritage?
LOUIZA: No, none whatsoever.
PINSKY: Because that makes a big difference, Bob, wouldn`t you say?
BOB FORREST, "CELEBRITY REHAB": Yes, the history of alcoholism is the history of families and genetic predisposition. But one of the things that I always bring up, because I`ve counseled a lot of families in a social seder (ph), that sort of thing. He`s not growing up in Greek/English culture, he`s growing up in America.
But it`s like you`re taking something and trying to develop it here. Do you understand what I mean? America is a specific culture that has a tremendous drinking and drug problem.
LOUIZA: No, I appreciate that.
FORREST: And so do you understand what I`m saying?
PINSKY: Well, I do understand, but here`s my concern. And I`ve had this conversation with many parents, so please don`t think I`m singling you out for this.
But what I hear is this mythology about the European drinking, whether it`s Greek or Italian or French or --
FORREST: And I believe in it a little bit.
PINSKY: And you do too. We fight about it a bit.
But the fact is -- so it always is, oh, we teach them when they`re young, we dilute it, we teach them --
PINSKY: My question is, how big of a problem do you have with alcoholism in Europe? In England and France?
LOUIZA: Well, I mean, I`m going (ph) more Cyprus, Greek. There`s not a huge problem with alcoholism.
PINSKY: The fact is, there`s a huge problem.
FORREST: They just don`t call it that.
PINSKY: They don`t call it -- in fact, the death rate from alcohol is one out of 25 in this country. It`s one out of 10 all throughout Western Europe. It`s massive.
They just don`t identify it as such. They just say, well, he`s just going to be a drinker, that`s the way it goes. But the deaths from alcohol is massive in Europe, and vastly worse than anywhere else on earth, interestingly.
LOUIZA: Well, my theory being is I figured -- he was curious, both my sons were curious. So I`m not going to say no, no, no, no. Just have a sip. I`m here, and have a little sip.
PINSKY: Even though the data says if you say no, you`re going to end up with a better situation. Plus, there`s a bunch of biological data out there that shows if you expose kids before the age of 15 to alcohol, they have eight times the risk of getting into alcohol trouble. That`s just the data. I`m just --
LOUIZA: OK. Well, it is just data -- or data.
PINSKY: It`s just the facts. Let`s put it that way. It`s just the facts.
You don`t have to live by the facts. I certainly don`t want to tell anybody how to parent.
PINSKY: But I truly want people out there to know the facts when they make these decisions.
LOUIZA: The thing is, it`s out there anyway. It`s not going to go away. It`s always going to be there.
So I figured if I introduced it in a sense that it`s not a huge problem in our family at all -- and both my sons realize it`s not the be all and end all in a party. You don`t need to have alcohol in a party.
PINSKY: And that may be that they`re genetically not prone to any trouble.
So here`s a Facebook question. Julia, this is for you. "How can you expect your child to obey the law in other areas if you`re willing to allow them to break the laws in this?"
LOUIZA: Because this is a social thing. It`s not illegal to have alcohol.
PINSKY: It is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For minors it is.
LOUIZA: It`s not illegal. You can sell it, you can buy it everywhere. That`s what I mean.
PINSKY: No, but it`s illegal for you to allow a young person to have it. That`s illegal.
LOUIZA: In the states, yes. In the states.
PINSKY: Oh, it`s interesting. So you`re saying, I don`t adopt the legal standard of the United States.
LOUIZA: Oh, I do. Don`t get me wrong.
PINSKY: No, no. But it`s OK. It`s interesting.
LOUIZA: No, please don`t get me wrong.
PINSKY: I don`t mean you`re a criminal. I just meant --
LOUIZA: No, I follow that, obviously. But I`m just thinking of how - - my parenting, how I was brought up. It worked for me and my brother. And it`s going to work for my boys.
PINSKY: Charlie, what are your thoughts? You get the final thoughts on this. Do you think it`s working for you?
FORREST: It seems in the culture that you and I are kind of on the peripheral.
FORREST: This culture is what --
PINSKY: Is what`s sick.
FORREST: -- what`s sick. And what frightens me for a kid maybe guided in the best way to go out into this culture on a Friday night in Encino on Ventura Boulevard --
FORREST: You know what I mean?
LOUIZA: He`s sensible. He`s a mature 14-year-old.
PINSKY: I think I see that.
Charlie, we`ll give you the last word for that very reason.
RICK: Well, I wouldn`t drink a lot. I know the consequences, I know the effects after it. I know what happens to your body, and I know that it won`t help you into your education.
So I would like to have a little taste to see what it tastes like, but I wouldn`t want to have it, like, every day. Maybe on special occasions.
LOUIZA: It`s not a big deal with us.
When we come back, a mother who says her son`s tragic death was 100 percent preventable.
And then this story coming up a little bit later --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): Weight gain, it`s a huge problem for Americans. If you`re overweight, what are the health implications? Where`s the line between being overweight and obese? Can you be healthy and overweight? And what about the way we view and treat plus-size people?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: A just-released study shows that teens who drink with adult supervision are more likely to develop problems with alcohol.
We are discussing this topic today with Bob Forrest, a drug counselor from "Celebrity Rehab"; and Julia Louiza, a mother who lets her underage son drink and has been persuasive with us. Also joining us is Stacy Rhodes, a mother who lost her son in a drunk driving accident; and Laura Dean-Mooney, the national president of MADD.
Now, I want to look at some stats and I want to make a couple of points first.
This is a controversial topic. I as a physician have to stay with the data and make very specific recommendations. Julia`s made some very persuasive arguments for her parenting style with her particular child.
Bob and I were talking off the air here, during the commercial, that the problem that we see is the parents that substantiate drinking with their kids usually themselves are in denial about the effects alcohol is having on their own lives, or themselves alcoholics, and just sort of acting that denial out as a proxy with their kids. So that`s the people we really truly worry about here.
But look at these data. If you`re not worried about it, even if you don`t have alcoholism in your background, or you weren`t drinking, just get a load of this data.
One in five students in 10th grade got drunk. And a reminder here that when adolescents drink, they binge drink. They don`t drink like an adult and have a glass of wine, they drink in binges.
One in three students in 12th grade got drunk. Teens who drink before age 21 might face problems in school, get arrested, abuse later in life, die in a car crash.
And I will remind you that if you look at every unwanted health outcome for an adolescent, unwanted pregnancy, unwanted sexual contacts, accidents, you find alcohol and drugs as part of the issue.
So, first, I want to go to Stacey and I want to hear her story.
And what actually did happen to your son?
STACEY RHODES, 19-YEAR-OLD SON DIED IN DRUNK DRIVING ACCIDENT: On June 14, 2008, my son was killed by his best friend Adrian Romero (ph). Earlier in that evening, Adrian (ph) had went to pick up a friend of theirs, and the mother, Josh`s mother, asked her -- or asked them to come in and asked him if he wanted a beer.
And one led to another. Once they decided it was time for them to leave and go to the party that Ryan (ph) was attending, after they were at the party -- I don`t know how many beers they had previously with the mother -- it was time to leave.
And so Adrian (ph) has asked Ryan if he needed a ride home. And they needed to take Josh home. Josh was fortunate. He made it home.
When they left Josh`s house, Adrian (ph) was doing about 90 miles an hour, lost control of the car. The car spun, went off a 50-foot ravine.
PINSKY: Oh, my gosh.
RHODES: The ravine had a rock formation about halfway down, and the back of the car hit that. Ryan was ejected from the back seat, where the car spun and hit him midair.
When they landed in the ravine, Adrian (ph) had ended up calling up his mother and Ryan`s father to come and help him. When we received the toxicology reports back, I was so mad. I was so mad and frustrated.
Ryan`s blood alcohol was .04, and Adrian`s (ph) was -- the first time it was taken was .18 and then .14. I`m upset with the mom. It`s one of those --
PINSKY: Is the mom guilty of a criminal offense here?
RHODES: No. No.
PINSKY: Is that particular to your state or is that --
RHODES: This accident had happened in Arizona. Ryan had just finished his first year of school, going to college there. I`m from Washington State.
PINSKY: Would it have been a criminal offense in your state? I think in California --
RHODES: Yes, it would have been a criminal offense in my state. Yes, absolutely, it would have been.
PINSKY: I`m so sorry.
RHODES: Yes. It`s irritating, it`s frustrating.
You know, we -- you have to -- I feel you have to teach your kids about everything -- about sex, about drugs, about drinking, and also the consequences that go along with that. I had told Ryan and talked to Ryan about this, but still, for them to make those decisions, you know, you just hope that they do when they leave.
PINSKY: Bob, that`s the thing you and I hear all the time, parents who are giving the right messages, are asking for the appropriate behaviors, and that kids just don`t quite absorb it.
Did you ever say to yourself -- and I don`t mean to rub a wound -- but not my kid, my kid wouldn`t do this?
PINSKY: OK. You were worried that he might.
Let me talk to Laura Dean-Mooney from MADD.
Where do you guys ring in on this issue we`ve been talking about today?
LAURA DEAN-MOONEY, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, MADD: Well, you k now, parents are the number one influence on whether their child chooses to drink or not. The data`s very clear on that too.
And sure, kids may make bad decisions. But we need to encourage them to make the right decision, and we need to have the conversation with them long before they get to high school, even, to make sure that they understand, hey, we have a no-use policy in our home, and there`ll be consequences to enforce if you do break that no-use policy.
It comes to communicating with your kids to helping them understand, we love you, we care about you, we want to help you make good decisions. Because from what we`ve heard already, kids who choose to drink compared to kids who don`t are more likely to not only get involved in a car crash -- as so sad that Ryan was killed in that crash -- but flunk out of school, be sexually assaulted, you know, become alcohol-dependent later on in life.
There`s just so many risks other than drunk driving, too. Taking away the keys doesn`t take away the risk.
PINSKY: Laura, are there alternatives to the no-use policy that you mentioned?
DEAN-MOONEY: Well, there`s always alternatives. I think it`s important, again, that we stress with our kids, in our house, we have a no- use policy and there will be consequences if you break that.
But we`ve got a program called the Power of Parents: It`s Your Influence that we teach parents how to give their kids refusal skills, to remind them to make good choices about not getting in the car, perhaps, if they know someone`s drunk. But also letting them know we care about them, we love them, we`re going to come pick them up if they`re still under our roof, if they`re high school age or less.
But understanding that the most important thing is to get home safely. But understand there`s consequences if they make the choice to drink.
PINSKY: Stacey, is there anything you want to tell Julia?
Or Julia, you to Stacey?
In terms of mother to mother, concerns maybe about Charles?
RHODES: Well, my concern for your son and for you, too, is I don`t -- I have a really powerful picture that I sent into Dr. Drew, and it`s of my 15-year-old, Ryan`s younger brother, who was scattering Ryan`s ashes, and he`s just in a cloud of ashes. I don`t want that to happen to you. And your son is gorgeous, and what a lovely smile.
And, you know, we celebrated Mother`s Day yesterday, and I didn`t get that from Ryan . So I think, again, you know, you`re going to parent the way you`re going to parent. But for, you know, the majority of parents out there that allow their kids to drink, what are you teaching them? What are you teaching them?
LOUIZA: I know. I totally understand, and I`m so sympathetic with you.
And that must be an awful thing to go through. And I certainly wouldn`t want that with my child. You know?
The way I`m doing it is because it worked with me and my brother, with my parents. And it`s not giving them alcohol because I`m forcing it on them, it`s because they were curious.
And yes, both my sons know that it`s wrong to drink and drive, it`s wrong to go in a car. They even won`t go into a car that an adult is drunk, both of them.
RHODES: And they`re 14 and 12?
PINSKY: Bob, last words?
FORREST: Well, the idea was we wish we had an ideal society that`s being described where teenagers don`t drink. We don`t.
And the question is, can we have conversations? Can we be open to what other parents are doing? Can we have consequences?
Listen, the consequences of getting in the car with a drunk person are severe. You know what I mean? And there`s -- I fear that there`s a lot of shame that kids don`t want to tell parents that they`re out with a drunk kid until they ride in a car with them.
PINSKY: I think the important thing is at least that we all agree of the dialogue which we`re having here tonight.
Thank you, Bob.
Thank you to Laura Dean.
Thank you, Julia.
And thank you, Stacey.
I thank you all for sharing tonight.
When we come back, it`s your turn to comment and ask questions. I`m "On Call" after the break.
And later, then this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): Are you a little overweight? Do you believe society streets plus-size people unfairly? Straight ahead, what our viewers think about obesity in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: All right. That animation means it`s time for your questions again.
I`ve got Laura on Facebook. She asks, concerning the drinking segment, "Are we not promoting an association between celebration and alcohol that can last a lifetime?"
Yes, we`re creating all sorts of associations when we encourage kids to drink. My big issue though is the legal one.
I don`t know -- I would challenge everyone at home to ask themselves this question: Are there other illegal activities you allow your kids to do in the home? That just makes an easy line in the sand.
You know, kids, I don`t allow illegal activities, I don`t make the laws. This one`s illegal. It`s easy not to allow that one.
Another Facebook question. This is Mariana (ph). And she wants to know, "How is a teen`s brain affected when they drink alcohol?"
Well, I`ll tell you what, that is a very complicated question. And a lot of researchers and physicians spend their entire career studying this.
Just understand this -- that teens don`t drink a small amount the way adults do. They drink in binges. And as such, the effects on the brain are rather profound.
And you can tell them they can expect -- some research has shown -- as much as a full grade point drop in their academic performance for the seven days following a single binge. So these are kids in college struggling to get into graduate school, or get their grades, whatever it may be. You`re working against yourself with the binge alcohol. That might get through to them.
A number of you are still reacting to our show on Friday concerning sex and relationships. We got a ton of comments about that and they are still coming in.
I`ve got Jen on the line from Pennsylvania with a related question.
Jen, go ahead. What`s up?
JEN, PENNSYLVANIA: Hi, Dr. Drew.
My husband and I have been married for almost a year, and we barely have sex. I always have to initiate it when we do. We`ve had one child, so there are times now when we don`t go for eight or nine weeks. And it really concerns me.
Do you have any advice?
PINSKY: How long ago did the baby come?
JEN: Nine months ago.
PINSKY: Nine months ago. Well, let me just say -- I`m not sure I can give you firm advice here because this is always a hard one.
Women often feel a very significant drop in their libido for up to a year after they`ve delivered a baby. It`s nature`s way of not having children one on top of another. And sometimes mood disturbances -- you`ve heard of the postpartum depression -- can make that even worse.
Men, when they have a drop in libido after a child, it tends to be a little more of a psychological basis. I will just say that men freak out a little bit sometimes when the woman they love goes from being their sex object to being the mom of their child.
I`d just talk to him about it, encourage him that this is an important thing, and that you really, for the happiness and long-term benefit of your relationship, you need to deal with it and overcome it. And see a couples counselor if he resists.
Finally now a call from Marcia in Washington.
Marcia, how can I help?
MARCIA, WASHINGTON: Hi, Dr. Drew.
I had a miscarriage when I was 27, and now I`m about to turn 35 and I`m obsessed with trying to have a husband and get pregnant, because I know the risk goes way up after age 35. Should I just get over it like my family says, or should I be thinking other ways?
PINSKY: I wouldn`t just get over it if it`s an important priority for you, because you`re right, there are added risks. Some women will go so far as to freeze eggs. That`s another option that gives you a little more time than nature may give you to reduce the risks.
Look, I would just say it`s important to you, don`t be desperate, because nothing is less advantageous in pursuing a relationship than the stink of desperation. It`s really bad for men. It`s not so good for women either. You`re not so attractive.
Just go out, find an appropriate spouse, don`t be in a big hurry. I`m sure you`ll work it out.
Some of you wrote to me about sex and sexually transmitted diseases. I`m going to have something to say about that coming up.
And overweight, obese, heavy. Why can`t we just say the f-word? That is next.
PINSKY: We are just getting started. So, here`s a look at what`s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): Among America`s biggest health issues, weight gain. Where is the line between being overweight and obese? What does it mean for your health? More importantly, what about the way we view and treat plus-size people? Is the problem their waistlines or our judgment?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): That is so true. Our discrimination of people who have weight issues is phenomenal, and we`re going to get into that in just a second, but first, I want to mention something to you guys out there. I get kind of angry when I hear about drug companies, particularly, over the counter selling bogus medications. And today, there`s some news that finally the government is coming down on these folks.
Apparently there are series of fake sexually transmitted disease cures out there. There are some of the latest scams, and they are really disturbing to me. I`ve got to tell you something, the reason being is if you have a serious medical condition -- by the way, and these are major public health issues, sexually transmitted diseases. Mind you, if you don`t get properly treated, it`s going to be passed to other people, and you don`t get properly diagnosed and properly treated and you buy a bogus product that you hear about on TV or at infomercial or see upon on the counter there.
The government is warning consumers, and they should be aware of the following thing. There is no over-the-counter or online over-the-counter drugs available to treat or prevent sexually transmitted diseases. So, please, whatever it might be. If you have a condition -- listen, as a physician, it wouldn`t be appropriate for me to diagnose myself and treat myself, pull something out of the medicine cabinet to treat myself even if it`s the appropriate treatment.
It`s not right to treat yourself, even if it`s an effective treatment, but especially, when you haven`t been diagnosed and you don`t know that it`s an effective treatment. And in this case, it is not. These are bogus. Get properly treated, properly diagnosed, and do not buy the thing. People are just trying to make money from you and your vulnerability, so be aware and be smart.
OK. The topic now is weight and obesity. People who are heavy, it is a sensitive issue, and we are afraid to use, I think, a highly charged and maybe even emotional term. It`s called fat. I`m kind of fat. I get fat. Well, I`ve had trouble with it. Joining us to talk about this is Alison Sweeney, "Days of Our Lives" star and host of the "Biggest Loser." She, too, has had trouble with weight as we all have. So, watch this, and then, we will talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): Millions of Americans struggled with weight. We have for decades. Getting it off, keeping it off, coping with it. Yes, it`s all about health concerns, diabetes, heart disease, but also about self-esteem and decency. What about the way we view and treat plus-size people? Are we, too, focused on weight?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): Alison is the author of "The Mommy Diet." There it is. And I suggest -- Alison has been providing great resources for people for a while now. And how tough was it for you to lose the weight after baby?
ALISON SWEENEY, ACTRESS, "DAYS OF OUR LIVES": It was definitely something I was aware of going into it now having two kids, the first, my son, he`s six now. And I definitely didn`t have all the information, and so I had a very different experience. It took me a really long time and wrapped my head around it. I think part of what we`re going to talk about today is sort of the emotional and mental attachment to it and how to handle it, you know, in that way.
But physically, once you understand and have the tools and you know the right nutrition and the right things that you need to do and you`re ready to do it, it`s not as hard as it seems.
PINSKY: And for you, the heat must have been really up because you`re an actress.
PINSKY: And you`re on a show called "The Biggest Loser," right?
PINSKY: And you had this sort to be a role model for them. Was it hard to get going with it because you have the stress of babies and stuff?
SWEENEY: Well, the hardest part for me was actually during the pregnancy. I mean, I`m standing up there on the scale. We were shooting a season of "The Biggest Loser," and I was gaining weight as everyone else was losing it, and there`s something very odd about it. And you can definitely get into like your head and play mental games with yourself about how uncomfortable you feel.
But, you know, your doctor sets out certain parameters for you of how much weight`s appropriate to gain and how you`re doing and I stood up there with all of those contestants and I thought to myself, if they`re willing to give their heart and soul out here and lost all this weight and get healthy and change their lives, then I can do no less.
So, after my daughter was born, I really, -- know, and I talked about it on the book, "The Mommy Diet" just how to take time and really learn to be a mom and take that time for your child, but then, there does come a point at which you do have to take on your own body and get yourself back in shape and go after it.
PINSKY: It`s the language you`re using that sounds like you`re saying nurture your child, nurture yourself? Is that sort of the message?
SWEENEY: A 100%. I think that so many contestants on the show come on and part of their struggle is that they put everyone else first. They make everyone else the priority. Their children, their spouse, their grandparents, you know, whoever, and their health is always the last thing if on the list at all. And so, we talk a lot about it, and that was the first thing I said is, you know, sort of the parallel is always the airplane where they have to tell women, in particular, that you have to put on your own oxygen mask first before you can help a child.
And they say that for women because women are always the ones who are like, yes. And I sit there, I heard it, I was like, no way. I would never do that, but it`s true. If you take care of your body -- first of all, no one else can do it for you. If you take care of your health, then you are more equipped and better prepared to help everybody else around you.
PINSKY: Really important message. And now, I bring up all the time about the airplane and the oxygen mask. You grew up onscreen. I mean, I knew you since you`re like 14, and you were a child star.
PINSKY: So, I sort of want to couch this question, in the context of the history of your career, you must have had to be very body conscious early.
PINSKY: Do you feel we are too body conscious?
SWEENEY: Well, I mean, just my personal story is, you know, I felt I was a teen -- I mean, I was a teen and going through puberty and sort of awkward body phases, and I definitely struggled with my weight myself as a kind of average teenager. And then, being in a situation like Hollywood where you`re surrounded by very, very slim people, it`s really intimidating.
So, I took it in a very personal level, though, I will say that "Days of Our Lives" producers never made me feel awkward or uncomfortable. At one point, we did tell a bulimia story line that I felt was really topical and relevant, but --
PINSKY: Did you ever have any of disorder or something?
SWEENEY: I didn`t. No. but I definitely struggled, and I felt really bad, and I beat myself up about my weight, and every time I would eat something unhealthy, I would just ream myself mentally about it for days. And I -- so, I mean, definitely, it wasn`t a healthy relationship with food I had for a long time. But I do think that part of that was, you know, sort of the industry and my peers and how felt about myself and getting a grip on my own mental well being is definitely something that was hard and hard-earned and something I still, you know, deal with.
PINSKY: Well, now that you`ve sort of looked at this very carefully, you know, so much of because of all the weight issues and weight perceptions and awareness as we have in this country, people kind of perceive food as the enemy.
PINSKY: And from other cultures that don`t have so much weight problem think as food as a good thing.
SWEENEY: It`s so funny, but I mean -- and I actually compare sort of -- especially at the "Biggest Loser," we talk about the addiction to food. And the hardest thing about it is, I would say that, with your show, I mean, the first thing you only say is like, OK. Well, don`t drink. Don`t ever drink again. Well, you can`t say that about food. You have to continue to eat, three, four, five times a day.
You`re always going to be around it. You have to have some of it and that becomes such a slippery slope. And so, that`s something really hard that you have to learn to deal with and I`ve had to deal with myself. Never mind, you know --
PINSKY: In the last minute, I always like people to have some sort of take away for people at home. Do you have something specific they can do to make a step towards a healthier relationship with food?
SWEENEY: For me, personally, what I included in the book was the idea I`m not a big fan of fad diets. I don`t like extreme dieting. I think what I talk about and the way I live my life is it`s the whole rest of my life. So, I just try to be healthy. Instead of looking at a number on a scale or a certain size clothes, I say to myself, I want to make healthy choices. And if I make a bad one, then the next chance I get, the next meal I have, the next day, I try again.
So, I`m never failing at a diet. I`m always just like this is the rest of my life, and I`ve got to be as healthy as I can every step of the way. You know, you win some, you lose some, but you always get up the next morning and try again.
PINSKY: Well, we`re going to keep you with us for a few minutes here. We`re going to have a commercial break, but I want to ask how much we are all to blame for how we perceive obese people and talk about them, and --
SWEENEY: Yes, absolutely.
PINSKY: We have such a negative sort of connotation around the word fat. I want to look at that after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): Learning the right way to deal with our weight issues. You have to stay healthy, but it all starts with self-esteem. We live in a superficial society that pushes impossible ideals of beauty. Is it time to reassess our values?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): We are back with Alison Sweeney. She is the host of "The Biggest Loser." We`re talking about weight and the battle to lose it and keep it off. And Alison has chosen to come out in spite of the Lakers` loss yesterday.
PINSKY: She has been hiding, but she decided to come out in public today.
PINSKY: We`re also joined by Karen Daniels who has had up and down struggles. She accepts the fight against fat is a lifelong issue and Dr. Denise Bruner who is an obesity and metabolic specialist. Thank you, ladies. I want to start with Karen. Karen, was there some sort of moment of change for you? Was there a point at which you said, that`s it, I`ve got to do something about this? Or has it always been in the back of your mind in the struggle?
KAREN DANIEL, LOST 175 POUNDS: Well, it`s not something that you don`t think about. I thought about it morning, noon, and night, dreamt about it. I just couldn`t handle living at 375 pounds anymore. It was a struggle to do everyday things, tying my shoe -- I couldn`t even see my feet, and they were Fred Flintstone feet. And I just couldn`t live like that anymore. It wasn`t just one aha moment or one special thing that was a bunch of them.
PINSKY: Was there -- often times, I find when people really reach a moment of major change in their behavior, when they have to make a massive change in what they`re doing, sometimes the fear of dying is there. Was there that?
DANIEL: No. And that`s, you know, I always worried about it, and stuff, but it wasn`t. It`s just day-to-day living. Like getting out of bed was exhausting. Just -- I was tired of living that way. I couldn`t do anything with my family. I would always go to their sports events and everything else, but what I chose to do outside of our family life, I chose it very carefully so I wouldn`t embarrass myself or my family.
There were many times I couldn`t go to sporting events because I couldn`t fit in the chairs. It was very difficult to fly because I had to buy two plane tickets. A lot of things that I just didn`t get to do. So, I was tired of this existing.
SWEENEY: Of course. I understand. And by the way, congratulations. That`s a tremendous success. I hope you are so proud of what you have achieved. Dr. Drew made an interesting point, though. He said that you must have taken on a massive change. And I just wanted to ask, is that true or is it little things every day? I mean, what was it that -- what is it that helped you lose that much weight?
DANIEL: I exercised daily. And it`s not fu-fu (ph) exercising. I exercise extremely hard. I push myself, and I count calories. I have to journal and I have to count calories, because, if I put my hand in something like a box, you`re not thinking, you don`t count. I also don`t eat while I`m watching TV because you don`t -- you`re not conscious of what you`re eating. So, there was a lot of changes that my family also went through.
There was healthy things. You always know that -- I can`t say what, but like certain desserts or certain cinnamon rolls are bad for you, but I didn`t understand how bad they were. I knew they were bad, but I didn`t understand.
PINSKY: Are you happy with your body now? Are you happy with yourself?
DANIEL: I have gained back 65 pounds from health issues, so right today, I`m not, but at 200 pounds, I was extremely happy. At 265, I`m still, my goal right now, I`m putting a tractor tire around my whole neighborhood. I`ve gotten five houses. I`ve biked over 20-some miles. I`ve walked, you know, over ten miles a day. I row a half marathon. So, I`m very extremely active.
And people, usually, that weight are not that active. And I`m able to do things with my family. So, being able to do --
SWEENEY: Sorry -- Drew, it`s two separate questions.
SWEENEY: And one, I think, is wonderful is he asked if you`re happy with you. And I think that`s such a fantastic point because it sounds like you`ve made a mental choice as opposed to being happy with your body, which maybe you`re still working on.
PINSKY: Well, let me talk to Dr. Bruner at this point because she`s an expert -- there she is -- an expert in obesity and metabolic issues. And I`m sure these emotional issues that go along with weight. What is the size of the average American woman, Dr. Bruner?
DR. DENISE BRUNER, OBESITY AND METABOLIC SPECIALIST: Well, the size of the average American woman is about 160 pounds, which makes her body mass index categorized as being overweight. And so, that`s -- when we look at 2/3 of Americans right now, they`re overweight or obese.
PINSKY: Are they overweight or we just setting the bar too low or high? The wrong place? Is that a healthy weight for some women?
BRUNER: Well, you know, you have to look at multiple issues. Body mass index -- as you know, Dr. Drew, it`s just a height and weight measurement. So, when we put two people side-by-side, you know, one person can have 30 percent body fat, another person 20 percent. So, that`s not all we look at. We have to look at other things like what is the waist circumference. And I don`t mean pulling that measuring tape really taut around the waist.
But we know if you`re a woman, if your waist size is more than 35 inches or if you`re a man, your waist size is more than 40 inches, that puts you at health risks. Also, we know even if you took your neck circumference, if it`s 16 inches for a woman, 17 for a man, you have a risk of we call obstructive sleep apnea, you know, where your breathing is delayed and hindered and you`re at risk for cardiovascular disease.
And Dr. Drew, also, we know -- you know, people have got to know their numbers. Like what is your hemoglobin A1c? Is it more than 5.6? That puts you at risk of diabetes. If it`s 6.5, you`re diabetic.
PINSKY: We`re talking about the sort of metabolic syndrome here which is people that have LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides and insulin resistance. I`m amongst those people. Ali, you too?
SWEENEY: No. I mean, for the most part, I actually have managed, but I think what`s interesting at "Biggest Loser" that we see is people who are so unaware of those numbers. Right. I mean, knock (ph) the thing, know your number. You`ve got to -- you have to get on board and understand what those health risks are above and beyond as Karen pointed out sort of the social things that hold you back. There`s a lot of medical issues that people are in denial about.
PINSKY: For sure. And hypertension goes along with that.
BRUNER: And Dr. Drew, I have metabolic syndrome, too. So, I`m in that category.
PINSKY: It`s no fun. Yes, it`s no fun. I mean, weight, controlling the weight is the number one issue, but then, as somebody wisely pointed out to me one time as I was complaining, declaring that I would keep my weight down and running enough. They said, sometimes, you can`t outrun your genetics. You still have to take the medicines when they`re appropriate. And so, Dr. Bruner, as the last couple of seconds here --
PINSKY: What are the keys to success here?
BRUNER: The keys are realizing as we heard. It`s a lifelong journey. Not worship the scale so much. We want to lose fat. Fat is the thing that causes all these metabolic, the (INAUDIBLE) of things to happen. And, basically, realize it`s a day-by-day struggle. You didn`t gain it in a day, you`re not going to lose it in half a day. You know, and if we think about walking, I love what Karen said. What she`s doing, her physical activity.
I applaud you. That is great, because physical activity is a corner stone of what we do, and it can simply be walking. Walking ten minutes three times a day. So, little baby steps make major, major changes and can reverse this disease.
PINSKY: And I would say too, Karen, I want to address you very quickly here which is that I`ve noticed in my own practice, there are people that will exercise and people that will not. It`s a strange thing. Were you somebody that had difficulty getting with the exercise program? Or you sort of naturally fell into it? Was it easy for you?
DANIEL: No. I hated it. I counted down the minutes.
PINSKY: That`s what I figure.
DANIEL: But the funny thing is the longer you do it, I miss when I work out, because, you know, while I`m working out, I`m working really hard and everything, but I miss working out because it relieves the stress. And I -- even if I`m dead tired, when I go into that gym and I`m like, oh, my gosh, I just don`t want to do this, but those are my best workout days. And those are the ones --
SWEENEY: It`s like the positive --
PINSKY: It is.
DANIEL: Yes, it is.
PINSKY: Karen, thank you so much. Karen, thank you. Dr. Bruner, thank you. Ally, thank you, as well. I really do appreciate it.
SWEENEY: So much fun.
PINSKY: And I tend to flip into the other problem which is exercise bulimia. So, I`ll bring you back talking about that. We get carried away with this. OK. I want to know why we`re still cheering the death of Osama Bin Laden and why are we laughing at it? Some thoughts after the break.
JOY BEHAR, HOST OF "THE JOY BEHAR SHOW": Hey, Drew. Tonight, I`ve got Dick Van Dyke on the show. You know, you and he have a lot in common. You were on celebrity rehab, and he was one of the first celebrities to get sober. Plus, you`re a doctor, and on TV, he played a doctor. You see what I`m getting at here, Drew? Just watch it. Just watch it.
PINSKY: Well, Joy, I am very, very jealous. I would love to talk to Dick Van Dyke, but I think what you`re implying is when I take my glasses off, I am Dick Van Dyke. No, I -- well, maybe you`re -- I don`t think that`s true, though. And he`s also accredited with having said my life has been great except for the booze. And my understanding, he`s a great recovering guy now. And I, too, would love to talk to him. So, have a good time with him.
Now, switching topics. In this week, now, it`s been a week since Osama Bin Laden was killed, and there`s still an ongoing discussion about America`s -- called a celebration of his death. Was the cheering and chanting -- and by the way, I think cheering and chanting is separate issues. And now, they`re joking. Are they joking too much? For "Saturday Night Live," apparently not. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I, Osama Bin Laden, being at present in good health and of sound mind and memory, thanks be to Allah hereby declare the following to be my last will and testament. First, as to my funeral arrangements, as pallbearers, I designate my five oldest sons and Dakota Fanning. Second, as to my place of burial, I leave the decision to my executors provided that wherever it is, they do not bury me at sea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House on Tuesday revealed that Osama Bin Laden was not armed when Navy SEALs found him, but they said he did resist them. Hey, White House, armed, unarmed, not resisting, holding a bunny, we`re totally cool with you shooting Bin Laden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: You know, people -- maybe it`s too soon, you know, maybe it is, but I like it when we make fun, particularly, when we aim it at ourselves. And that`s really the brunt of the jokes here is ourselves and what we`ve done and how we`ve acted here. It makes you stop and take a beat and think about it. But the fact is -- as I`ve mentioned last week, I`m kind of ambivalent about it. The pride is one thing, the pride and job well done, but to be celebrating someone`s death, I think, we all still feel kind of ambivalent about that.
Now, my view, he is the most wanted terrorist of the past decade. And if you remember, last week, I asked you to check in with your kids and see how they`re feeling about this. And to really talk to kids and to learn how to talk to kids bout this, and that we should talk to kids about this. I want to talk more about that in a second, but last night, President Obama talked to "60 Minutes" about what Bin Laden`s death meant to him and an American public that continues to rejoice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it was certainly one of the most satisfying weeks not only for my presidency, but I think for the United States since I`ve been president. So many families who had been affected, I think, had given up hope. And for us to be able to definitively say we got the man who caused thousands of deaths here in the United States was something that, I think, all of us were profoundly grateful to be a part of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Now, I checked in with my kids, and my kids are feeling about like the president is feeling, but their peers, not so much. They`re sort of ambivalent about this, and again, uncomfortable with the cheering. I remind people that back when this was a fresher wound, President Bush stood up and said, dead or alive, like in the old west. And dead or alive means dead or alive. And now, we`ve seen through what we said we were going to do. So, keep talking to your kids about it, keep thinking about it. It`s important.
I want to thank you for watching, and I will see you next time.