Survey Says: Eat Properly or Exercise?

By Dr. Robert Wallace

April 7, 2020 5 min read

DR. WALLACE: I'm a teen girl who is doing a survey on diet and exercise, and I want you to be a part of it. What do you feel is more important for teens to avoid becoming overweight: to eat properly or to exercise? Please don't say both, because that is what almost every single one of my friends says when I ask them! — Survey Girl, via email

SURVEY GIRL: If the majority of overweight teens got on a vigorous exercise program, they would not be too overweight, even if they overate. The average young person in the United States watches about six hours of video screens a day, including streaming videos, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, social media, television and texting.

Add the fact that physical education is no longer a required course in high schools in some states, and the result is a larger percentage of overweight children.

Eating properly and getting sufficient exercise are both very important, but I'm going to give you my personal opinion here. This is not based on medical facts; it's just my own personal take.

I vote for exercise first! Why? Because starting and maintaining an exercise program is a very healthy habit to add to your daily life. If you can get good aerobic exercise for 30 to 45 minutes four to five times a week, you'll achieve great benefits.

Habits built in your teen years, such as exercise, are likely to stick with you as you grow into a young woman. And as you age and mature into a young adult, you will likely take more and more interest in eating healthily. So, I feel that building the exercise habit first and then gradually learning to eat healthier is better than the reverse, since it would be harder to start an exercise program later in life. Exercise now!


DR. WALLACE: My 17-year-old cousin keeps telling his friends and relatives, including me, that he is tired of life and is thinking about committing suicide. His parents say that he is not serious about his threats and he is just trying to draw attention to himself.

I think that all suicide threats should be taken seriously, but even my parents don't believe that he will kill himself. They think his parents know him very well and that he says he's going to kill himself every time he does something wrong and is grounded.

Please tell me what the warning signs for a potential suicide victim are. We live next-door to him, and I see him every day. He seems normal most of the time, but he does get pretty moody sometimes. It also appears that he is regularly in trouble with his parents, so he does say these things to try to get a reaction out of them. Still, I'm pretty worried and would never forgive myself if I didn't do something while there was still time to intervene. — Worried Cousin, via email

WORRIED COUSIN: Every single suicide threat should be taken seriously! Your aunt and uncle should immediately get a psychiatric evaluation on their son.

Most experts on this subject agree that the most common warning signs of a potential suicide are a changes in eating or sleeping patterns, withdrawal from family and friends, a decline in the quality of schoolwork, violent or rebellious behavior, a noticeable personality change, unusual neglect of appearance, drug or alcohol abuse or the giving away of treasured items.

Go through this list right away to see if your cousin fits any of the items mentioned. Also be sure to let your parents know that you've been concerned enough to write to our column here. Point out to your parents any item on my list that applies to your cousin.

I do suggest immediate professional attention be given to this young man. Something is wrong in his household, and the sooner a professional can intervene and provide guidance, the better.

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Fotorech at Pixabay

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