The Missing Link between Weight, Stress and Burnout

burnout health overweight play stress Jul 13, 2023
stressed mom in front of computer with children running around in the background, advertising Family in Focus with Wendy Schofer, MD podcast Episode #98, entitled The Missing Link between Weight, Stress and Burnout

I've been talking for years about how I work with parents and families around weight, stress and burnout. And to be honest with you, I thought that was all based out of my lived experience.

You see, as a pediatrician and mom, I had experienced the stresses and repeated burnout of clinical medicine, as well as the stresses around how to raise my family to be healthy.

I've noticed how I struggle to work full-time clinical medicine, or full-time anything for that matter. While the story has changed from one where I thought I wasn't good enough (ahem, THAT is a lie), I started telling myself that it was more about what works for me:

Working a few days per week in the clinic, working a few days per week with Family in Focus.

No. It's not about the work. It's not about the stress. It's not even about the burnout and the food and movement and weight.

It's about play.

Let me explain:

Have you bought into the story that you need to complete tasks to earn your time off, that you have to study before playing, that you have to learn the rules of the game?

Me too. As I look back, I stopped playing somewhere between college and medical school. I became laser-focused on my studies and yet, I became distracted.

I was stressed, seeking help for depressive symptoms from the school's mental health clinic (which sadly at the time agreed with the stigma against mental health and told me to shush, take some herbals, and not disclose a thing as I should go back to my studies).

As I think back to the highlights of medical school, it was when I was running to the Y with my husband, trying time and again to learn how to do a pull-up with him boosting my backside, or the brief vacations that we had going on our honeymoon over Christmas break or a roadtrip to Bar Harbor in the summer.

The highlights were the play.

They are the times that I remember.

The other times that I remember are the times that I was told I wasn't good enough. Fascinating.

Fast-forward to today:

I'm looking at how life is so much sweeter when I:

1) slow down

2) create intentional space

3) play

And... how I'm not seeing our children doing the same.

We are teaching our kids "the rules" to be healthy, to be safe, to "succeed" academically. After all, "No Child Left Behind"???

They are stressed, exhausted, anxious, bored, distracted and connected to their electronics of choice.

How is play the way out?

I talk in Family in Focus about the need for structure in kids' lives. Structure is NOT the same as planning, supervising and administering their entire day. Structure is the foundation: creating safety, reliability and trust - a boundary of sorts - within which they are free to roam, explore, try, fail, learn and yes, PLAY.

Play offers kids and adults (kids are not little adults but we are most definitely big kids) the opportunity to explore, make connections, find intrinsic motivation, joy.

Play is not a euphemism here for burning calories.

I am actively holding back on a "prescription for play". I'm looking at what is possible for you and your children when permitted to play.


I tell the story of the 12 year old girl I met earlier this week for a well-child visit. As you may know my mantra, "Sleep Comes First," I asked about her sleep routine. She gets about 6.5 hours of sleep on the regular.

HOLD THE PHONE. Only 6.5 hours. Children her age need a good 9-10 hours of sleep for their growing brains and bodies to rest, rejuvenate and grow.

As is all-too-common, TV and a cell phone were keeping her from sleeping. They had snuck into her bedroom and were occupying her room, her sleeping hours, and her brain.

In general terms, TV and social media feed children - and yet are not encouraging them to be creative themselves. They are dishing them distraction, not inviting creativity, play - and intrinsic motivation.

She's missing the link: Play. Her brain is being fed all sorts of stimulation from the devices, but it is hungry for disconnection and unstructured play. The de-stressing that happens when we distance from the constant barrage of electronics and others' rules... being able to create our own rules and live by them. That's play. And that's healthy for all of us.


Calling all Healthcare Professionals: I'm so glad you're here, to benefit yourself, your family, and your patients. The CE experience for this Podcast is powered by CMEfy - click here to reflect and earn credits:

 Family in Focus coaching now. Current offerings available here.

Weight Loss 101 for Your Whole Family: get started helping your whole family with the self-paced mini-course HERE.


I ask a favor of you: if you liked this episode, please subscribe, rate and review on your favorite podcast service, and share with your friends so they know that there is a different way to stop struggling with worries about weight. It's easy and fun!

And when you're ready to start applying this in your own home, check out for more information about how the Family in Focus program can help you and your family create lifelong healthy relationships with food and body, now and at every weight.

Disclaimer: While Wendy Schofer, MD discusses health and wellness, this is not medical advice and she is not your doctor. Optimal health is achieved in combination with your physician, who collaborates with you for your individual health. Talk to your doctor. And tell them about Family in Focus. Mwah!


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