The Wisdom of Oz

updated 10/05/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/05/2009 01:00AM

Every family bonds differently. For Dr. Mehmet Oz—Oprah Winfrey's health guru—and his four kids, it's all about competitive sports. "We have this special tradition called 'The Oz Family Olympics,'" explains Daphne, his oldest daughter. "They're mandatory because no reasonable human being would submit to grueling hours of tennis marathons, wind sprints and stair races." And unlike the real event, they don't take place every four years. "It's whenever my dad comes upstairs and sees all of us on our iPods and PlayStations," she says. "He just can't fathom the idea of kids sitting still."

Now Dr. Oz hopes to get the rest of America off their couches too. That is, of course, whenever they're not tuning in to watch him dispense advice on The Dr. Oz Show, his new daily syndicated talk show. The goal? To help viewers take better care of themselves. "We'll be the show of record on health," says Oz, 49, one of the country's leading cardiothoracic surgeons. "I will look at all the information, talk to experts I trust and say what I would do for my family."

At the moment Oz is trying to corral that family to play some three-on-three basketball on the court in the basement of their northern New Jersey home. (The downstairs area also boasts Ping-Pong, air hockey, foosball and a pool table.) Alas, his first few attempts to hurry wife Lisa, 46, daughters Daphne, 23, Arabella, 19, and Zoe, 14, and son Oliver, 10, via intercom fail. "[I tell] my kids people actually pay me for my opinion and I'm trying to give it to you for free," he says with a laugh. "They still won't take it."

Teasing Dr. Oz may be another popular pastime at home, but his wife and kids are thrilled to see him take center stage. "I always learned even more at home than school," says Daphne, a Princeton grad and author. "He has a crazy command of information. I've never been able to stump him with a question."

That quest for knowledge began when Oz—the son of Turkish immigrants—was growing up in Cleveland. "One of my biggest joys was reading the encyclopedia," says Oz. Eating healthy was the only subject he couldn't master—until he met Lisa, the daughter of his mentor at the University of Pennsylvania medical school, in 1983. "Almost all my education about nutrition is from Lisa," says Oz. "I didn't even know what a vegetarian was." Now Lisa, a former actress and television producer, is the family's primary chef. "I like food that tastes good, so I like Lisa to do it," says Oz. "I can do subsistence cooking to keep myself alive." The two also share a bond because both grew up with doctors as fathers. "We realize physicians are people too," says Lisa. "They have great advice, but you have to take charge of your own wellness."

That's the message at the heart of The Dr. Oz Show. So viewers take note: He'll expect the same effort from you as he does from his kids. "The one downside is he's not the most sympathetic of doctors," says Daphne. "His remedy is go outside and work up a sweat." He also encourages his kids to eat a healthy breakfast every day, drink vegetable-blender drinks instead of soda and always try their hardest. "We don't gauge our happiness by their grades, but by the effort they make," says Oz. "I'd rather they get A's and D's than C's and B's; I want them taking chances." And the doctor isn't the least bit fazed by trying to add millions of viewers to his healthy "family." "I'm not nervous at all," he says. "Nervous is 3 in the morning when a heart's bleeding and you're trying to put a stitch in it. This is cool. It's game time."

FOR MORE GO TO PEOPLE.COM/OZSTORY

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