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Sandra writes:

I really hope you can help me. I am going crazy and, at the same time, I am hurting my 4 year old. My daughter turned 4 last month but here is the catch — She weighs 68 lbs. I know she is way over weight. That is what everybody keeps telling me, but they never seem to have any solutions.

I have cut out almost all of her unhealthy foods and she is very active. Please help me. If not for me help a 4 year old nip a life time of battling weight in the bud. Well, at least get it under control.

Jill: First let me say I am not a doctor or weight loss specialist. I don’t know if you have taken her to the doctor or not but if you think her weight is a serious problem (and it sounds like it is) then you should, of course, do that. Now with that being said (remember I am not a doctor and these are only my opinions) here are a few things you might think about trying. It is hard without more details to be exact so I will have to talk in generalities.

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I have lived long enough to have seen almost every diet there is to hit the news only to last a couple of years because that is about how long it takes to figure out it’s not working. I remember many years ago the high carb diet was the way to go. Eat as much pasta as you want and lose weight. These days, most people would have a heart attack (literally) just thinking about that diet let alone doing it.

I remember another time a woman arguing with me how “they” said that margarine was so much better for you and less fattening than butter. She just kept insisting that I should stop eating butter. I sat there wondering if she realized the irony of our situation. I was 5’3″ tall at 110 lbs. and she was the same height at 175 lbs. Was I the only one who saw there was something wrong with this picture?

I mention this because you made the comment that you are feeding your daughter mostly “healthy” foods. If it is an eating problem and not a medical one, I have found couple of things to be true.

First, it generally has little to do with what diet you are on or what healthy food your are eating but more to do with the portions you eat. It is just as important to watch portion sizes as what you are eating. Even if you are carefully using the portion size on the package, remember that packages usually describe an adult portion and not a child’s, so adjust it accordingly.

Get a copy of the food pyramid and follow it. These are easy to find. Just type in food pyramid on the computer or go to the library and check out a book on basic nutrition. I think you will be shocked at how small the serving sizes are and how many of them we really need. Often, we eat 2-4 times as much as we really need. Remember, most of the time these charts are geared for adults so again adjust accordingly for a child. (A child’s serving size is smaller.)

Here’s a point that you very rarely hear: All foods have calories, healthy or otherwise. I personally feel that this is why so many people who are continually trying to lose weight don’t succeed, even when going on a “healthy” diet. If you take in too many calories, healthy or otherwise, you will gain weight.

My daughter and I were discussing this just a couple of days ago. Her doctor, for health reasons, had put her on a very strict diet, with the healthiest foods possible, but she was gaining weight. The nuts she was eating were terribly high in calories and so were some of the other things.

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I have known people to fill their children with an endless supply of raisins letting them eat handfuls because they were healthy. Sure, raisins are healthy, but they are also very high in calories and sugar. There was a time when the “experts” pushed eating muffins because they were so much healthier than donuts, but boy do muffins have a lot of calories. This is another place where you need to think twice about how many calories are in that healthy snack (especially now that the typical store bought muffin is 3-4 servings instead of one).

You still gain weight off of off most foods, whether they are natural or “junk food” if you eat large portions. Unfortunately, we often think “healthy” means “no calories” or “all you can eat”, so we allow ourselves and our children to eat much more than is reasonable. When we’re in this mindset, it is difficult to understand why we are gaining weight when we are eating healthy.

Another area people forget to watch is their liquid intake especially when it comes to our children. We all know that pop and Kool-aid will cause our children to gain weight, but what we forget is that milk and juice will do that, too.

We often pour milk and juice down our children because we think it is a quick and easy way to make sure they are getting their fruits and veggies for the day. It is much easier to get a child to drink a glass of juice than to eat a carrot stick. It’s also easier for us as moms to pour a glass of juice than to clean and cut a carrot. I know, I have been there and done that.

I know I have said this before but use milk and juice as part of your family’s nutrients and use water to quench their thirst. That means that if they have a bowl of cereal with milk in the morning, that milk provides the dairy for that meal, so just give them water at that meal instead of a glass of milk.

Even though milk and juice can be healthy, more is NOT always better. Once a child has had the necessary requirement of milk or juice, giving them more milk or juice is not  better than giving them Kool-Aid or pop.

One last thing: The Bible says over and over to do things in moderation and that includes our food. Eat a moderate amount of food (that means a moderate amount from each food group, not an all this or an all that diet). And don’t allow food to become your god.

One day I was shocked when it dawned on me that I had spent more time reading food labels and thinking about what I should or shouldn’t eat than I spent reading my Bible that day. Most of us Christians would say in no uncertain terms that we don’t worship idols and have no other gods before God, but be careful — Satan is subtle. What do you think about all day long? Is it about what you are eating, did eat and are going to eat? How much time do you spend studying and reading about food, diets, etc? And who do you go to for comfort? (There’s a reason they are called comfort food).

I am not saying that you personally have a problem with any of these things. This is just what I know to be true in my own life and what I have seen and heard from others around me.

Jared the Subway guy, who lost all that weight said it well. Following the popular diets and “healthy” ways of eating that everyone recommended was not working for him, so he kept trying different things until found out what was right for him even though everyone would have told him it wouldn’t work.

Hopefully these things will help you to look at what your daughter is eating in a new light and mom, don’t panic and get stressed over it. So often parents say “well I don’t let my kids see that I’m upset”. Don’t sell your children short. They are very intuitive. You don’t have to move a muscle on your face but they can still sense how you are feeling, so make sure above all else you get a grip on your emotions concerning anything.

I hope this helps.

       -Jill

photo by: lepiaf.geo