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Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right ~ An Eating Plan for Children {Review}

This is a topic I have been reluctant to write about on my blog: How to approach your child when she is overweight.

Three of my children have always been stick skinny, actually underweight to be exact. So worrying about their food was not something I ever did. It's sad because for years I didn't worry about the food my children ate because they weren't overweight, but I also didn't worry about nutrition, either. I equated what they ate with what they weighed. Even though they were skinny, it is doubtful that they were very healthy. So I didn't really have a healthy viewpoint when it came to food for my children.

My fourth child has been overweight since she was about 5 years old. Now, she is also built very different from the other three. She is not tall and lanky. She is shorter, stouter, with a more athletic build. That's good, because she's an athlete. (None of my other three kids played sports.) God knew what He was doing when He made her. There is a lot of power in that body.

But she is, in fact, overweight. It is mostly my fault because I have never worried about what the kids ate so I didn't with her, either. I always knew she was "chunkier" than she should be, but I figured she would outgrow it, get taller, etc. Well, she hasn't and she didn't. It is pretty apparent she isn't going to get a whole lot taller than she is right now.

The experts scare you about discussing weight with your daughters. What if I say the wrong things and she develops an eating disorder? What if she ends up having low self esteem? Shouldn't she be told that this is how God made her and He doesn't make mistakes? It's tough!

Typically as a family we eat pretty healthy. But we do indulge. We do eat too many carbs because we love pasta. The kids do love those frozen thingies they can cook themselves. We like to eat cereal, pop tarts, donuts on Sunday. And eating these things in moderation is not totally awful. But, it got to where eating these things became the norm instead of the special treat. This was my fault. I got lazy.

A couple of months ago we took an impromptu family photo. My daughter looked at it and said, "I look fat." The sad thing is that she did look heavier than I had ever seen her look. I could tell she was really upset about it. I felt so bad for her, and angry at myself for letting her weight get out of control. I asked her if she wanted to do something to lose some of her weight, and she said, "But it will be hard." I told her that it might be, but that if we worked together that we could do it.

I immediately went to work researching a plan. My daughter is a homeschooler so during the day is more sedentary than she should be. But, she also plays sports all year round (basketball, 5k training, softball, volleyball, swimming). She is active a couple of evenings a week for a couple of hours. I knew that we needed to continue to watch her activity level and make sure she was getting enough exercise.

The real key was going to be in her eating habits. I absolutely DID NOT want her to be on a diet. I did not want her to ever get in the lifestyle habit of dieting. Instead I was looking for a plan.

I stumbled across Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right by Joanna Dolgoff. After reading the book and the plan it reminded me a little of Weight Watchers, and I learned a lot about food choices when I dabbled with Weight Watchers several years ago. The plan appeared to be very simple and was all about food choices and portion control. And the best part is that NO FOOD is off limits. There was no food that she couldn't have. She just had to choose when she ate those foods and how much.

The idea of the plan is that there is a list of foods that are Green foods (up to 100 calories), Yellow foods (101-200 calories), and Red foods (above 300 calories). After computing her BMI, which actually showed that she was in the obese range (really?) we were directed to a chart that told her how many of each color she was to eat each day. Basically, she is to eat all Green foods if she can, but she can replace two Green foods with a Yellow, if she wants, and is allowed two Red foods per week.

Her plan is to eat 2 Greens for breakfast, 1 Green for morning snack, 3 Greens for lunch, 1 Green for afternoon snack, 4 Greens for dinner, and 1 Green for evening snack. All fresh fruits and vegetables are FREE foods! She can eat as much as she wants.

It took her a little while to get used to the plan, but once she did it was easy. She calls them "numbers" so we discuss her "numbers" for the day. She is a creature of habit and tends to eat the same things for breakfast and lunch every single day. Once she figured out which foods fell within her number guidelines, then it was easy. It is then up to me to calculate her numbers for dinner. She is very active in asking what her numbers are when planning what she wants to eat next.

She is not a vegetable eater AT ALL but I told her she had to find one raw vegetable that she likes to eat (or at least can tolerate) to add to her dinner each night. Strangely, she found that she likes raw mini cucumbers and mini red and orange peppers. So for dinner each night I slice her a cup of those vegetables that she eats before she begins her meal.

This plan is all about choices! She can have a couple of cookies if she wants, but then she'll have to take away some of her green foods so will get less actual food to eat that day. She has to decide if it's worth it. She has quickly found that sugar does not keep her full like healthy meals and snacks do. And, she has had some tummy aches after indulging in sweet or fatty foods.

But if she goes to a birthday party or has a friend over to spend the night and wants a cupcake or a donut or is offered a treat after a basketball game, she is allowed to have it.

And we have seen results! After one month she lost one full inch off each her waist, hips, and thighs. We haven't measured her since then but she has obviously lost more inches. You can even see it in her face. She feels fantastic and is loving the way her clothes feel better on her body. She is finding that she enjoys her food more, appreciates what she is eating. We have seen her trying new foods, too. It could be because she has expanded her palette, or maybe because she is just hungrier when meals come along, but just this week she has eaten black bean and spinach enchiladas and taco soup with vegetables! These are foods she wouldn't have even tried two months ago. It has been a miraculous change in her eating habits!

Her actual weight is not of concern to us, other than to just get her in the "healthy range" for her age and height. And I am not really even too worried about following the recommended chart that closely. We had to weigh her at the beginning so I could calculate her BMI to find her appropriate plan. But I told her that if she never weighs again that I do not care. She decided to weigh yesterday morning because it's been about two months on the plan. She was thrilled to see that she has lost 7 pounds!!

The overriding fact in our approach to this plan and her eating habits is that God DID give her this exact body. It is her job to take care of it, just like it's my job to take care of the exact body God gave me. If she exercises and sticks to this plan and is still not model thin, then that is perfectly fine because God did not create her to be that person.

I want her to be HEALTHY, not skinny. And I want her to feel amazing in the body she has. I want her to feel strong.

This plan is working. And it's something that she can take with her for the rest of her life. We have plans for her to continue with her current plan for another two months and see where she is. Once she gets down into the healthy range with her weight, then we will be able to add in more green foods each day for maintenance.

Another great thing about the plan is that it is not just for overweight kids. This plan is designed for all children, even underweight ones, to get them eating the rights amounts of the right foods each day. I find myself feeding us all more according to the plan because I am naturally calculating numbers with our meals.

I think we HAVE to discuss weight with our children when it's a problem. For so long I felt like I would be damaging my daughter if I did. But, the damage was occurring because I didn't. As Dr. Phil has said (one of my favorite quotes because, really, it's so true), "If you don't get real about getting fat, you're going to get real fat." That might be a little harsh, but it's a fact. Folks, we are fat people and our children are fatter. Or our children are malnutritioned and too skinny. It is up to us, as their parents, to do something about it. I hope that I have started my daughter on the right track to a healthy lifestyle. I hope that she feels good about who she is.

{I was not contacted by the vendor for this product for this review. I did not receive anything in return for it. The opinions herein are my own.}


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