Their plan worked.
In December, eight weeks after she joined Healthy Kids, Lexi had lost 15 pounds. "For a child her age, that's like an adult losing 50 pounds," Jeffrey said. Her body mass index dropped 2.7 points. "That's huge," Jeffrey said. "We'd be happy with a half-point."
Healthy Kids lets program graduates keep using their children's gym. So every week, the Winnells kept bringing Lexi to the gym. Her grandfather lost 27 pounds himself. "It turned out to be good for the whole family," Kelly Winnell said.
That was last December.
An unexpected crisis
In February, Mark Winnell began having severe headaches. They developed into a complex condition CAMC has not yet been able to completely diagnose. It is affecting his speech, his balance and his memory.
Kelly Winnell took a leave from her job to care for him. "I just can't be away from him all day," she said. He was not able to take the long walks with Lexi. The family focus has, by necessity, shifted away from her.
When Mark Winnell was in the hospital for more than a week of tests, "I cried every night," Lexi said. "I couldn't sleep."
Kelly Winnell took a two-month leave from her job. "We had to stop all other activity. I took Lexi to school, but we just couldn't do anything extra. That's when I really wished we had daily P.E."
Lexi dropped off the swim team. The stress, lack of sleep, loss of the swim team, all affected her weight. "I was so worried, I lost control." She gained back the weight she had lost.
Now, as school ends, the family is making Plan B. "That's the important thing for Lexi to learn," Kelly Winnell said. "Life will bring you unexpected setbacks when you least expect it. The question is, how do you handle them? How do you pick yourself up and go on?"
Lexi helped make the new family plan. She has already started gymnastics. She will start a zumba class next week. "We'll take her swimming several days a week this summer, and we're getting a small pool so she can be active at home," Kelly Winnell said. "But more responsibility for keeping it up will have to be on her."
"We've got a plan, and I'm sticking to it like superglue," Lexi said. It includes walks with her grandfather, "but they're going to have to be slow walks," said Mark Winnell. He is back at work, but his symptoms and tests continue.
"I'm starting again, but I know I can do it," Lexi said. "I want to tell other kids, don't ever, ever give up when something knocks you back. If you fall off the horse, get back on.
"I'm OK now," she said. "As long as he's OK, and our family's OK, then I'll be fine."
Kids and parents who want to lose weight, remember these numbers:
Five: Five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A serving can be the size of an apple.
Two: No more than two hours of screen time per day. That's video games, TV, texting, Internet -- anything with a screen. People are not active when they're on a screen, and they tend to eat more.
One: At least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.
Zero: Zero sodas, sugar-sweetened sports and fruit drinks. Instead, drink water and skim or 1 percent milk.
Source: Healthy Kids, Charleston Area Medical Center, adapted from Let's Go, state of Maine
Reach Kate Long at katel...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1798.
"The Shape We're In" was written with the help of the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism, administered by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.