Is your child interested in going to a weight-loss camp this summer? It can be a very effective way to lose weight and kickstart healthy habits for longterm success. A 2010 study showed that “immersion treatment” (where a child is immersed in a controlled, therapeutic environment for at least ten days) was far more effective than any standard outpatient treatment for obesity, with 191% more reduction in percentages of kids overweight at the end of treatment and 130% more at follow-up.
Why Are Weight Loss Camps So Effective?
Obviously, being in a controlled environment 24/7 is key. Bye-bye snack cupboard, fridge, vending machines, and the lure of constant fast food. At camp, your food intake, activity level, and even sleep schedule is programmed, so you don’t have to face the agony of constant temptation.
Less known is the psychological benefit: surrounded by peers who are struggling with their weight, your child might find camp to be a blissful haven from the stigma of the outside world. Ironically, while at weight loss camp, she may feel less defined by her weight than ever before. As a result, camp is a great time to build self-esteem, share feelings, and form new friendships.
What to Look for in a Weight-Loss Camp
The seven largest weight-loss camps in the U.S. are all similar in their basic program. They all have low camper-to-staff ratios (4:1 to 3:1), a low-fat or reduced calorie diet, nutritional and culinary education, and a wide variety of physical activities to choose from. Only three, however, offer cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which can significantly improve weight-loss and long-term results. And programs with CBT are often eligible for significant health insurance reimbursement ($1,000 or more).
Camp directory websites like ChoiceCamps and MySummerCamps can narrow your search. Also, look to see whether a camp is ACA accredited (not all of the top seven weight loss camps are). The ACA website is also a great research tool to find camps that fit your criteria.
How to Make the Most of Your Child’s Time at Camp
* Longer stays are better than shorter stays. One study defined ten days as an important minimum for getting long-term benefits, and in general the longer a child stays the better the results, not just in terms of weight loss but confidence (“I can do this”) and even inspiration.
* Take full advantage of any parental education or “at home” support offered. The biggest mistake parents make, according to childhood and adolescent obesity specialist Dr. Kerri Boutelle, is “to expect the child to change on their own and return home not needing any help.” Use your child’s time at weight-loss camp not just to jumpstart their change, but your whole family’s transition to a healthier lifestyle.
* Make sure it’s your child’s decision to go, not yours. As a happy parent from a Wellspring camp wrote, “Your child has to want to go to this camp. It doesn’t work if they don’t want to be there. “
More on weight-loss camps:
Seven Top Weight Loss Camps in U.S. — what they have in common, and what makes each unique.
Abby Ellin, former fat camper, cuts loose on why she remains “deeply, passionately conflicted” about fat camps.
Susan Basso, Mom to Scotty on “Too Fat for Fifteen”, explores her son’s time at Wellspring Academy.
Photo courtesy of choicecamps.