Fat Camps – Helping With The Emotional Side of Teen Obesity

They used to be called “Fat Camps” and they might as well have been called “Detention Camps”, as they used military-like exercises, starvation dieting, and punitive jibes and commands to keep their campers’ noses to the grindstone.
Couple this with the fact that some of the campers were teens mixed in amongst the adults of all ages, therefore assuring it was the parents who locked their kids up demanding they lose weight…or else… and you had an all-around recipe for weight loss disaster.

Kids came out pounds thinner, but far more traumatized and with even lower self-esteem than when they went it.

Thankfully times have changed. Now there exists reputable weight loss camps specifically designed for teens that addresses their weight issues from a far more well-rounded approach–dealing with the body and spirit of the teen and considering the emotional side of teenage obesity.

Counselors at such reputable weight loss camps have been given sensitivity training and have been taught how to gently coax from the teens deeply buried feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem to the surface.

Bullying, jeering, or mocking are discouraged and exposed for the negative behaviors that they are. Campers are encouraged to share their feelings with other campers, many of whom have faced the same problems and challenges.

Shy kids are coaxed carefully and with great patience and not rushed to reveal too much until they are ready. Positive reinforcement makes that time come all the sooner. Teamwork–and more importantly–team support is given for individual efforts as well as efforts undertaken as a team (and everyone makes the team.)

Overweight teens often learn to make excuses for their obesity (“I am big-boned like my mother” or “My dad was fat when he was in high school.”) These excuses are understandable, but not allowed to stand at weight loss camp. Rather they are brought out in the open so they can be dealt with. Once teenagers learn the nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices they need to lose the weight (and keep it off), the excuses are no longer necessary and fade away.

Soon the layers of shame and humiliation every obese teen is wrapped in begin to peel away too. What stands in their place is a slimmer, confident, and prouder young person–one who has a plan to take the weight off, keep the weight off and live a healthy life–one in which they are in control. Their future looks much brighter.

Why is Camp Shane NOT a fat camp?

Camp Shane is based on the model of a traditional camp, with all the fitness activities, sports and special events that the best-equipped traditional camps have. We don’t obsess over dieting, the emphasis is on friends, fitness and fun! We work on learning or improving physical skills so that campers can continue to be active after camp, learning about nutrition so that campers can make healthier food choices at home, and working on self-esteem issues that help campers build confidence in their ability to succeed.

Camp Shane is not a fat camp because we promote improving health for the long-term, not losing as much weight as possible in the shortest time possible. Fat camps do not mind if the weight returns; in fact, they are happy to get repeat business.

At Camp Shane, we do not care if you are 0, 10 or 50 pounds overweight – in fact, we have many campers who have achieve weight loss results but return for the good times and good friends. The fat camp mentality is part of a culture that demands makeovers – the faster and more extreme the better. But Camp Shane works to internalize the changes that make losing weight about better health choices…NOT thinness at any cost.

We encourage our campers to want to look their best, which we define as healthy and fit. We discourage trying to achieve the impossible perfection of the teen supermodel, which can promote psychological problems, including eating disorders. Often, children don’t want to tell their friends they are going to Camp Shane because of the fat camp stigma, but when they return home, healthier, more confident, and yes, thinner, they love to share stories of the great time they had and are proud of what they have accomplished.

Before and After Weight Loss

Rethinking the Backyard Barbecue

Summertime and the living is easy…and much of it is spent outdoors. If your child or teen is returning home from a weight loss camp with some of those stubborn pounds missing or if you have visited an adult “fat camp” or been trying to rethink your own eating habits, here are some suggestions for a healthier backyard BBQ:

* Instead of serving soda or beer, make your own lemonade with fresh squeezed lemons, some calorie-free sweetener, and ice cubes into which you’ve frozen some fresh mint leaves from your garden (pansy flowers work too.) Or make herbal iced tea with organic honey. Aim for no artificial ingredients in any drink you serve.

* Don’t cheat and buy mayo-rich salads. Make several green ones instead (spinach and raw almonds; raddichio, rugula and garbanzo beans dressed with light oil and lemon or raspberry vinegar; fresh basil, dill and cold (skinless) chicken breast with a little sunflower oil and grapes. Make fruit salads, too–using natural honey as the “tie that binds”.

* While you are preparing the fruit, save some to make light sorbet in your ice cream maker or freeze fruit juices with wooden sticks for homemade popsicles for dessert.

* Use what grows wild around you–How about a salad with dandelion greens, wild rose petals and rhubarb stalks? And don’t forget the onion grass you find everywhere (those are just chives and scallions by another name.) If you find a sunflower–bonus! The seeds can be eaten raw or roasted.

* Substitute turkey dog for hot dogs and serve without a bun. Instead of hamburgers on the grill, why not make “lamburginis”–lamb patties mixed with fresh vegetables and herbs from your garden for flavor. (Ditch that harmful salt. Pepper comes in infinite –and delicious varieties–try pink peppercorns and see how you like them.)

* Shish kabobs–grilled with no oil–make a great BBQ food, especially when combined with fresh peppers of several varieties.

* Condiments have lots of hidden calories–serve plenty of juicy garden-grown tomatoes instead of ketchup, and cucumbers instead of salt-filled pickles. Or better still, make your own, substituting calories free sweetener for all that sugar in the ketchup and a salt substitute in the brine for homemade pickles.

* Go online and research the many recipes that now exist for light summer fare and save yourself from feeling weighted down in these hotter months. Start a summer cookbook with what you find.

* Remember, a BBQ isn’t all about eating… it’s about playing too! Set up a badminton court, a croquet course, or invest in a bocce ball set (then explain the game to your kids). If you are feeling more adventurous, buy a trampoline or a silly slide (that and a hose are all you need to laugh the afternoon away and get your exercise to boot.)

Getting and staying fit doesn’t mean you have to give up that time-honored American tradition. With a little rethinking, the backyard BBQ will continue to make great summer memories for your family.

 

Teen Obesity

Changing the Face of How We Eat

When America was an agricultural society, huge meals were served midday (this meal was called “dinner” in the Farm Belt). Everyone came in from the fields and were served mountains of potatoes and bread, creamed vegetables, butter-fried meats and rich desserts like pie ala mode (pie bake-offs were a staple at country fairs.) If children were still in school (many were given time off to work the fields), they lugged these calorie-laden foods to school in their lunch pails. The kitchen was the “heart of the home” and the word “dieting” was never uttered. Yet not half as many people were obese as are today. What has changed?

Plowing, seeding, weeding, haying, and taking care of animals required hard physical work. Even school kids hauled buckets and mucked stables and sowed feed when they got home from school and, at school, recess meant energetic games of Red Rover and Kickball. Girls jumped rope for hours and boys wrestled each other constantly.

These days, however, kids spend most of their post-homework time on the computer or playing video games. Teens spend time on MySpace instead of expending their energies outside. Since few of us grow our own, food seems to appear magically on store shelves with no more effort required of us than to drive to the supermarket to get it.

So the new reality is we must educate ourselves about nutrition and plan for exercise must be arranged and followed–but how to get an overweight child or teen to start and stick to such a program?

The answer is weight loss camp. For a short investment of time –just several weeks in a summer otherwise filled with more video games and boredom –your child or teen can take the first steps to a healthier life and learn to change how they eat. By changing what they take into their body and how they move that body every day, your child will begin taking control of their life.

At camp, outdoor activities are encouraged and everyone gets to participate–not just a select few. Team sports become fun with the encouragement and support of fellow campers and the trained staff, and new sports can be tried without risk of embarrassment that comes with joining in an activity where everyone is fit and your child is not yet so. Even singular activities like swimming, hiking or dancing become more inviting when a kid knows they will not only feel a sense of accomplishment, but will get some applause from other campers for having achieved the goal.

Weight loss camp also teaches the obese child or teen how to make good choices in foods to eat. They are taught about nutrition and calorie intake, how to read a label in a supermarket, how to cook healthy food, how “real” food –as opposed to the empty calories and chemical additives of processed food–tastes and how such choices affect their health. No one ever goes hungry at weight-loss camp, but the proper food choices paired with the increase in physical activity will result in a before and after weight loss your child or teen will see and feel. Their energy will be increased, they will sleep better and their attitude will change. Self-image will improve and exercise–once a dirty word–will come to mean “fun”. The healthy habits they learn (and the friends they meet) will build a foundation for a lifetime of good health.