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.

Teen Weight Loss

Teen Weight Loss Camps: A Judgement-Free Environment

As adults, there are times where we’d like to stand out, to grab extra attention and be noticed for being unique…and therein lies the difference between us and teenagers.

From adolescence right up until well into college, teenagers often just want to fit it, to belong to a group, to find safety and acceptance in numbers. Stepping out alone can be terrifying, which is why the idea of being shipped off to a “fat camp” is not something most kids are looking forward to–even when they need to lose weight and just such a place may turn the tide of their weight gain. They don’t yet realize that a weight loss camp, specifically for kids, is full of other teens going through the same challenges and who are therefore able to offer each other special support.

Here’s what we’ve learned after more than four decades of creating weight loss camps for teens: An obese teen is an unhappy teen and cliques of kids at school or on sports teams are often the cruelest to that kid who already feels like he or she isn’t worth much. Name-calling, shunning, mocking get to be second nature to the kid who is different in any way and obesity makes kids different from most of their peers. The weight gain often comes as just the time that teens are particularly body conscious (and perpetually exposed to images of anorexic models and steroid-enhanced athletes) and, combined with hormonal changes, an overweight kid is in for a rough ride.

Even well-meaning parents can add to the pain. Criticism, spoken or just perceived, can make teenagers feel even more down on themselves, which may lead to emotional overeating, which means more weight gain and less self-esteem–and the cycle continues. A good weight loss camp, with a proven history of providing a safe and judgment- free haven for kids to work on their weight problems, is one way to break the cycle.

At Camp Shane, counselors are trained to immediately nip any bullying or cruelty in the bud, encourage campers to concentrate on helping one another face (and conquer) their weight issues, and provide a safe place to learn new habits and make new friends. At such a camp, teens can open up and talk to each other without fear of judgement and a problem shared truly is a problem halved.

Together with the staff and “a little help from their friends” overweight teens can start down the road to a healthier and happier life and weather the inevitable storms of adolescence.