Weight Loss Camp for Your Teen
When Jack and Susan Byrne of Clark, N.J., decided to send their 14-year-old son to a summer camp that specialized in weight loss and fitness, it wasn't because of lack of trying other options. "We tried just dieting at home, but it didn't last for long," says Susan Byrne. "John's health was a concern. His blood pressure was elevated, and the doctor kept telling us he had to do something for the weight."
After watching a program on weight loss camps for children, Susan Byrne thought that might be the answer for her son. During some research, she became intrigued with New Image Weight Loss Camps.
"I sent away for information, and they sent me a great tape to watch with John," says Byrne. "My husband and I were impressed and last May went up to visit. It's a beautiful place and looked like a great place to be!"
John was at New Image Weight Loss Camp for three weeks. It was the first time he had ever gone to camp, and Byrne was concerned with how he would manage. Her fears were unfounded as John made friends easily.
"John got a substantial education at camp," she says. "Besides always being busy and moving and active in a fun way, he made friends for life. He got the knowledge to eat healthy, to make better choices when picking snacks or meals and how to limit his portions."
When John left camp, his friends called to him on his way out, "John, stay on program!" Byrne knew that this was a life-changing experience for her son – not just a diet, but something he would take with him always.
Learning a Lifestyle
Weight loss camps are a very real option for parents who find it difficult to regulate what their children eat.
Tony Sparber is the executive director of New Image Camps, a group of three weight loss camps in the United States. He feels the New Image Camps are as much about self-esteem as they are about learning healthy eating habits. "Our camp is more than just losing weight," says Sparber. "We focus in on the habits of the kids to allow them to make lifestyle changes."
Besides diet and exercise, part of the camp's total package includes working on grooming and hygiene habits, nutrition and cooking classes and self-esteem building.
"Our kids leave our camp in the best physical and mental shape of their lives," says Sparber, a former overweight child. He attended a weight loss camp when he was 15 years old, and it turned his life around. "I love what I do, because I've seen the difference firsthand," he says.
Choosing a Camp
David Ettenberg, director of Camp Shane, a weight loss camp in Ferndale, N.Y., believes that parents need to look at the entire package before choosing a weight loss camp.
"Besides the safety issues you would check with any camp, you should also look at the nutritional programs, activities and the quality of food provided," says Ettenberg. "We try to serve food at the camp that is not only nutritious, but something kids will eat once they go home. Our food is kid-friendly."
David Ettenberg gives the following tips on finding the perfect weight loss camp for your child:
- Make sure the camp serves quality food in the right portions for your child.
- How many qualified, full-time guidance counselors does the camp have on hand to deal with any problems that might arrive?
- Are they accredited by the American Camping Association?
- Visit the camp and ask to meet with the camp director. "Meeting with the camp director can tell you quite a bit about the atmosphere of the camp, " says Ettenberg. "If you find them to be dedicated and trustworthy, chances are these traits will trickle down through the staff and counselors."
- Learn about their hiring procedures. Do they check references? Do they run complete background checks? What are their age limits? (Many camps hire teens as junior counselors, which can be a wonderful experience for all, but it can cause problems if the camp relies too heavily on this cheaper workforce.)
- Before choosing a camp, try to talk to a parent whose child has been to the camp with successful results. The camp should have no problem getting you in touch with references.
- Keep your child involved with the decision-making process. They have to be comfortable with the camp, or the experience won't be optimal for your child.
The Cost Versus Benefits
The cost of weight loss camps is often higher than camps without that focus due to the need for qualified nutritional and medical staff. However, there are some camps that offer scholarships or know where you can obtain them. Unfortunately, there is a high scholarship demand, and chances of getting one are slim.
Many parents find the price of the camp worth it when their children return both healthier and equipped with the knowledge to make better food and activity choices for themselves.
For Susan and Jack Byrne, the changes in their son's attitude were well worth the expense. "We couldn't be more proud of him, and he's going back to camp this summer," says Susan. "He's lost a total of 50 pounds and wants to lose a bit more. He's looking forward to seeing his friends and getting in shape for football season in the fall!"