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Weight Loss Camps Can Change Lives

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How do I choose a weight loss camp?

1. How will the program change my child’s eating and exercise behaviors?
There are several ways you can find out if the camp will help your child change his or her eating and exercise behaviors: talk to the director, visit the camp, if possible, and talk to references. Check the camp website for a message board or testimonial letters.

2. What are the qualifications/experience of the person who designed the program?
Find the qualifications of the person running the program, particularly the people who have established the dietary program.

3. Will the foods provided meet my child’s nutritional needs?
A dietary program should not risk the child’s health. Many kids are accustomed to eating 4,000 – 5,000 calories per day. A safe and reasonable number of calories for a child 8 to 17 years old to consume daily is 1,500 and 2,000.

4. At what rate does weight loss occur?
Rapid weight loss can be just as dangerous as obesity, and is also usually less sustainable than gradual weight loss. Losing weight at the rate of three to four pounds per week is reasonable.

5. Will the diet program minimize hunger and fatigue?
It makes little sense to provide a diet at camp that will be difficult or impossible to follow once the child returns home,or to provide a diet that lacks energy and will fatigue the child. Camp should teach children the basics of nutrition and how to make better choices in selecting or preparing foods they actually like.

6. What prior results has this program experienced?
How long has the camp been operating? What results have the camp achieved? Check the references offered by the camp. If possible, visit the camp. Ask the camp director to share with you some experiences of previous campers. Ask about the percentage of repeat campers. Are they returning because they continue to need to lose weight, or because they enjoy the camp environment and the friends they made in previous years?

7. How will this program improve my child’s overall health?
How safe is this camp? Are there activities dangerous for the child? Is there sufficient supervision to ensure that both the dietary program and the camp activities are safe? What is the camper-to-counselor ratio? How are the counselors selected and what are are the minimum qualifications a counselor must have? Check with the Department of Health jurisdiction where the camp is located. This agency must visit and report on the camp annually.

8. Is there a follow-up program?
One of the common problems a child will face in going to a weight loss camp is returning home. How does the camp help the parents prepare a changed environment for the child? Does the camp contact the child during the off-season to offer support and encouragement?

One of the most successful follow-up programs is the reaction the camper receives from friends and classmates after returning home.

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