We Used “Fat Camp” To Help My Son Lose Weight
Sending my son to “fat camp” seemed like a cop-out—and a very expensive one at that. But I had spent years trying to handle it on my own and waiting for that big growth spurt to transform him. My son’s weight problem began in kindergarten. By second grade, we were taking serious steps to control the problem. He had weekly meetings with a nutritionist and was enrolled in several sports and physical activities. Even though I learned the right things to do, something was wrong because his BMI remained between 95% and 97%.
When he was 9 and 110 pounds, I started to fantasize about weight loss camp. I spoke to a friend who had written a book on the subject, and she recommended a camp in the Poconos. We visited the camp.
My plan was to visit at least one “regular” camp as well but when my son saw Camp Pocono Trails, he was hooked. The camp looked like a resort for kids, with a private lake, two swimming pools and an Odyssey Ropes course. I chose it because I was confident he would lose weight; my son chose it because it looked like an amazing amount of fun. We were both right!
Every day I checked the camp website and I saw video of my son running with sweat streaming down his face and a huge grin. When I picked him up, he had lost 10 pounds in three weeks—10% of his body weight.
I expected the weight loss, but I also saw that he had learned to make better choices in nutrition and fitness. He was eating salad and watching portion size. For the first time, he showed an interest in managing his weight. And his confidence in his physical capabilities and his ability to succeed at new challenges had greatly increased. He proudly showed me that he could run a mile and swing across the monkey bars.
As expected, maintaining was the hardest part. My son did well for the entire school year, but his control fell apart over the following summer. He spent a lot of time online and refused to participate in the physical activities at day camp. I learned that during swimming, he was often sitting and talking to his buddy (who also didn’t want to swim).
When he went for his fall check-up, his BMI had climbed to 99%. I felt so guilty. My husband and I needed to take action. We signed up for online coaching for parents of kids struggling with their weight. Then we tackled his sedentary life. My son refused to join a team sport so I created different exercise opportunities. I made plans with a mom around the corner for our boys to walk home from school together. My son works out with my trainer twice a week and loves it. And my son takes tennis lessons.
And we changed our diet. My son registered for a phone app to track his food. I printed out a chart of red, yellow and green foods and we try to avoid the “red” foods. Of course, its one step forward, two steps back. (We certainly had lots of rich food and sweets around throughout the holidays.) The good news—my son has maintained his weight during the school year while growing like a weed.
I am, however, sending him back to camp this summer. I feel that it gets him motivated, increases his enjoyment of exercise and his athletic abilities in a nurturing setting. It will be great for his self-esteem to return to school slimmer, stronger, and more confident.
For my son, weight loss camp was a great place to jump-start change, lose weight, make lifelong friends, build self-esteem and confidence, and have a blast. The challenge is that the results aren’t lasting unless the teen and the parents stay vigilant.