Weight Loss Camps

Weight loss camps have become a good weight loss option for teens who are struggling with being overweight or obese. Weight loss camps are usually different from the fat camps. Keep reading for info on types of weight loss camps and tips on choosing a weight loss camp.


Weight loss camps are increasing in popularity as more young people struggle with being overweight or obese. Some parents turn to weight loss camps trying to find a way to help their children and teens, while others don’t consider them because they want to avoid the stigma of “fat camps” or aren’t sure they are effective. Studies are finding, however, that weight loss camps do help teens lose weight in the right circumstances.

The most effective weight loss camps usually aren’t like traditional “fat camps” or weight loss boot camps that are featured on TV. Instead, these modern weight loss camps are fitness summer camps. They focus on several areas of teens’ well-being:

  • Teaching teens that physical activity can be fun
  • Helping teens develop healthy eating habits
  • Improving teens’ knowledge and attitudes about health
  • Increasing teens’ self-esteem

Types of weight loss camps

There are many types of weight loss camps that can help overweight teens. They may focus on certain age groups, health problems, or activities. Parents can choose from a variety of experiences for their teen:

  • Programs that are only a week or two or those that last for most of the summer
  • Overnight camps or day-only camps
  • Camps that focus on certain health conditions like diabetes
  • Girls-only, boys-only, or co-ed camps
  • Camps for teens who are only a little overweight or those for teens who are very obese
  • Programs with a focus on specific activities

Programs vary a lot in cost, from $100 or $200 per week to much more. Day camp is usually cheaper than overnight camp. Some camps offer scholarships to teens who meet certain qualifications.

Weight loss camps can be run by a number of organizations. Some of the common sponsors are:

  • Privately run camps
  • Sports centers
  • Community organizations
  • Universities or other educational groups

Though traditional or boot camp weight loss programs often focused on aerobic exercise or running laps, modern weight loss camps for children and teens make physical activity fun and offer a wide range of activities for parents and teens to choose from:

  • Team sports
  • Tennis
  • Swimming
  • Bicycle or unicycle riding
  • Bowling
  • Horseback riding
  • Fencing
  • Archery
  • Gymnastics
  • Karate
  • Rock or wall climbing
  • Rafting
  • Hiking
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi

Some camps may focus on just one of these activities, but those that offer a variety of fun physical activities are most likely to motivate teens and improve their attitudes and habits regarding teen exercise and physical activity.

How to choose a weight loss camp

If parents decide that a weight loss camp is a good option, they have to decide which one will work best for their teen. They should include the teen in the decision making process. Some overweight teens may hesitate to go to a weight loss camp, but many of them get excited about the idea once they learn more about the camps or visit them and see that they offer positive experiences that won’t make the teen feel bad about his or her weight. Letting teens help decide which camp is best improves the chances that they will get the most out of camp.

Parents and teens will have to find a camp with a cost, location, and offering of activities that meets their needs. In order for the camp to be most effective, they should also look for these features in a camp:

  • The focus should be on becoming healthier, not on the teens’ weights. The teens’ weights may be measured, along with blood pressure and other health factors, but this should be done in a way that does not embarrass the teens.
  • The social environment should be positive, with supportive adult leaders and participants who do not make fun of, yell at, or otherwise put down kids because of their weight or other traits.
  • The activities offered should be fun and non-competitive.
  • The camp should include educational activities that help teens learn how to make healthier choices.
  • The food offered should be healthy and in moderate portions. Teens should not be put on very restrictive diets unless the teen’s doctor has deemed it medically necessary and is supervising it.
  • The program should also involve parents and other family members for some of the time, such as by educating them on healthy lifestyle changes or letting them participate in some of the physical activities. Family involvement helps the teen continue the good habits he or she learned after camp is over.
  • Longer programs are generally more successful because they allow more time for teens to develop healthier habits.

Parents should not expect weight loss camps to be an instant fix for an overweight or obese teen. Weight loss camps do help teens lose some weight, but the most important goal from weight loss camp should be to empower the teen to make healthier choices and develop better habits and attitudes regarding physical activity and healthy eating, while improving his or her self esteem.

Though most teens lose weight when they attend weight loss camps, the challenge for them is to stick with the good habits that they learned and continue to work toward being healthier. This often requires their entire family to be a support system by offering healthy food choices, continuing to engage in fun physical activities, and being supportive and loving toward the teen regardless of his or her weight.

Sources:

Dr. Paul J. Gately, et al., Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, " Children's Residential Weight Loss Programs Can Work: A Prospective Cohort Study of Short-Term Outcomes for Overweight and Obese Children" [online]

Cynthia Vega, National Camp Association, Inc., "Fat Camp? Not Anymore! Weight Loss Camps Have Come A Long Way" [online]

Lisa Millar, Correspondents Report (Australia), "Parents turn to fat camps for obesity solution" [online]

Molly Martin, The Seattle Times, "Getting Physical: A Different Kind of Summer Camp Aims to Shape Winners for Life" [online]

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