Teenage weight loss camps are a popular venue to help teens lose weight, get healthy and raise self-esteem. Teenage weight loss camps can be found all over America. Some camps are a “day camp,” meaning campers go home at night, while more traditional camps include and require overnight stays. Teen weight loss camps can be pricey, but with earnest shopping around, you can likely find one to fit in your budget–some even offer scholarships and discounts. Teen weight loss camps have many different philosophies and methods, so it is important to find one that matches your teen’s personal style and your parental comfort level.
Teenage weight loss camps started gaining popularity in the 1950s, as the obesity epidemic began to emerge. At that time, they were often referred to as “Fat Camps” or “Fat Farms,” and were more of a place of shame and punishment as opposed to a place to get healthy and learn how to stay that way. As obesity continues to threaten our youth, more and more options for teenage weight loss camps are emerging.
Day camps and traditional camps are the two major types of camps. For some, the idea of camping out and staying overnight for weeks at a time is unappealing and may be cost-prohibitive. To accommodate that barrier, many day camps are springing up for overweight teens. These camps are usually 8 to 12 hours per day during the summer, and function much like a traditional camp, but the teens go home at night. Traditional camps include all the charm of regular camp, with and added emphasis on being healthy to help teens lose weight.
The benefits of teenage weight loss camps are numerous. Of course, the education, counseling and training in healthy habits are invaluable. But, in some ways, the psychological camaraderie between the campers is the most beneficial. It allows for a leveled playing field for these teens, one where the day-to-day stigma of being “the fat kid” is virtually eliminated. This allows them to interact with more freedom and self-confidence than they might experience in their lives away from camp. It also allows a great opportunity for honest, peer-to-peer support.
When choosing a teenage weight loss camp, you must first consider a number of factors. First, your teen’s personality should be amenable to the style of the weight loss camp. Second, the length of the camp and its price must fit in your budget. Lastly, speak with your physician and friends who have had their teens at camps to find one that is safe and effective.
Many physicians are supportive of weight loss camps as an effective way for teens to lose weight. It is important the teens are in a medically supervised program. But it may be that the psychological and social influence of camp is of greatest importance in weight loss and weight maintenance. Camp owner Jean Huelsing notes, “When the kids come to camp, they won’t look at you—they won’t initiate conversation, they are slumped forward, looking down,” Huelsing says. “When they leave, they walk shoulders back, heads held high.”