We're smack in the middle of summer's dog days. Some of us are playing with our kids, dropping them off at camp, going on vacation, hiring babysitters, participating in summer classes and lessons for our kids, and attending fairs, carnivals, picnics and playdates with our little beloveds. I think I'm part of all of the above, minus the babysitter.
What I dislike about summer is that it goes by so quickly. I love our trips, our days spent on bikes and in pools and hours just lounging, enjoying the weather and precious hours that I know we'll never get back. I always lament that we live in an area where five months of heavy snow and biting cold is part and parcel of life.
My pre-kindergartner told me it was almost time for Kingergarten in September. Boy needs to wash his mouth out! I told him to enjoy every day as it comes and not to think too far head. Carpe Diem, I say! He thinks it's good to plan for the future. He's 5 and I'm 39. We're like that Freaky Friday twosome!
Most of our friends are having similar summers but many in this country are sending their kids to weight loss programs, often simply called Fat Camp. The process is the same as any single-subject camp like swim camp or soccer camp. The emphasis is on weight loss, nutritional education and physical exercise.
Some camps refuse to call themselves "fat camp" or boot camp", they prefer "slim camp" or "fit camp" but in the end, they all offer diet and exercise programs to chronically heavy children.
Portions are monitored, candy and other snacks are considered contraband and too many infractions will see a child returned home. Weekly (and public) weigh ins are mandatory in most of these camps (weight is essentially the "score card" that other camps would have).
I saw an MTV documentary on this subject once, called True Life: I'm going to Fat Camp. In it, we saw several young and older teens followed, as they tied to lose the weight that they lived with for most of their lives. The usual teen angsts and dramas served as fillers for what was essentially a summer on a major diet and exercise plan.
These programs aren't cheap. In fact, they cost a small fortune. A week for just one child costs upwards of $1500. But most teens didn't care. Some boasted of spending almost every summer at Fat Camp, which might make one wonder how it could be justified. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then some of these parents have more money than sense!
I'm torn as to the legitimacy of these fat camps, mainly because so many of the kids return so often. Is it only in America that we spend tens of thousands of dollars to eat less and work out more? Do we really need expensive camps for this? Perhaps I over simplify things but I would think a mom and dad who exercise and eat well would far better serve their children than overeater parents who send their kids off to Fat Camp, with the expectation of some kind of miracle make-over when they next see their child.
None of the parents featured ignored their kids or were bad mothers or fathers. All of them invested time and interest in their kids. However, many were also over weight and sedentary. If they won't change, why will their kids?
I'm sure there is a much needed place for Fat Camps. I think they can work because the peer pressure is positive, not negative. There are no "skinny minnies" to taunt the fat girl and all the children know exactly what it's like to be bullied and name called because of physical appearance. When they lose weight, they are cheered on, not laughed at. And the power of numbers is undeniable. When you have a group of like-minded people encouraging you, the odds of success are so much higher.
The follow up to the documentary saw some kids maintain their weight loss, but many fell back into the same old routines once the got back home and were back to their heavy selves by the holidays.
Critics of these camps argue that these temporary summer fixes are, in fact, dangerous and lead to annual yo-yo dieting, with none of the emotional reasons for eating examined. Many counselors are not highly trained in adolescent psychology (some are older teens themselves) and don't have the education or life experience to bring to the table. Food is handed out in measured amounts, cafeteria -style. The children are not often-enough trained how to prepare healthy foods, educated on nutrition and are not trained to maintain that lifestyle once they return home. And once the initial euphoria of returning home a skinnier version of themselves ends, the weight gain begins.
Oh well...there's always next year.
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