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Weight loss camps for kids: Insight from an expert

Planning to send your child to weight loss camp? Paul Cauchi, director of Camp Xcel in Chula Vista, California, answers some common questions about them and offers insight into their benefits.

How does a parent know if a child is obese? Do children lose a significant amount of weight at camp?
The distinction between overweight and obese is only a medical mathematical equation, and therefore a parent should actually help a child with an overweight issue before they need to know if their child is obese.

Being overweight does bear health issues and parents need to be aware of them, but obesity has a string of health issues that do not go unchanged unless the weight comes off; Arthritis, respiratory disease, severe joint pain, back pain (associated with an overworked liver or excessive weight), rheumatism and those are only naming a few.

This country in the year 2000 spent $17 billion in health care related to overweight issues alone.

Camp Xcel helps take off 6 to 8 pounds off a camper every seven days, which is responsible healthy weight loss. The body should never experience more weight loss than that within a seven-day period. The heavier a person becomes, the harder the organs of the body work, so a gradual weight loss is better so the body does not go into shock.

Can a summer camp change a child's perspective on food and exercise?
Absolutely! Many camps provide extensive talks and give campers thorough knowledge on how food in combination with exercise can alter the physical body.

At what age should a child go to a weight loss camp?
We would actually prefer that no child ever need a weight loss camp. Until that day happens though, we feel it's important to send a child to a health-specific camp as soon as there are signs that the weight cannot come off with help from within the family. At that time we feel that an organization should help the child and the family, simultaneously, figure out the best solution for the child to lose the weight and keep it off.

How does being overweight affect a child's social growth and self-esteem?
You know that it's not really the weight that causes the issues that these children end up having. It's the social attitude and behavior that these children endure and hear from that end up giving them the self defeating purpose to life. These kids suffer so much from the mouths and expressions from people that they end up not having the mental strength to do anything about the weight. By the time they heal and deal with one person's attitude, demeaning words or expression, they have encountered yet another five people who have demeaned them more.

How does camp help children control their weight? Are there long term results?
Many weight loss camps educate campers in the three major hurdles -- health and fitness, self esteem and nutrition -- that children need to understand and comprehend. Once campers understand that weight loss is not just about dieting or simply doing 20 minutes of cardio but that it is an encompassed daily life style change, they end up seeing positive changes toward a stronger, healthier person.

And as for long term results, when our campers make the adjustment from the current daily routine they have habitualized themselves into, to the daily routine that consists of habit change, and other tools and solutions that we feel is important, there is never looking back. They consistently lose weight and maintain a much happier positive attitude.

What are some of the causes of children being overweight?
We have found that there are usually two past experiences that children have grown up with. The first is a parent's innocence in allowing a child to eat whatever the child wants. Parents often want to give their child all the things they feel will make their child happy; chips, popcorn, chocolate.

The problem -- allowing a child's eating to go unnoticed -- is that children's bodies adapt to the diet as it gets as a child, the body then becomes accustomed to that type of food. As the child grows, the body never stops the desire for the type of food it acquired as a child. Therefore the person continues with that type of food program to keep the internal body happy; fat cells enlarge and the weight then continues to escalate.

The second type of weight gain can usually be stemmed from an initial emotional trauma that a child endured. The child never realizes or acknowledges that the trauma can be overcome and therefore, food, which is very comforting as we all know, becomes the therapist because it feels so good. And one important thing people need to realize -- you do not become overweight overnight. You don't go to bed at 11 pm and weigh 155 pounds and wake up at 7 am the next day at 210 pounds. It's a gradual weight gain that is very hard to notice when it's building on your body

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