Are Weight Loss Camps appropriate for Children under 10 – No

Weight loss camps, more commonly referred to as “fat camps” have been a hot topic of late, made even more popular by shows such as “the Biggest Loser” or “I want to look like a high school cheerleader again.” With so much glamour, and Hollywood thrown into the mix, public television has children and parents addicted and even wanting to go to these so-called camps.

Before automatically jumping to enroll, you ought to stop and ask yourself some questions first, primarily whether this is the right decision for our family. Just because you feel the need to lose weight does not mean your seemingly overweight and slightly pudgy-looking eight year old does. Weight loss camps are not appropriate for children under ten years of age, whether they are “overweight” (which by the way is just an average) or not.

All healthy children are born with what appears to be extra bits of “fat”. However, what you are seeing is not necessarily obesity in your child. As you age, your organs age with you. However, this does not necessarily mean that they grow with you. Pack an adult’s vital organs into a child’s body frame and you see there is a need for that extra space, that on the outward appearance, seems to be extra weight. During the first nine years of human life, the body grows exponentially and far more than it will during every other period of your life combined. Any extra fat that is on the child’s body will be absorbed by the body as the child grows, as this will help provide nourishment to the body so it can continue processing.

Many parents make the mistake of overfeeding their children. This is not only unhealthy, but you may not actually be feeding your child what their body needs. Instead of seconds on desserts, go for seconds on the meal and allow only one helping of dessert. Instead of sugar snacks (sometimes even ones that are engineered to appear healthy), try fruit, vegetables, or sandwiches. You are not putting your child on a diet, you are ensuring they are eating foods that contain  vitamins and minerals that are essential to your child’s healthy development while teaching your child healthy eating habits through demonstration.

Remember, most children develop the majority of habits from their parents- and that includes eating habits, good and bad. If you are actually providing nutritious foods to your children, then you will find that there is no need to ever worry about their weight and you will greatly reduce the number of colds that your child brings into the house. However, there are other causes for obesity in children.

Perhaps the biggest cause of rising obesity in children is inactivity. Many children spend countless hours watching tv or playing video games. Suggest that they might develop better hand-eye coordination from sports, and the children usually respond positively after a bit because they now have a time to spend with their friends and schoolmates and they will always feel much better after the workout than they would have if they just sat at home.

If parents help children take care of themselves, the rate of childhood obesity would plummet downward, and all of the “fat camps” would go out of business. The only reason weight loss camps exist is because people let situations (in this case, childhood obesity) go to extreme levels before they decide to do anything about it. The camps exist as a tribute to not eating right and trying to re-teach children what is the right way to eat and control their diets. However, aside from teaching kids right from wrong in terms of food choices, fat camps are unable to maintain their effectiveness because as soon as the child leaves, they are put right back into the same environment that they were in before and in, the children go right back to their old habits, which the parents can only look on in exasperation and can usually do nothing about it.

So no, weight loss camps will never be appropriate for children under ten years of age not only because they will not be effective, but because they don’t really pinpoint the source of the problem. The money that is put into these camps  would be put to better use (and a much more effective use) by creating retraining programs for parents so that they may be able to better their family’s life, including their overweight children.