Fat camp is a slang term for a sleepover summer camp for overweight children or teens that seeks to help participants lose weight. The best of these camps instill healthy diet and exercise habits so that the children can make lifestyle changes and stay in shape after camp is over. Some provide cognitive-behavioral therapy in addition to exercise and nutrition classes in order to help children develop healthier ways of thinking about their bodies.
With juvenile obesity a growing problem in the United States and other affluent countries, parents have increasingly chosen to turn to "fat camp" to nip poor eating and exercise habits in the bud. There are numerous summer camp programs with weight loss as their goal, but they often differ in philosophy and methods, so researching and shopping around is advised. One of the most popular children's fitness camps is Camp Kingsmont, located in Massachusetts, which has been in operation since 1971 and is currently owned by a former camper.
"Fat camp" is often treated as a joke in popular media, so today's weight loss summer camps seek to fight the stigma. "Weight loss camp," "fitness camp," and "diet camp" are more politically correct terms than "fat camp," which may be upsetting to potential campers. Many such camps realize that obesity is often a psychological problem in addition to a physical problem, and building healthy self-esteem and body image in their campers is among their goals.
Weight problems in children can stem from a plethora of causes, so individual fitness camp programs may be more or less appropriate to a specific child. When choosing a fitness camp for your child, consider whether the philosophy and methods of the camp will be a good fit with your child's particular issues. You may wish to discuss your choice with your child's doctor as well.
Sadly, childhood weight issues often last a lifetime. Health problems associated with obesity include diabetes and cardiovascular disease, both of which are being seen in increasingly younger patients. Fitness camp provides the opportunity for children to get on the right track before weight issues seriously affect their health. It is much easier to lose weight and develop new habits as a child than as an adult, and children's weight loss camps can help prevent incurable conditions like diabetes. Some insurance programs may cover portions of fitness camp, but even if yours does not, keep in mind that the camp can save your child thousands in healthcare costs if successful.
Fat camp is sometimes featured in episodes of comedy television shows, including the Simpsons and South Park. The 1995 Ben Stiller vehicle Heavyweights also deals with the subject. Some books and reality television shows have handled the topic more seriously.