Back to Weight Loss Camp

Camp 2004

For morbidly obese children and teenagers, the residential treatment center might seem like an extreme solution, but it looks very attractive compared to the other extreme solution, bariatric surgery. An in-patient detox program is less expensive than surgery, not only in terms of money, but in terms of life-changing side effects.

Ideally, the reputation of a residential treatment facility ought to rest upon the ability of its graduates to sustain their weight loss results over the years. Of course, if the place is new or relatively new, statistics will not have had time to accumulate yet. These institutions tend to be relatively small, so any research on the patients’ post-program completion behavior and well-being is necessarily based on small numbers. Among the graduates, some inevitably are lost to the possibility of questioning in later years, because that’s just how life is.

One thing that everyone seems to agree on is the need for follow-up counseling. A recovering food addict can’t just be turned loose in the same environment and forgotten about. Hopefully, the person will learn coping skills in the residential program and be committed to continuing on with a 12-step program even after release. A person coming out of rehab can hang up a poster that says, “This is the first day of the rest of your life,” and be inspired, but the poster needs a backup: a solid program of how to get through that life without relapsing.

Weight loss camps are similar to residential treatment programs, in that the child is removed from the obesogenic environment. There are also differences, the main one being that kids at fat camp aren’t considered patients, and camp programs are oriented more toward exercise and healthy eating than toward psychotherapy or 12-step.

Let’s check in with the Weigh2Rock kids, the bold pioneers who believe the truth will make them free. Every day, scads of them communicate with each other via the website Dr. Pretlow has set up for this purpose. Several years ago, before all the TV coverage of the subject, one of the Weigh2Rock polls asked the kids, “What do you think about going to a weight loss camp, if you could afford it?”

Of the kids who responded, 54% agreed with the statement, “I’d go to a weight loss camp, lose weight, and keep it off.” Nineteen percent were willing, but guessed they would probably gain the weight back. And 27% said they wouldn’t go, even if they could afford it.

Every Weigh2Rock poll offers the opportunity to leave comments, too. Some comments were negative:

I wouldn’t because I would feel bad because I’m being treated like I’m a fat looser.

…cause i dont need to even if i am 58 pounds overweight. ill just gain it back!!!!!!! duuuuuuh

Some kids had issues other than money:

I believe that different bodies require different weightloss plans in order for them to be permanent. I don’t think a weight loss camp would see to that.

i wish i could go to a weight loss camp. But I don’t think my parents would let me. My dad won’t even let me do some diets because he doesn’t think I need it…

And some were positive:

i need to leave home for a while, i haven’t been out for six years i usually go home, sholl, and church, and then home,school and home again, and is boring. with a camp i think i’ll have lots of experiences, and learn alot of things, and will keep my mind of food, because i eat when i’m bored.

I Have been to one and it has really paid off. I go to one at least every summer. They are really fun. It is just like a regular camp. Except you loose weight. I was so happy. I was at the camp for three months. Now i am old enough to be a canslour. I was one and i loved seeing how happy the kids got when they saw they were loosing weigt and having fun at the same time.

We will be talking more about weight loss camps.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Poll #36,”, 04/04
Source: “Poll #36 comments,”, 04/04
Image by Ben Sutherland, used under its Creative Commons license.

2 Responses

  1. I would like to commend both you Dr. Pretlow and Pat for information that addresses a very significant need. It is predicted that childhood obesity if lefted unaddressed and continuing at it’s current rate will result in something similiar to the stock market crash. Every one saw the signs and kept right on like nothing was going on.

    What is really great about this article is that it addresses and takes into consideration how the kids themselves feel. We also need to educate and make parents, caregivers and educators aware of what is normal and what is not. Awareness and consciousness go along way and are very helpful. So if kids and parents are aware that they are eating out of boredom, or stress at least they can stop and think before eating or make healthier choices.

    Preventing and stopping childhood obesity is a multifaceted approach involving not just nutrition, diet and exercise but also stress, sleep, and mental and emotional factors.

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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