Wellspring FAQs

My Child Isn’t Sure He/She Wants To Attend A Fitness And Weight Loss Camp This Summer. What Should I Do?

In our experience, there are four common reasons a young person may not want to come to camp:

      • They don’t think they have a problem with weight or relationship to food.
      • They are embarrassed or ashamed.
      • They will miss their family/friends too much or their family will miss them too much.
      • They’ve already tried so many approaches to weight loss and have lost motivation.

Here at Wellspring, we are very familiar with these and many other concerns about camp. Here are a few options we suggest you try:

Encourage your child to watch our inspiring Wellspring Camper Success Stories or ask a Wellspring Admissions Counselor about having your camper speak directly with a former camper.

Focus on results. Ask your camper how they feel about their current state of health. What might be different if they could get healthier?

For specific suggestions on how to talk to your child.

Many children are hesitant about attending a fitness and weight loss camp like Wellspring because they have tried so many other diets, camps, cleanses, and instructors and have not been successful. This can understandably be discouraging. At Wellspring, it is our mission to be your last stop on this frustrating journey. Even though Wellspring is the most successful camp for initial and long-term results, with a proven, comprehensive, and integrated program, this may not be enough to convince some kids or young adults.

While it is normal to be apprehensive, it is important to help your child make the critical decision to deal with his or her weight now. Research clearly shows that overweight children are likely to become overweight adults, with the physical and emotional toll this brings.

In the end, our experience shows that children and young adults who attend Wellspring appreciate being in a supportive environment with others who share their weight concerns. Campers gain new skills, have fun, and make friends for life. Not only can campers achieve significant weight loss, but also dramatic changes in mood, outlook, and self-esteem. The opportunity to attend Wellspring Camps can be a transformative, life-changing experience – one that is extremely beneficial for overweight children, teens and young adults.

What if I haven’t been active in a while? Will I still be able to participate in camp activities?

Campers come to Wellspring from a wide variety of backgrounds and activity levels and we are extremely adept at creating an activity schedule suitable for all our participants. Our professional staff members are specially trained to work with campers who may not have been active in a while, with an emphasis on safety and helping campers feel comfortable in new situations. We operate on a ‘Challenge by Choice’ philosophy. Our goal is to encourage enjoyment of these activities both at camp and after returning home. If you are nervous about a certain activity, rest assured that our professional staff will help each participant reach his or her goals, at his or her own pace.

How Do I know If My Child Needs To Lose Weight?

Go to our BMI Calculator and enter your child’s height, weight, and age. This will help you understand whether you have reason to be concerned and whether you should consider a weight loss program like Wellspring. Our BMI Calculator also projects what your child’s weight will be without weight loss help.

We understand that BMI calculations are not always perfect, so call one of our Admissions Counselors at to get more information and a thorough explanation of your results.

Parents often ask about these related issues:

  • Is my child at risk of developing diabetes due to excess weight?
  • Is my child at a greater risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, or cancer?
  • Is my child’s negative outlook, general unhappiness, and mood associated with being overweight?
  • Is my child spending less time with family and friends because of his/her weight?
  • Does my child’s difficulty sleeping, breathing, or sleep apnea have any relation to weight?

The short answer to all these questions is: YES. Visit Wellspring’s Weight Impact Tool to learn more about the impact of weight.

Dozens of scientific studies have demonstrated significant medical, social, emotional, and financial risks associated with overweight and obesity for people of all ages. The longer the issue persists, the worse it gets, and the greater the likelihood of complications.

The good news is: 1) there are successful treatment programs like Wellspring that are available to provide your child the tools and motivation to return to a healthy weight for the rest of his or her life; and 2) many studies have shown even moderate weight loss can have significant benefits.

Can I help my camper lose weight at home?

Wellspring clinicians would ask: Have you tried to help your child lose weight before and have these efforts been successful? The problem with diets is that most are not based on scientific research and do not have any evidence of long-term effectiveness. Plus, most people view diets as a temporary change, and therefore only get temporary results. Efforts with fitness trainers, dieticians, or nutritionists are not comprehensive or integrated and typically aren’t able to address the reasons your camper gained weight in the first place. Finally, many research studies have conclusively shown that simple education and increased awareness do not lead to weight loss.

Children need a complete a program that helps them change their behaviors around diet and activity, not simply a diet camp, a fat camp, or a boot camp. Once they experience the initial results at camp, Wellspring campers want more weight loss and begin embracing the self-regulatory behaviors they are trained on at camp.

How will I stay in touch with my child while he or she is at camp?

Campers are able to call home once a week while at camp. Calls are scheduled in advance for a time when you’ll be home. While campers can have cell phones at some camps, they are only allowed access to them during scheduled phone call times. Campers’ access to email will vary by camp and some camps maintain a central email address, and e-mails are printed and distributed to campers daily.

Access to cell phones and e-mail is limited intentionally, as campers are most successful when outside distractions are limited, allowing them to focus on their experience and goals. Also, it’s important for campers to learn to rely on the support of other campers and staff who share their commitment to making healthy choices.

Each Wellspring camp maintains a secure site where camp reports, photos and schedules are updated regularly, so you’re able to check in on camp fun regularly. You are also welcome to send snail mail and care packages (although we ask that you do not send any food). All of the details on e-mailing us and checking our parent website will be sent to you at the start of camp.

My child went to a traditional fat camp and lost 20 pounds, but then gained the weight back in a few months. How is Wellspring any different?

None of the traditional diet camps or fat camps in the U.S. track or report post-camp outcomes. However, the New York Times reports that more than half of all campers attending these programs are repeat customers. This is consistent with anecdotal evidence indicating that the vast majority of campers who attend typical fat camps regain substantial amounts of weight within the first year. The Los Angeles Times quotes the Director of one of the largest traditional weight loss camps estimating only 10-15% of campers truly keep the weight off.

At Wellspring we know losing weight is a journey. Obesity, unfortunately, is a chronic disease and we view losing weight as ‘Obesity in remission’. What this means is that unless a camper stays consistently focused on their new lifestyle behaviors, they are at risk for gaining their weight back. We discuss this at camp and take every measure to teach campers about what is necessary for sustained weight management.

Are Wellspring campers limited to 1,200 calories a day? Will I starve?

It is not true that Wellspring campers are limited to 1,200 calories per day. Unlike traditional fat camps where food is limited, Wellspring campers are permitted to have as much “self-controlled” food as they wish, as long as they measure and self-monitor their eating. “Self-controlled” foods include vegetables, fruits, salads, fresh soups, yogurts, cottage cheese, egg salad, tuna salad, and more! Some campers choose 2,000 or more calories per day. We just strongly encourage campers to write down what they eat. This way they learn to determine how many calories their unique body needs to feel satiated and energetic throughout the day. They work with their behavioral coach to determine the right caloric balance for them.

You can find out more about the food at Wellspring here.

There is no calorie goal or limit at Wellspring. Deprivation doesn’t work; it’s just not sustainable. And every element of the Wellspring Plan is directed towards ensuring successful long-term weight control.

Can I visit my child while at camp?

Yes! In fact, family involvement is strongly encouraged. In general, visiting weekends for camps occur during Family Workshops on weekends; dates are provided in the enrollment package. It is highly recommended that you attend a Family Workshop so that you can learn how best to support your camper once he or she returns home.

How Do We Know Wellspring Is Serious About Long-Term Outcomes?

Unlike traditional weight loss camps or fat camps, Wellspring is a scientifically based program focused on long-term weight loss results. We care about our campers, and we want them to achieve a healthy lifestyle for good.

Families know we are serious when they attend our 2-day Family Workshops occurring during camp sessions and participate in all aspects of the program as they learn the science of weight control, and the key behaviors they can support at home. They also know we’re committed to the camper’s success because Wellspring Behavioral Coaches stay in contact with campers in our Continuing Care program which lasts until the following summer.

In addition, Wellspring researchers follow up with former campers each year, checking on heights and weights so the results can be published in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals and presented at obesity-related medical conferences. So you should expect to be contacted by Wellspring researchers, unless and until you tell us you no longer wish to participate.

Ultimately, the best way to know we’re serious about long-term outcomes is to look at our results. They speak for themselves.

How can I control what my child eats?

Once your child has a few dollars to spend, you can only control some of what he or she eats. Sugar-laden, processed high calorie-density foods are cheap and available everywhere. With adolescents, if you adopt the role of the “food police” you will provide another avenue for confrontation or rebellion. However, you can do quite a few things to encourage your child to eat well.

As we discuss in much greater detail at the Wellspring Family Workshops, if you follow the suggestions listed below, you will make it much easier for your child to eat healthy and lose weight:

General Attitude about Your Child’s Eating Decisions

  • Avoid negative comments, criticism, and coercion. Be positive. Convey to your child that even though it is very difficult to eat healthy foods consistently, you believe he or she can do it. This attitude will boost your child’s self-confidence while acknowledging the difficulties.
  • Be reinforcing. Acknowledge your child’s accomplishments. Compliments, attention, encouragement, and tangible reinforcement (like small gifts, but not food) can help him or her stay motivated and adhere to the plan. Remember to be sincere; superficiality will be interpreted as condescending and aversive.
  • Be realistic. Healthy eating requires conscious effort. People who are trying to lose weight must adopt eating and exercise patterns that are much more stringent than normal. Don’t expect your child to be perfect, or even close to perfect. Occasional slips of overeating, inactivity, weight gain, and failure to adhere to plans will occur. Help your child learn from these experiences rather than dwell on them as “failures.” The key question to ask is “What could you do differently the next time a situation like this occurs?”
  • Communicate. Occasionally inquire about your child’s progress. Ask how you can help. Be open to discussing the challenges of healthy eating and weight control and to assist in solving problems.

Managing food

  • Increase the amount of nutritious foods available to your child.
  • Eliminate as many processed foods and food with added or ‘dietary’ sugar as possible. Many overweight teens have developed an unhealthy psychological dependence on food. And, in this respect, you would do well to manage this dependence in the same way as an addiction: If you had an alcoholic in the family, you wouldn’t have wine with dinner, would you?
  • Do NOT encourage your child to eat foods that he or she is trying to avoid. For example, refrain from saying, “Let’s go out for ice cream,” or “Oh, come on, a little bit isn’t going to hurt you.”
  • Ask your child to help prepare foods and recipes in a different way. All of our summer programs include extensive culinary classes to help your child become confident and self-directed in making food choices and preparing his or her own food. For instance, what about a turkey burger without the bun and a side of baked sweet potato fries? YUM!
  • Adopt appropriate eating habits yourself. For example: avoid eating when full, eat appropriate portions, eat slowly and deliberately, eat regularly or on a schedule, limit snacking, and limit the number of eating situations. You may not have a weight problem, but better eating habits may improve your health and will support your child’s efforts.
  • Plan activities with your child that do not revolve around food. Taking the emphasis off of food can help you discover new activities to enjoy with you child and help build confidence in his/her new skills. Take walks, try new outdoor activities, sporting events, concerts, or develop a new hobby together. You might even consider taking a fitness class together to celebrate your child’s healthy new lifestyle.
  • When you go to a restaurant with your child, select places that make healthy eating as pleasant as possible. Many chain restaurants are now featuring healthier options and displaying nutrition information much more prominently. Show your child how proud you are of his/her choice to make more conscientious food choices and encourage your child to share his/her new knowledge with you while you look through the menu.

What’s The Best Way To Encourage My Child To Be More Active?

We all know that you’ve got to get moving in order to lose weight.

The quest for increasing activity begins with understanding that weight loss requires a change in the balance of energy. People who want to lose weight must move more, it’s that simple. Unfortunately, for your overweight child, he or she probably has a biology that makes the management of energy balance quite difficult. Overweight people have bodies that resist weight loss by being very efficient at storing food taken in and stingy about expending energy.

Nonetheless, with lots of attention, the right information, and considerable dedication, even resistant biologies can be tamed. For example, did you know that by simply standing up you expend 20% more energy than sitting down? As soon as we start moving, we double or triple the energy expended when sitting down. This means that overweight children don’t have to begin training for triathlons to lose weight. A walk through a book store or to the corner to buy a paper will contribute to health, in contrast to playing sedentary video games. You can discuss this with you child and both of you can follow this key principle: You’ve got to move, to lose.

The following suggestions, which we review in detail at the Wellspring Family Workshops, focus on increasing movement along these lines:

  • Buy pedometers for the family. A good one about $20 (e.g., Digiwalker, Accusplit). All participants receive a pedometer on arrival at camp.
  • Set goals for steps walked per day. It takes about 2,000 steps to walk a mile and adults average about 4,000 steps per day. Several studies have shown that reaching 10,000 steps per day contributes to weight loss and the maintenance of weight loss over time.
  • Post a chart on the refrigerator that allows all family members to record the number of steps walked each day.
  • Consider creating a reward system in which steps walked and monitored get reinforced (e.g., make part of allowance contingent on reaching a step goal at least 5 days per week).
  • Model movement. Walk instead of ride whenever possible. Park further away from destinations to get some extra steps in your daily life.
  • Make vacations movement-oriented. Many cities are great walking destinations and full of attractions for wide ranges of interests and ages (e.g., New York City, Washington, DC ; Boulder, CO). Of course, bike trips and hiking trips can work, as well.
  • Remove TVs and even computers from your children’s rooms if possible.
  • Limit TV and computer time to 2 hours per day.
  • Provide active lessons for your children, including martial arts, fencing, and any sport which seems interesting to them (including golf).
  • Become an exercise partner for your child. This could include walking, hiking or jogging together, taking lessons together, or going to a health club together.

Is my child at risk for developing diabetes?

Many more cases of Type II Diabetes (non-insulin dependent, what used to be called “Adult Onset Diabetes”) have been diagnosed in children (beginning at age 8) in the past few years compared to ten years ago. This is a very serious disease that will, if your child develops it and doesn’t cure it, reduce your child’s life span by 20 years or more and also create serious quality-of-life issues. Complications with Type II Diabetes include liver disease, amputations and blindness.

The good news is that Type II Diabetes is almost completely preventable and reversible through proper diet and exercise.

The major risk factors for developing Type II Diabetes are:

  • Excess weight. Assess your child’s weight with the BMI calculator used in pediatrician offices around the United States. Click here and enter your child’s height, weight, and age to see if your child has a weight issue that needs to be addressed.
  • Does anyone in your child’s family have diabetes? Family history is another risk factor. However, keep in mind that many people don’t know they have diabetes.
  • Ethnicity is another risk factor. The following ethnic groups develop diabetes more frequently than other ethnicities: African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.

Family history and ethnicity are uncontrollable risk factors. Weight status, on the other hand, can be changed via concerted efforts to modify eating and activity patterns. If your child has a controllable risk factor (i.e., excess weight), then you can take action to help him or her lead a better, healthier, and longer life.

I’ve heard that Wellspring Camps are “serious” and that campers don’t have fun.

If Wellspring camps weren’t amazingly fun, they wouldn’t be effective. There’s simply no way to engage an adolescent or young adult for a period of 4 or 8 weeks unless they’re having a great time.

The way we think about it is like this: if campers aren’t having a great time, they’re not engaged in the program. If they’re not doing the program, they won’t be successful at camp or after they return home. Wellspring campers have amazing initial and long-term fitness and weight loss results. So FUN is a prerequisite for long-term success.

Each of our programs has a set of core activities that campers love.


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