Changing Behavior For Long-Term Health And Fitness

New research from top universities shows that overweight children are likely to become more and more overweight, and that nearly 90% of overweight teens will become obese adults. Overweight teens and young adults often face negative psychological, social, and medical repercussions as well. Long-term weight loss is not easy, and overweight youth and young adults need every possible tool to help them on their weight loss journey.

Wellspring’s Clinical Program

Knowing the many challenges faced by overweight children, teens, and young adults, Wellspring researchers have developed a clinical program designed to empower campers with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to be successful long-term weight controllers.

Wellspring’s clinical program includes cognitive behavioral therapy, dietary management, nutrition and culinary training, and activity management – which has proven successful in helping children, adolescents, and adults lose weight and keep it off.

We also offer a specialized Binge Eating Program for those who have been clinically diagnosed with binge eating disorder.

Success Through Behavior Modification And Mindfulness

Wellspring starts by teaching campers the set of self-regulatory skills proven by research to help sustain weight loss permanently – such as self-monitoring, journaling, goal-setting and contracting. This is in addition to the nutrition and culinary training campers receive. Then Wellspring Behavioral Coaches (Masters or Doctoral level clinicians or candidates in psychology, social work or related fields) work with campers to overcome any barriers to mastering these behaviors. Our clinicians are called Behavioral Coaches because they actively coach campers toward achieving their goals which often include successful, healthy, long-term weight control. The clinical program at Wellspring is comparable to the coaching that world-class athletes receive from sports psychologists – encouraging them to engage in the consistent behaviors necessary to sustain long-term change.

CBT For Weight Loss

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help overweight people manage their biology more effectively. CBT helps them become better self-regulators who can set effective goals, observe themselves systematically, stay committed and manage the stress of everyday living.

Research published in the 1990s compared very overweight children who had receive CBT for weight loss with equally overweight children who didn’t received this treatment (the control group).

Ten years later, the control group actually gained weight and averaged 60% overweight whereas the CBT group lost weight and averaged only 30% overweight.

Wellspring campers receive 1 individual and two small group CBT sessions per week. A typical group CBT session at Wellspring is as follows:

  • Review of each camper’s accomplishments in the prior day(s). The tone of these reviews will be consistently positive, oriented to problem solving and reinforcement of specific accomplishments.
  • Integration of a CBT/weight control topic, such as stimulus control, 5-step problem solving, decisional counseling, and stress management/coping.
  • Learning a Dealing Skill
  • A Mindfulness Activity
  • Goal Setting
  • Individual sessions will also review progress and self-monitoring journals, focusing on the details of each camper’s efforts.

CBT utilizes methods such as iterative goal-setting, stimulus control, decision counseling, rational emotive therapy, relapse prevention training, positive focusing, and improving frustration tolerance and stress management. Many campers will take to these behaviors like fish to water. Others will have emotional issues to address and overcome before they can be successful. (Researchers have concluded that obese people are 25-44% more likely to suffer from clinical depression than non-obese people.)

DBT Informed Programming

Wellspring also utilizes Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) informed techniques. DBT focuses on the concept of change and acceptance. It’s efficacy has been shown when working with clients with food related issues, and we have found skills training to be very effective at Wellspring. DBT teaches four different behavioral skills

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress Tolerance
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness

Wellspring uses DBT informed modules to practice these skills at each group and individual session. As a result, our campers become better copers and self-regulators.

Food, Cooking, And Nutrition At Wellspring

How’s The Food?

delicious meals at weight loss campWellspring firmly believes that a dietary plan will only work if the person actually enjoys the food he or she is eating. Therefore, we’ve put tremendous thought and effort into creating menus that our campers will absolutely love. Over the years we have fine-tuned our many healthy recipes to serve our campers’ absolute favorites at every meal. Wellspring’s emphasis on natural whole foods that are low in caloric density, but high in nutrition and fiber means that each meal campers consume is filled with delicious, healthy options. We always aim to serve our campers “loveable foods that love them back”. In other words, foods that are not only flavorful and satiating, but that also encourage health and sustainable long-term weight control. Many campers are surprised to learn that, with just a few modifications, many of their favorite foods such as pizza and hamburgers can still fit within their plan.

“To my surprise, the food was AMAZING. I have been going to sleep away camps since I was 10 years old and the experiences I’ve had at all these camps put together doesn’t even compare to the experience I had at Wellspring.”

- Marena D., Kamuela, HI

Marena lost 20 pounds at camp and lost 20 more pounds at home.

What Can I Expect On The Menu?

Our daily menus include three delicious meals and two healthy snacks that have been developed by culinary and nutrition experts especially for the Wellspring program. We aim to serve meals that are well-balanced and filled with nutritious ingredients and are just as appealing as the foods our campers ate before coming to Wellspring. Each meal includes a “controlled” plate with a balance of protein, starch, and vegetables in specified portions. Campers are allowed and encouraged to supplement their “controlled” meal with selections from our “self-controlled” food bar, which consists of a variety of fresh fruit and vegetable options, condiments/toppings, and proteins such as cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, soup, and egg whites. As the utilization of the “self-controlled” food bar is at each camper’s personal discretion with guidance from our dietitians, campers are able to create a diet that meets their individual caloric and nutritional needs. We teach campers you don’t need to be hungry to be healthy!

“I really love all of the food here and at the end of the day you never go to bed hungry.”

- Chandler G., Ashaway, RI, Wellspring Adventure Camp Camper

On a typical day, the “controlled” foods provide campers with their baseline calories and other nutrients with a focus on fiber and protein. This intake is supplemented by choices from the “self-controlled” food bar until a camper reaches the nutrient intake that is appropriate for him or her. The only requirement at meals is that campers self-monitor all of the food they eat. Campers then learn to use the information recorded in their self-monitoring journal (with the help of their behavioral coach and nutrition team) to determine the caloric intake that will help them reach their goals.

“The food is awesome. I loved almost every meal that they served”

- Lauren G., Aventura, FL, Wellspring Florida Camper

Will I Feel Hungry?

By placing an emphasis on nutritious and filling foods such as lean proteins, high fiber starches, and natural produce, Wellspring meals allow campers to lose weight without feeling hunger or deprivation. The added ability to control their food intake from the “self-controlled” food bar allows our campers to make choices that are more “in tune” with their hunger levels at that specific time. This increases their mindful eating skills and reduces the chance that they will be hungry at the end of the meal. Most of the participants at our program report that they are pleasantly surprised to discover how much food they can eat while still losing weight!

How Will I Create Similar Menus At Home?

Nutrition And Culinary Skills For Lifelong Weight Control


Wellspring’s goal is to send your child home with all the skills necessary to maintain or continue weight loss at home. This includes both the ability to choose and prepare healthy meals and snacks. Our Culinary and Nutrition Programs were designed with exactly this goal in mind.

Hands-On Culinary Education

An essential component of any healthy lifestyle is the ability to prepare healthy meals. At Wellspring, campers attend weekly culinary classes where they learn how to prepare a wide variety of new and healthy dishes. They also become experts at modifying less healthful recipes in a way that increases their nutritional value and decreases their caloric density. This instruction is not only enjoyable, it’s highly beneficial, as campers return home prepared to take a more active role in the kitchen.

“Culinary and nutrition were my favorite parts of camp. I had an awesome time making and learning new recipes to use at home.”

- Megan M., Chicago, IL, Wellspring Camper

Wellspring’s Culinary Program is highly informative and interactive. Topics covered in the curriculum include, but are not limited to:

  • Basic Knife Skills
  • Healthy Cooking Methods (baking, boiling, grilling, dry sautéing, etc.)
  • Preparing healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks
  • Adding flavor with herbs, spices, and low calorie sauces
  • Modifying ingredients and cooking method to increase recipe nutritional value
  • Etc.

“I already had tried and attempted the sets-you-up-for-failure fad diets like the cabbage soup diet, slim fast, and other programs like Weight Watchers that never really made a lasting impression. It was time for something completely different and Wellspring was it. I truly can say that Wellspring is the best decision I ever made.”

- Cassie B., Waco, TX

Cassie lost 70 pounds over two summers with Wellspring

Integrated Nutrition Education

Most campers arrive at Wellspring having already sat through nutrition classes, met with dietitians, and followed various fad diets-and yet are still unclear as to what constitutes a healthy diet that promotes sustainable weight loss. The reason for this is due to the fact that nutrition education often does not focus on strategies that you can use in your everyday life.


The Wellspring Nutrition Curriculum, on the other hand, focuses on skill development and hands-on learning experiences. Campers not only learn valuable skills such as how to identify pertinent information on a food label and to order a healthy dish off a restaurant menu, they actually visit a grocery store and a restaurant in order to put those skills to the test in real-life.

Other topics covered in Wellspring’s nutrition education program include:

  • The role of carbohydrate (fiber), fat, and protein in a healthy diet.
  • How to keep an accurate food diary and utilize the information it contains to make informed food decisions.
  • Scientific research regarding successful long-term weight control.
  • Dissecting fad diets and identifying how the Wellspring Plan differs.
  • Identifying situations that make weight control difficult and brainstorming solutions.
  • Creating a meal plan and grocery shopping list.
  • Etc.