By Jean Huelsing RN (Founder of Camp Jump Start®)
It is opening day at Camp Jump Start. Campers begin to arrive with their families. They all look nervous but willing to step out of their comfort zone in the hope of finding a better life.
“We’ve tried everything” is the phrase most commonly heard as families check-in.
During the opening presentation Ben’s mother, stands up to tell her son’s story. Ben is a returning camper and understands what these kids have faced. He was a happy child until he went to school. He was always bigger than the other kids in his class and he was self-conscious because of it. Ben sat in the back of class and never raised his hand. He did not want to be noticed. In middle school he was teased mercilessly and in order to avoid the bullying, he hid in the dumpster every day at lunch. Ben was no longer the happy go lucky boy his mother knew. He was rapidly gaining more weight, he was depressed and he was diabetic. “I was desperate to find help but nothing seemed to work until we found Camp Jump Start” she told the new campers and their families.
Ben’s summer at sleep away camp was transformational. He lost 20 pounds and gained self-respect and self-confidence. He learned to ride a bike, do his own laundry and made lifelong friends from all over the world. Most importantly, he reversed his diabetes and earned his health back again.
Ben’s success did not end there. He went home and lost 53 more pounds by following the plan he developed at camp under health professional guidance. He no longer is afraid to be noticed; he made honor roll, joined the cross country team and he has a girl friend. Ben is excited about his life again!
Ben’s mom credits camp with empowering their family to take action. Camp helped them re-establish their priorities.
Weekly parent conference calls spoke directly to her husband who sent Ben to camp to be “fixed”. Ben was not broken but something in their family was not working for them and it was showing up on Ben. In an attempt to give their children the best of everything, they realized that they had created an over-scheduled life. There was no time to simply enjoy down time and just let kids be kids. There was no time to cook, so they often found themselves at fast food restaurants.
Camp Jump Start helped them create a plan for nutrition which became an important priority when they recognized the benefits. Before camp they did not want to punish their skinny kids by removing the junk food, especially the soda, from their home. They believed Ben just needed to learn discipline and will power. After camp they realized that no one is punished by eating healthfully.
They established a family activity time where each member of the family had a specific chore and each member of the family was able to choose a physical activity. For instance Ben chose mowing the lawn for his chore and he planned a bike trip over the San Francisco Bridge riding 17 miles after just learning to ride a bike.
They also established rules about sleep. They put a phone charger in their kitchen so that no one slept with a phone. They removed the television and computers from their bedrooms and made a family room. They also set a specific time to go to bed and to wake up each day.
Ben now knows the warning signs when something in his life is not working for him and he begins to gain weight. He now has the knowledge, skills and tools to change it. Weight control will be a lifelong struggle. Ben is empowered to take baby steps in improving his nutrition, activity and sleep leading towards health and happiness and moving away from disease and despair.
If your child is overweight, take control by making it a priority to do the small changes listed above in nutrition, activity and sleep. All three areas need to be addressed for success.
No child needs to suffer from childhood obesity.
Healthy Lifestyle/Weight Loss Camps
Camp Jump Start
3602 Lions Den Road
Imperial, MO 63052