Fat camp for kids is off the menu in this economy

The New York Timesreports that strapped consumers and tightfisted insurance companies are making weight-loss camps for plump children increasingly out of reach this year.

Given that 32% of American kids are overweight or obese, this is a major health crisis that will have great repercussions down the road. Any stumbling blocks placed before parents and children looking to confront childhood obesity are a serious problem for everyone, because of the huge health care costs associated with obesity.

But as public health problems go, the lack of affordable weight-loss camps for kids is a pretty lame one. To begin with, it may not be the most effective way for kids to lose weight.

To wit: a Stanford University School of Medicine study found that 64 percent of children with obese parents became overweight, compared with 16 percent
of children with normal-weight parents.Think about it: Junior heads off to fat camp, loses 50 pounds and is schooled in the glories of tofu and jujitsu; then he heads back home where mom and dad eat fried chicken and roast duck sautéed in eggnog for dinner every night, and then settle down to watch TV Land for the next 5 hours. Pretty soon Junior is fat again, and all that money and time was for naught.

Here's an idea: if your kid needs to lose weight, maybe you could do it together! Even if you don't have a big problem, I know very few people over the age of 30 who couldn't stand to lose 5 pounds. Learn about diet and nutrition and healthy cooking, and go for 2 walks a day together -- even if you don't have weight problems, this is a wonderful family activity. If your kids are young enough, do Richard Simmons together!

If you can't make the commitment to helping your child lose weight at home, it's likely that the environment will hinder long-term results after a stay at a weight-loss camp.

Bottom line: Spend more time with your family, get healthy together, and put the money in a college savings account.
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