Anti-Fat Camp: Tackling the Pounds One Family at a Time

Photo: Anti-Fat Camp: Tackling the Pounds One Family at a Time: At the Wellspring Fitness Camp, Visitors Shed the Pounds as a Family

At 11 years old, Collin Robinson enjoys all the classic passions of the average almost-sixth-grader. He goofs around with his friends, plays video games, and loves the theater. Also, like many other boys his age, Collin likes to eat -- a lot.

At 5 feet 8 inches, Collin weighs in at 249 pounds. He is severely obese.

"My favorite thing to actually eat at home ... would probably be like a double quarter pounder with cheese, no onions, from McDonalds," he said.

Collin's mom, Krista Robinson, 38, who struggles with her own weight issues, knew she had to stop making excuses and do something about her son's health.

"His doctor told me at his last physical, which was about a year ago, that I needed to do something immediately," she recalled. "Some of his cholesterol numbers are starting to climb up. And that ... was really an eye opener for me. I've always felt like people look at me like I'm lazy, or, like, 'how could she let her son get to that point,' or 'doesn't she see?' And I do, I do see those things."

So in lieu of summer vacation, she and Collin spent two weeks at the Wellspring Family Weight Loss Camp in Pinehurst, N.C.

"We really needed ... an intervention," said Robinson, who says she found the program after typing "fat camp" into an Internet search engine.

Wellspring rejects that title; they believe for each overweight camper, the key is to give the whole family a behavior makeover that will last a lifetime.

"Having the whole family participate in the Wellspring program enables the parents to see what kind of changes they're going to need to make to best support their child that might be overweight or obese," said Michael Bishop, clinical psychologist and executive director of Wellspring.

'Shame': The Biggest Incentive

Families like the Robinsons sign up to shed pounds and learn healthy habits at Wellspring. For many, it's a last resort.

For Krista and Collin, like all the campers there, the first hurdle was the official weigh-in, which is often an uncomfortable moment of truth. Krista Robinson tipped the scales at 334 pounds, which is morbidly obese by medical standards. It's a situation that's been silently affecting her.

"I think shame is probably the biggest feeling," she said. "And I don't really talk about it with friends or family or anything like that."

As a working, single mother, who is often too busy to cook, Robinson acknowledged that their situation spiraled out of control.

"I have chosen to give him the fast food and everything, as a matter of ease, just checking one more thing off our to-do list for a day," she said. "I really feel like that's what does it. I feel like that's how he got here."

And it's not just junk food. Her son's lack of exercise hasn't helped matters either.

"We live in a condominium environment," said Robinson, "so it's not like when he was little, he can just run outside and play. So I've always kind of kept him inside unless I was going out with him."

Fitness Camp: Total Immersion Therapy

The Wellspring camp is a total immersion program. Over two weeks the Robinsons and the other families will hopefully learn new way of living.

"There's transformations for some, and there's dramatically increased awareness for others," said Susan Borgman, the camp's clinical director.

On the first day, Borgman introduced step one: exercise. Each camper is encouraged to take 10,000 steps a day, and they are given a pedometer to help them keep track.

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