Camp Jump Start Blog - Camp Jump Start

Broken-hearted Kids

Heart disease remains the number one killer of Americans.  It is even more tragic when it relates to our children.  Three out of four children between the ages of 9 – 11 years old already have the beginning stages of heart disease.  We are seeing the streaky fat deposits in their young blood vessels setting them up for a lifetime of illness and early death.  All children are at-risk if they are living the typical American lifestyle. 

In previous years heart disease in children typically was associated with a congenital heart defect or some odd complication due to an infection. Heart disease was not related to lifestyle, but all of that has changed in one generation.  We are afraid that our kids will be snatched off the lawn, so we isolate them inside the house under the guise of keeping them safe.  They long for personal interaction so they turn to a virtual world to fulfill these needs.  They become sedentary for hours on end as they immerse themselves in a world of gaming competing with unknown rivals.  Young people long for deep emotional ties to peers but instead develop and maintain a certain social media persona. 

They discuss their private thoughts with strangers online and use emoji’s to communicate feelings.  They long for acceptance and believe they find it in people that they will never meet in person. 

Is it a shock then that our kids have “broken” hearts? 

A lot has changed in the world since Camp Jump Start began in 2003.  Most parents with overweight kids recognize the unhealthy path and want to change course but they lack the knowledge to do it.  Camp Jump Start has helped put families back on track to health but Camp Jump Start is no longer trying to prevent heart disease; Camp Jump Start is working to reverse heart disease in our children! 

Here are a dozen ways to help your child heal a “broken” heart- 

  1. Weigh every family member on Friday morning and track a healthy weight for each.  Reward accomplishments! 
  2. Know lab values.  Track A1c and lipid profiles-pay attention to each level for how it is trending. 
  3. Know blood pressures.  Aim for below 120/80. 
  4. Drink water until your urine is pale yellow to maintain good hydration.  Straight water is recognized and needed by your body.  It keeps blood from becoming “thick”. 
  5. Include a large variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans in the diet. 
  6. Decrease or eliminate extra sugar, salt, oil and animal products—especially dairy in the diet. 
  7. Routinely eat/prepare food from home so you know what you are really eating.  Treat yourself once every two weeks to a meal outside of the home. 
  8. A child must SWEAT every day for an hour!  Let them choose the activity-team sport, individual sport like running or dancing to name a few but remember that they must sweat.   We want them to be challenged so their heart muscle remains strong and we rid the body of harmful toxins. 
  9. Manage stress as much as possible.  Kids need help with organization and coping skills. Intervene if stress becomes unhealthy from school or activities.  Exercise can relieve stress too! 
  10. Know your kids passwords and who they communicate with online.  Disconnect from social media on a routine basis.  It is your house and you pay the bills so kids live by your rules!  
  11. Help them sleep without disturbance.  All electronics must be removed from the bedroom at night so set up a charging station somewhere in your home away from the bedrooms.  Then lead by example by keeping your cell phone there too. 
  12. You cannot be your child’s friend.  Kids can make friends, but they only get a few parents.  Be their parent and guide them.  Help your child find their “people”.   Help them fit in but always remember that we do become like the people we surround ourselves with….so choose carefully. A community like Camp Jump Start and Living Well Village can be a lifeline for many kids and families, but again to remain successful, kids and families must stay connected to us. 

May February be the month that your family decides to put an end to heart disease in your family.   

Skip the Kids’ Meal

As leaders in the industrial world we have developed the perfect recipe for cancer.  It is called a kids’ meal.  It is packed full of saturated fat, refined carbs and dairy all of which raises the hormone Insulin Growth-like factor-1.  IGF-1 increases cell growth.  It is a non-discriminatory hormone because it causes proliferation of all cells including damaged and renegade cells. 
How often you choose this food for your child matters.  It is dose dependent meaning that the more they eat, the greater the risk.  If you eat out a lot and order kids’ meals for your child, this is risky business.   Saving money on a kids’ meal does not save money in the long run.  It will cost your child their health down the line.  We are now seeing childhood cancers escalate. Causation or correlation?  Do you really want to wait to find out when your child’s health is at stake? 

It was 2015 when the International Agency for Research on Cancer, one of the arms of the World Health Organization (WHO,) came out stating that processed meat is a class 1 carcinogen.  This was determined by 22 experts from 10 countries after reviewing over 800 studies.  This puts processed meat in the same category as asbestos, arsenic and tobacco. This research is why the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends very little, if any, processed meat be consumed.   

In America though—and yes, we have exported it—our standard American diet is full of highly processed foods which includes highly processed meat.   

“Processed meat” is the term given to meat that is salted, cured, fermented, smoked or preserved in a way which enhances flavor.  Various methods used in preserving these meats have also been shown to cause cancer in laboratory studies.  Some common examples of processed meat are: 

  • Hot dogs 
  • Bacon 
  • Bologna 
  • Corned beef 
  • Pastrami
  • Deli meats
  • Lunch meats
  • Ham
  • Sausage
  • Pepperoni
  • Salami
  • Chorizo

There is strong evidence that serving even small amounts of processed meat may lead to certain cancers.   

Typically, these meats are high in calories which causes weight gain.  Being overweight and obese is a risk factor for at least 12 types of cancer. 
Cutting down on processed meats is a good idea and cutting them out completely is best of all!  In order to avoid processed meats it will take only a little thought and experimentation.   So what will you eat if you avoid processed meat?  People are creatures of habit so you must develop a plan to change your usual habits.  Look closely at your grocery list.  Scratch out the risky items then write in healthier alternatives.  When shopping, if those processed foods start “calling your name”, simply acknowledge them and state that was your old choice but now that you know better you recognize that they are poison to you and your family.  Then keep walking!   Over time, one good choice will lead to another.  Eventually you will not even be tempted. 

Skip the kids’ meals!   

  • Instead of school lunches, send your child with soup or salad, veggie wrap or bean burrito.  Encourage your child to be the leader in this food revolution by being a role model to others. 
  • Have fast food ready at home.  Batch cook for the week to save time and money.  Always have in the refrigerator salad ingredients and beans with a big bowl of rice or quinoa to make “bowls” or have leftovers in the freezer to reheat. 
  • If you do eat out then do your homework on what is the healthiest (smartest) option on the menu. Make up your own kids’ meal from the “sides” – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.
  • And always, always make your beverage of choice WATER!

Help your child develop healthy food preferences and praise them when they make healthy food choices.  It is the single most important gift you can give your child! 

Ten Things That Kids Really Need

This time of year, children are making their list for the newest gizmos and gadgets, toys and treats but what do children really need? 

Love.  Children need love.  They need to know your love is unconditional.  They need to see your face light up when they come into a room.  This builds the foundation of their own self-worth and trust in relationships.

Respect.  Children need respect.  They need to know that their emotions, abilities, qualities and achievements are recognized and admired.  They need to know they are accepted for who they are without judgement. 

Open communication.  Children need to engage in open communication with adults and peers.  This is how they develop emotional and intellectual intelligence.  Becoming a good communicator will lead to success in all areas of life.  It helps build strong, committed relationships. 

Time. Children need your undivided time.  Throw out your over-scheduled activities and spend one-on-one quality time with your child.  Have mother-child or father-child nights out to try new things together.  Bonding early with a child will likely prevent struggles later in life. 

Structure.  Children need structure.  Structure gives your child a sense of security as they learn to know what to expect.  Even for those children who complain about schedules, they tend to thrive with structure in their daily routine.  Point out your observations to your child so that they can have a clearer picture of how others see them.  When children know what to expect, they do not suffer from worry and anxiety as much. 

Boundaries.  Children need boundaries.  Boundaries teach your child self-control, social standards and provide safety lines for them.  Setting boundaries will also help them get what they need and prevent others from taking advantage of them as they grow up. 

Coping skills.  Children need to be taught coping techniques and be encouraged to use these skills.  Every day stress requires management.  Children suffer from anxiety and depression many times because they lack these learned skills.  Take the time to listen to their concerns and then help them think through the situation so they can learn to problem solve on their own.  Teach relaxation techniques so they can grow into healthy, productive adults. 

Inclusion.  Children need to be included.  They need to be a member of many groups. Seek out the groups that are important in your own life which may include family, school, sports teams, clubs and churches.  Help your child find “their people”.  They need groups where they feel like they “fit” and are celebrated for their unique qualities. 

Coaches.  Children need coaches and mentors.  They need adult role models who can help them figure out life.  They need people who they look up to and trust.  Choose wisely who you allow to help mold your child.  Surround your child with positive role models who will help guide them throughout the many stages in life. 

Purpose.  Children need to find their purpose.  Everyone needs to feel their life is valuable and the job of a child is to learn what they have to offer.  They must develop confidence in their uniqueness.  They need to know that their life matters.  We all need to be involved in something bigger than ourselves.

Take Control

Like many people, Carol is anxious at the doctor’s office.  She feels out-of-control the minute she walks into the lobby. As a result, she has suffered from “white coat syndrome or hypertension” for years, which is a temporary increase in blood pressure. The first time it happened Carol was concerned, but her doctor told her not to worry because one high reading was not a problem.  Now, every time her annual physical comes around, she and her doctor discuss her blood pressure. It continues to be consistently high in his office and Carol is certain that her blood pressure goes up due to her anxiety in anticipation of the visit. Her doctor is not so sure, as he believes that white coat hypertension is a forerunner of real hypertension.  They agree to disagree as Carol refuses to take medication for it anyway.  Other factors can contribute to faulty readings. Carol’s blood pressure may not have been measured accurately during those early visits.  Health professionals may not always use the best technique as they hurry through their day.  

Carol can take control of her own situation. She can learn to take her own blood pressure and keep a record of her readings at home.  One does not have to be a physician, nurse or tech to measure a blood pressure and once she learns the proper technique she is likely to get more accurate readings in her familiar and comfortable home setting.  Tracking these readings will be much more valuable to Carol as she and her doctor determine the best course of action to take related to her blood pressure in the future. 
Carol needs to purchase an automatic, cuff-style, upper arm monitor found at any pharmacy or medical supply company.  It is VERY important to get the correct cuff size for her arm as improperly fitted ones can give inaccurate readings. 

At home she needs a staging area with a high back chair (not a sofa) and small table next to it.  She will place the machine on this table along with pen and paper calendar to keep a record of her readings.
Before sitting down to take her blood pressure she needs to remember to avoid exercising, smoking and drinking anything with caffeine for 30 minutes prior to taking the reading.

When ready, she will first go to the bathroom to empty her bladder.  Then Carol will put the cuff snugly on her BARE arm (not over clothing) and sit straight with her back completely supported by the chair and both feet flat on the ground.  

She will sit in this position breathing normally and consciously relaxing for about five minutes.  She should not talk to anyone during this time of relaxation. 

To begin the reading Carol will sit in the same above position and place her arm extended straight at heart level with palm up resting on the table.  She will then press the button with her other hand and begin the reading. Carol will continue to breathe normally and attempt to keep her body relaxed including her arm as the cuff is inflated.  The cuff is supposed to gently hug her arm, but for some people the hug can be uncomfortable. Again, she will need to focus on her breathing and relaxation.

Once the air is let out of the cuff and the reading is complete, then Carol will write the time she took the blood pressure, and in which arm it was taken, along with the reading.

At Carol’s next appointment with her doctor, she will take this calendar with her.  She now will have accurate and concrete numbers to show which may or may not indicate White Coat Syndrome.  Her record keeping will give her and her doctor a better understanding of what is happening to her and this will allow them to have a meaningful discussion on the appropriate course of action for Carol.

In today’s busy world, each of us must take an active role in our health care just as Carol did!

Roadmap To Health

Thirteen year old Daniel’s four weeks at Camp Jump Start have turned into much more than the pounds and inches he lost. They have turned into a roadmap to better health for Daniel and his entire family.

In his four week session this summer Daniel lost 17 pounds and 13 inches off of his body. His fitness improved as well. When he first arrived he ran a mile in 17:22 minutes but on the last day of camp he had shaved almost 5 minutes off his time. His confidence grew and his smile got bigger.

Once he returned home he could not wait to go clothes shopping for school. This year he would not have to shop in the husky department and could wear what his classmates were wearing without feeling fat. Well-fitted clothes also gave him a way to gauge when he was veering off course. His family vowed not to buy bigger clothes if the new clothes became tight, so when the clothes began to feel uncomfortable Daniel recognized that he had to up his commitment. He would have to exercise more and skip the foods that were causing the weight gain. The feel of how his clothes fit was a practical reminders and motivator to stay on course.

Daniel’s changes led to bigger changes at home; he was eager to share what he had learned. Daniel took the lead in helping his family make lifestyle changes. To be successful they would have to work together. Daniel was their role model and he inspired everyone around him because he had worked hard ant that hard work paid off in reaching his goal.

While this new way of living began at camp, his parents were serious about helping Daniel so they completed their own homework. They cleaned out all the junk food from the kitchen cabinets and bought smaller plates and tall, skinny glasses. They re-set their kitchen by replicating the Camp Jump Start system. They had prepped foods for quick meal assembly in the refrigerator. They bought measuring cups to keep the family honest with portion control. They centralized all electronics in their family room removing televisions and computers from the bedrooms. They also set up the charging station for cell phones in the family room so that no one slept with phones next to their bed any longer.

Daniel came home and helped meal plan. The family began making a shopping list before going to the store and then stuck to buying only the items on the shopping list. This saved them money. They would have 4 days worth of food with mainly fruits and vegetables readily available. This would mean an extra trip to the grocery store in a week but they were willing to make this habit change. It was a surprise when they became efficient at shopping and stopping for groceries became a quick trip saving them time for other activities. They would also prep the food once they returned home so that it was ready for busy nights. They had their own “fast food” always ready which really cut down on family stress. They began to realize that they had been over-scheduling the family with activities that really were not as important as their own family time.

Soda became a thing of the past in this household. Each family member had a water bottle that they took with them everywhere they traveled. The beverage of choice was always water with green tea a close second. When water became boring then they added some fruit or vegetables in it to add a little more flavor which can be refreshing. They no longer missed or craved the soda that they once automatically chose.
The family rule was three meals and one snack.

  • Breakfast was always steel cut oatmeal with a tablespoon of milled flaxseeds and some berry on top. Soy milk was their dairy of choice.
  • Every family member took a bag lunch to work or school which always included a salad. Instead of feeling like a freak, they became the example of healthy living. People began to copy them when they saw it was an easy switch to something that tasted good and was easy.
  • Dinners always began with a soup or salad. The plate was covered in ½ cooked vegetables. They began slowly with one meal a week being meatless. As time went on and meal planning with new plant-based recipes was made easy then these meatless meals became more common. They had no idea how good it could all taste!
  • That ONE snack either came from the fruit bowl after school or they all saved it for a dessert that they all shared following dinner.
  • Special occasions-which the family defined together-allowed for an extra snack.

It was important that the body had time in between meals to rest and repair instead of constantly digesting food. Grazing became a thing of the past for Daniel’s family. They would all brush their teeth after dinner signaling that eating for the day was over. Then the body really had time to concentrate on time to heal itself.

Every Friday the entire family weighs themselves in front of each other before breakfast. They keep a chart hanging in the bathroom closet. This keeps them accountable to their new lifestyle. If they maintain their weight, they celebrate with mini-rewards from a goody bag containing small coupons for outings and family events that they had brainstormed together. The coupon might be redeemable for a pick a game night, a trip to the theatre or a park outing. All the coupons are family-based activities. If they lose more weight, they receive TWO coupons that week. The weigh ins evolved from seeming like a punishment to a time for anticipation with reward for hard work. The family also has a long term goal which includes a family get-away if they all maintain their success for a year.

Every day they track their activities on a family calendar.The rule is that no one goes to bed without having 10,000 steps listed on their pedometer. Sometimes that means climbing the basement steps over and over. They each decided out to fulfill their fitness requirements whether it meant going to the gym or playing on a sports or dance team. Steps were non-negotiable and everyone agreed to this. Peer pressure for not letting the family record slip was a great motivator because no one wanted to be known as the “slacker”.

Daniel has now lost 33 pounds total. He has no signs of heart disease or diabetes. He has energy and a newfound zest for life. He is looking forward to the school year instead of dreading it like so many overweight or obese kids do. He has friends. He has what all parents wish for their child-health and happiness.

To date, the family of four has lost a total of 112 pounds. They are feeling better than ever and are a tight knit family. They are enjoying life. Whenever they start to return to old habits, they simply have a family meeting at breakfast on Friday morning following weigh-in. They make a toast with their big glass of water in the tall, skinny glasses to health and happiness. They are immediately back on their healthy lifestyle roadmap and this one healthy choice will lead to other healthy choices throughout the day. They know that the only time you fail is when you quit trying and they committed to make today count.

Men’s Health Month Is A Family Affair

Today, our modern lifestyle has us suffering from degenerative and life shortening diseases.  Our uninformed, uneducated and deliberate choices are killing us!

Guys, let’s face it, when it comes to going to  doctors for preventative care, you are the pits! Sure you have your reasons. “I don’t want someone pointing the obvious out to me,” you say. “It’s a waste of time because I know the doctor is going to tell me to change the way I eat, or to start exercising or stop smoking.”  You are convinced that you are not going to make the changes anyway so why bother.

Your female counterparts are doing a much better job of self-care. A national survey found a woman is three times more likely to see a health professional on a regular basis compared to a man.  It is a fact that a woman will schedule a doctor appointment more often than a man; yet, men cost our society much more for medical care beyond age 65. All too often men are opting out of preventative care and instead wait until  a medical crisis occurs which may include hospitalizations, surgery and rehabilitative services and this can be costly. There goes not only your personal health but also your family’s financial health!

Avoiding doctor’s visits and putting your head in the sand regarding healthy lifestyle choices puts you at greater risk for life altering diseases. Instead of making simple changes to diet and lifestyle you increase the possibility of being diagnosed with one of the top 10 leading causes of disability and death related to lifestyle choices.  Ignoring the warning signs of these conditions puts you at risk for undesirable and likely permanent life change for you and your entire family.

Did you know that high blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 360,000 Americans in 2013 – that’s nearly 1,000 deaths each day?   The numbers are likely worse today!

Did you know that 79 million people live with pre-diabetes?  The numbers are growing with 25 million people in the U.S. already having the disease and 7 million of these do not even realize they have it!

Did you know that a woman has a 38 percent lifetime risk of developing cancer and if you are a man that risk increases to a 45 percent chance in your lifetime?

Did you know that the projected number of people suffering from dementia in 2030 will be 75.6 million people and it is expected to triple by 2050 to 135.5 million people?  

What about the cure?  If you have heart disease, diabetes, cancer or dementia, don’t you want the cure?  Understand this–the cure is not coming! Sick care is BIG business so you will find new treatments, new procedures and new products only.  

The best health care is SELF-care.  And whether you are a woman or a man let today be the day you choose wisely.  Take baby steps to improve your diet and lifestyle. Begin seeing a health care professional routinely so issues can be addressed and warning signs can be identified then maybe you can avoid these diseases all together.  Prevention is not a 100 percent guarantee of good health, but small changes in life can help prevent a medical crisis.

A man taking care of his health makes a positive impact on the whole family. Kids look to their parents for examples of how to live. If you live a healthy lifestyle so will your kids.  

Everything You Learned About Protein – Forget it!

Phil* was determined to keep his New Year’s Resolution to go to the gym. He heard a lot of chatter about the importance of protein, especially among the muscle bound gym rats who can dead lift a small nation. He was curious so he asked how he too could have bulging muscles. Their advice was based on good intentions and a desire to help a fellow gym buddy. The problem is, their advice  was not based on sound nutrition and in fact could cause more harm that good. They were sharing what they were told and are now practicing. But it is simply not true. 

The fact is that Americans get far more protein than they need. Americans eat on average 100 grams of protein per day, which is almost double the recommended daily allowance. More is not better!  People eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) often take in an excess of 30 percent (and higher) of their calories from protein. Most of the protein we consciously choose comes from animal products. Yet, this type of protein will deplete calcium from our bones, increase the work on our kidneys, add stress on our heart and promotes cancer. Just to name a few of the concerns surrounding the consumption of excess protein.

We all started at the same point in elementary school where we were taught that the body needs protein to build muscle.  Then we quit learning.  Human nutrition is likely the subject that most people know the least about and this includes many health professionals treating disease caused by excesses and deficiencies in our diet. It is also the very subject that determines how we live our life.

It’s time to re-evaluate what we thought we knew and expand our knowledge from reliable sources whose education and life work revolves around nutrition. 

In 100 calories of beef sirloin or 100 calories of broccoli – which has more protein per calorie? Most people (even some doctors and dietitians) would say beef. But most people would be wrong! The next response typically is “I did not know that broccoli even had protein!” The fact is that broccoli has 15.5% more protein per calorie than the beef. The difference being you cannot over-indulge in plant protein.

But don’t take my word for it-

Joel Fuhrman MD, board certified physician and president of the Nutritional Research Foundation, who was himself an Olympic athlete, asked which has more protein-oatmeal, ham, or a tomato?  According to Dr. Fuhrman, the truth is that they all have about the same protein per calorie! Investigate a little further and you will begin to see the benefits of your new way of thinking.  The ham comes with extra saturated fat and cholesterol which we can agree is not good for you. In addition, the pig used up all the micronutrients that our bodies needed! On the other hand, the oatmeal and tomato have fiber and other powerful micronutrients, so it is a bigger bang for your buck.   

There is an outdated belief that plant protein is incomplete and it must be mixed and matched to obtain what the human body needs.  This again is simply not true.

Almost any assortment of plant foods contains about 30-40 grams of protein per 1,000 calories.  If your caloric needs are met with these plants then your protein needs are automatically met as well.  Focus on eating natural plant-based whole foods then forget about the protein debate. Plant protein is different from animal or processed protein.  Your body will take what it needs from plant protein and get rid of the excess. 

Do athletes need more protein?  If they are training intensely for several hours per day or are heavy weight lifters, this may be true.  But they also need more of everything else like: extra fat, extra carbohydrates, and extra micronutrients!  Their increased appetite will take in the needed additional calories and meet their other dietary needs as long as they are eating healthy plant-based whole foods instead of high calorie junk food. For example, Nathaniel Jordan is a body builder and world-class powerlifter who eats a totally plant-based diet.  He does not supplement with protein powder or worry about his protein intake. He is a world class athlete. Weighing 165 pounds, with about 5 percent body fat, Nathaniel can bench press 275 pounds, squat 445 pounds and deadlift 600 pounds – and counting. Most of the people working out next to you in the gym are not full-time athletes, so if Nathaniel does not need the extra protein then neither do you or your gym buddies. 

What builds muscle?Strength training builds muscle.  If you want to have well defined and big muscles then you have to put in the time just like your well-meaning gym buddies who always seem to be at the gym and work out consistently.   

Back to Phil*Phil is the name of a dear colleague of mine.  He and I would have intense discussions on his protein powder habit.  In the short term, his muscles were big and even though he worked out hard, Phil was convinced that the protein powder was responsible for his success.  I won the debate but lost a dear friend – Phil’s life was cut short when he died of kidney failure at a very young age. His doctors said it was Phil’s type of protein and the excess intake that destroyed his kidneys.  The problem with kidney failure is you may not recognize the symptoms until it is too late. Phil did a lot of good in the world and the world is a bit empty without him. In memory of Phil, I hope someone reading this will re-evaluate their own protein intake. The science is out there if you look at reputable sources without any conflict of interest.  That is the key to all information in the world today…you must follow the money in order to find the truth.

Food Addiction

Food Addiction

Cathy’s life revolved around food.  She was always hungry and thinking about what she would eat next.  Driving past fast food joints, she heard them calling out to her. If she ate one cookie then she needed the whole box.  Her soda cup was refilled over and over as if were bottomless. There was never enough to satisfy her desire. She jokingly told people that she was addicted to food.

But food addictions are not a joke. They are very real and only recently recognized as a component in our obesity epidemic. According to many nutritional scientists,

5 -10% of our population is addicted to one food or another.   Our experience at Camp Jump Start suggests that number is closer to 70 – 80%!  It is a very real problem.

Unfortunately, food addiction is left mostly untreated because there is a social stigma attached and many people blame the victim for lacking will power and self-control.

Cathy is NOT to blame.  She has an addiction to the mind altering chemicals placed in our food intentionally and, for her, food is just as deadly as drug and alcohol abuse.  When she dies, the cause of death will be listed as heart disease, cancer, diabetes or dementia. There will be no mention of the real cause of her death which will be due to food addiction and obesity.

Education alone does not take care of the problem.  A food addict needs support and the most difficult step in recovery is just starting the process.  Human nature wants us to “wait until tomorrow” but tomorrow never comes! The addict knows that what they are doing is destructive and yet they cannot stop themselves. It is a vicious cycle.  A food addict will continue to sabotage themselves and make excuses to cover up their behavior until they hit rock bottom. Rock bottom may mean a broken relationship, medical condition or a monumental number on the scale but it all leads to the same place.   Despair!

A food addict loses hope for the future and lives just for the moment in order to escape despair.  They quit trying not because of lack of control but because they come to believe that this is their fault.  Why try when you know you will fail?

In most cases, just like drug and alcohol addiction, it will take 12 weeks for the powerful addiction to subside.  And these substances are far worse than cocaine, heroin or whiskey. If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol and go through rehab then you understand that you may never touch the stuff again.

But food is a different story.  We all have to eat and the most addictive substances—sugar, salt or fat—are in everything!  As a society we are addicted to highly processed foods which make us feel good when we eat them and then we suffer when we have to go without.  Just like an alcoholic or drug abuser, food addicts need more and more of the same food to get the desired effect as the last time they used it.  Drugs, alcohol, sugar, salt or fat substances enter the bloodstream quickly. This happens so rapidly that the body cannot burn the energy so it is cleared from the blood and immediately stored as fat.  Pleasure is felt for a short time after eating the addictive food but the long term consequences last. A study published in “Public Health Nutrition” that consumers of these fast foods compared to those that ate little or none, are 51%  more likely to develop depression and the more you eat it then the greater the risk. The cycle continues.

You must get through withdrawal of these substances to allow healing to begin.  Withdrawal may last a week or two and you have to just get through it. Withdrawal means a food addict suffers with headaches, shakiness, weakness and stomach issues.  Just like any addict the symptoms occur when you are not using, so a food addict will immediately feel better when they eat. They get relief when they are eating the specific trigger foods they crave.

Food addicts have their own delusions believing that they can eat small amounts of the food that they are addicted to.  Sugar, salt or fat will feed the need. Instead the addict will fall “off the wagon” very quickly as this thinking is a slippery slope.  The only way to be free of the addiction is to stay free from the food. This means that under NO circumstance may you eat that particular food ever again.  Every time you stop then you start over. Quitting bad habits will be uncomfortable at first. Detoxification is painful but you can recover from food addiction if you set yourself up for success.

If you always do what you always did then you will always get what you always got!  What Cathy needs is a safety net so that she can experience success from day one and build a support system.  The key to Cathy’s recovery from food addiction is to just start!

  • Identify the addiction—sugar, salt or fat?
  • Get the food out of the house and vow never to buy it again.
  • Find whole food substitutes  that you will like and have readily available.
  • Seek a safe place to learn about nutrition and get through withdrawal to build your community.

Divorce – A Child’s Perspective

Claudia is 11 years old and she has changed.  The once outgoing child is now refusing to come out of her bedroom.  Her grades have dropped.  She has quit all after school activities.  She does not sing happy songs or smile any more.  And Claudia is gaining weight….a lot of it! 

Claudia’s parents are getting divorced.  Claudia  has been left alone with her feelings and she is having a difficult time coping.  She is dealing with the situation in the only way that she knows how. 

When Claudia was a baby and her parents put her down for a nap, sometimes she was fussy.  Her parents would check to see if she had a dirty diaper, if she needed to be burped, if she was too hot or too cold, and when all else failed, they fed her again.  This taught Claudia that when she was uncomfortable and all else failed to make her feel better then she should eat.  It makes sense that in all this turmoil Claudia is gaining weight.  Divorce is painful for everyone involved, but who is taking care of the children when parents are having a hard enough time taking care of themselves?  In many cases the parents revert back to childish ways with personal attacks and outright fights in front of the child.  This is very confusing and frightening. 

Parents must recognize and address the needs of each child in the family and not all children will react in the same way at the same time on the same day.  Each child needs even more support when faced with this stress so if a parent is unable to provide this support due to their own emotional state then they MUST find resources for their children.  

A child may become defiant in all areas of their life.  They will throw tantrums or have catastrophic reactions in the simplest of circumstances.  A parent may be called into school to address the child’s unusual behavior or plummeting grades.  The child may experience sleeping disorders including insomnia or night terrors.  They may live out their fears through nightmares, many children will be convinced that their greatest fears will come true.  All of this is terrifying for a child.  The child’s eating patterns may also change.  Many children will quit eating while others will use food for comfort.  The child may develop physical aches and pains that are very real for the child and due to their emotional state, this may make it difficult for a definitive diagnosis.  Physical complaints should never be dismissed without investigation.  The child may regress to comfort measures that include baby talk, thumb sucking, hair twirling and they may become very clingy.  Some children may even return to wetting the bed.  A change in personality may be noted and they may become very rigid in their routines.  

This child desperately wants to return to a time when they felt safe and the parents took care of them.  They are attempting to console and soothe themselves. When a child does not feel safe, the world is a very scary place and they need trusted people in their life-make certain that these people are trustworthy so no one takes advantage of your child during this chaotic time.  When scared, most children want reassurance from physical touch and the child will search for it even if it means becoming promiscuous.  The child may also seek to self-medicate using alcohol or drugs to numb the pain that they feel.  They may develop anxiety, panic attacks along with depression.   They may seek ways to escape this pain displaying extreme, daredevil behavior almost as a death wish or they may consider suicide as a viable option in ending their suffering permanently. 

Kids live for today.  They do not see tomorrow and that is why adults must be active in their lives.  Adults have to watch out for the children until the child grows and develops into a responsible adult.  This takes many years and cannot be sped up.  Yet, when a family breaks up from divorce many times the child is forced to take on adult roles that they just are not ready to undertake.   It is too overwhelming for them and they feel all alone. 

Claudia needed to know that she was not the only child experiencing this life altering situation. During Camp Jump Start she was able to participate in small group discussion where she heard stories from other youth who were experiencing similar circumstances.  She no longer felt alone.   In an attempt to help Claudia through her grief, the book  “Divorce: Did You Even Think About Me? Letters of Hurt and Healing” was written.  It is a book that explores the effects of divorce on children, from the child’s point of view. Through the eyes of children of divorce, a new perspective emerges showing how their lives are affected, often more than the lives of the people who are divorcing. 

This book will help a child realize that they are not alone. The child will find that their emotions are normal and may find comfort from one of the responses in the book from a child who is in a similar circumstance. This book will also help adults hear the voice of their child when they consider divorce. Divorce must be a last resort after all else fails in trying to solve adult problems. Hopefully one of these stories will resonate and give guidance during this difficult period in life for all involved. We must always remember it is not the child’s fault and they need the parent to take care of them, and if the parent cannot, then the parent needs to find someone who can help the child. The ending of this book also comes from the children’s collective thoughts when divorce is necessary. If we listen, the child will always tell us what they need.

You may purchase the book for a child or for the parent seeking guidance in understanding their child at or .


Common knowledge would say that high blood pressure is a grown-up’s disease. This sometimes silent killer leads to strokes, heart attacks, congestive heart failure and kidney failure. Sadly, not only are our children’s waist sizes growing but their blood pressures are steadily climbing as well.  Even small increases in blood pressure during childhood predict big problems down the line.  What we know for sure is long-term excess dietary sodium (salt) promotes excessive cell growth, leading to thickening of the blood vessel walls leading to stiff vessels.   

As we welcomed a group of  159 campers to Camp Just Start last summer, we were alarmed to see that almost 100% of them had high blood pressure and almost 100% of the parents did not know it.    

Hypertension is the result of either increased resistance to blood flow or increased blood volume or both. The heart must work harder to push more blood through the body’s circulatory system so it can deliver the needed oxygen to all the cells. And hypertension is also on the rise in children related to their sedentary lifestyle and learned food preferences. A cascade of occurrences is making their bodies malfunction. Weight gain is just the beginning.   

Our first line of defense must be to tackle the underlying cause of this problem.  There are many factors that contribute to this startling news.  

The first is our sedentary lifestyle.  Activity is so important to our children for so many reasons.  Exercise increases nitric oxide in our blood which relaxes smooth muscle in the artery wall.  This will dilate the blood vessels and will bring blood pressure down.  To keep our children healthy we need to keep them physically active.  At Camp Jump Start we suggest that for every hour of screen time—whether it be cell phone, laptop or television then they must be active for the same amount of time.  

The second is poor food choices. We all know when we are eating things that we shouldn’t. But maybe we don’t realize that some of the foods we consider healthier choices are contributing to an unhealthy diet.  Did you know that a cup of corn flakes or two slices of white bread has more sodium than 20 potato chips? Corn flakes and white bread do not taste salty but potato chips do. Sodium is hidden in the processed foods, so taste is not a reliable indicator of salt intake. We have to choose wisely.  

And it is not just in the foods we choose at home. Over 80% of our sodium comes in processed foods or is added by the cooks in your favorite restaurant. Our body needs 300-500mg of sodium to live, but those eating out a lot may be getting as much as 6,000 mg or more.   Recommendations on daily sodium intake have changed in recent years from various health agencies.  Camp Jump Start proactively teaches children and families to decrease their sodium levels to around 1200 mg per day.    

Remember: salt is salt.  Any word combination that says “sodium” counts.  The goal for all of us, whether the parent or the child is to take charge of our health and make informed decisions. 

  • Read labels!  Sodium in foods should be less than the calories in the food.  If the sodium is 60 mg then the serving should not have more than 60 calories in it.   
  • Get rid of your salt shaker!  Do not add any salt to your food. It will take at least 6- 12 weeks for your taste buds to lose the salt addiction!   
  • Cook and eat more meals at home-it can help your budget and your blood pressure.   

 Instead of treating symptoms, we must get to the cause of the problem to earn our health back.