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.
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.
As the New Year begins, many of us will resolve to change some of our not-so-good habits. One of the most popular resolutions is to lose weight and get in shape. We believe that if only we were a few pounds lighter then we would look and feel a lot better.
But hey, maybe you are one of the lucky ones…you do not need to lose weight because your doctor said your weight is within the normal range. You can eat the standard American diet and watch your calories so you don’t even have to exercise to stay thin. You do not have anything to worry about, right?
WRONG! There is an insidious and growing problem that is called TOFI, which means thin on the outside but fat on the inside. You are at high risk if you live and eat like the noticeably overweight people in your family. You are TOFI when your weight is normal but your body mass index shows a high ratio of fat to muscle. The fat may not show on the outside but it is there. It is the worst kind of fat too because it is deep on the inside. It surrounds and thrives in your heart, muscle, liver and all your internal organs. The fat interferes with bodily functions and causes disease. TOFI means you are at increased risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver and other complications just like any obese person—only you do not realize it unless you understand TOFI.
This high ratio of fat to muscle is called “overfat”. According to the scientific journal Frontiers in Public Health-90% of men, 80% of women and up to 50% of children in 30 developed countries are overfat. It is caused by our lifestyle choices. We sit too much engaged in some form of sedentary activity—television, computer screens/ games and cell phones. Our bodies were not meant to sit. We were designed for movement and motion. This lack of muscle use combined with a highly processed and fast food diet is the recipe for disaster in an individual’s life.
Many parents send their children to Camp Jump Start because they want to “fix” their overweight child but they do not realize that their thin child is just as at risk. Michala came to camp to lose 20 pounds. Her parents also sent her sister, Kaci, to camp because Michala was afraid to come alone. They did not realize that Kaci was at risk, too. Upon arriving at camp and during the health assessment by a nurse, Kaci’s mom was horrified when the nurse looked at the back of Kaci’s neck. She was embarrassed because she thought Kaci had neglected to wash well. This dark patch under Kaci’s long hair was not dirt. The nurse noted that Kaci had acanthosis nigricans. This is a dark pigment that appears leathery or velvety located usually on the neck, under the arms, in the groin area or over a joint. It cannot be scrubbed off. This was a warning sign that Kaci was heading towards Type 2 Diabetes. She was insulin resistant and her body was not using her blood sugar and insulin normally.
In 4 weeks this dark ring disappeared. Kaci’s insulin resistance had reversed with her new lifestyle. She was eating real food and sleeping well. She was active 60 minutes each day and used her own body weight for a strength training program three times per week. She had more energy and seemed more engaged in life.
Extra fat whether you can see it or not is dangerous. If you now realize that you may be at risk for being TOFI because of your lifestyle choices then we encourage you to do just like Kaci:
Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
Participate in a strength training routine at least three times per week.
Aim for 60 minutes of activity EVERY day that requires you to breathe hard and sweat.
Food choices are most important in preventing and reversing disease.
Eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains.
Eat less animal products including dairy, processed and refined foods.
No matter your size, you and everyone around you will benefit greatly from making healthier habits this New Year. Frankly, your life depends on it!
What a year it has been! Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael, the wildfires in California and manmade atrocities have kept us glued to television, computers and cell phone screens recently. We watched the horrific events unfold in real time and saw our fellow Americans suffering in ways that were unimaginable. This was our nation under attack by wind, water, fire and fury. No matter where we live, we all were touched by it.
Near and far, people jumped into action immediately. Those close by, went to the disaster areas with little regard for their own safety to assist in rescues. Others from further away began collecting items and money to send to those in need. And yet others, who were paralyzed by what they saw at first, are now getting involved in relief efforts as the need continues and the first responders grow weary. This is American’s selfless spirit, true today as it has always been. Americans reach out when help is needed.We are a generous people.
One well recognized way to address need is through charities. They are typically started by people with a passion for the cause and a desire to help others…to put an end to some form of suffering. Typically the charity is started on a shoestring.There is no government or agency funding to start up a charity. There is no budget in the beginning to pay people for their work. There is no financial assistance from anyone but the founders and their family and friends. This is how a charity is born and this is how a charity survives. The charity grows and becomes sustainable only as it makes more and more friends who are willing to give of themselves and end that suffering for another. Everyday people do this by investing their own time and money in order to be that change and work towards a brighter vision for humanity.
In response to the disasters in the news, we came together as a nation to aid those citizens who lost so much. As individuals we joined together and became a force to overcome the obstacles to meet the needs of our own people. Each of us did what we could do.
The holiday season is upon us and it is the time of year that most of us typically give to charities. This year we are all called to do more. We are called to give in spite of the fact that we may have given so much already to the people who were impacted by the hurricanes and fires.
Many of your favorite charities may be worried, and rightfully so, that the donations you have recently given for these national events may hamper your willingness or ability to give to your local charities. You may be thinking, “Charity X won’t even miss the $20 gift I give them annually.”
But for smaller charities, nothing could be further from the truth. Those $20 donations are exactly what are needed to keep the doors open. Organizations count on your gifts as their base of support for continuing their mission. Charities make their ends meet mainly because of individual gifts and not funding from a large corporation, collaboration or government entity. Every penny does count when it is added to another and another as it all adds up. Your gift does make a difference!
From the lessons that we have learned from all of these catastrophic events, may this holiday season be a time of healing for us all. May we cast aside our difference of opinions and focus on what unites us. May we count our blessings as we hold our families close. May we reach out to get to know our neighbors again and form our own support circle. May we continue to support those charities in our community so that they will be available to help those we know and love. And for those suffering in the national disasters, may we continue to help them as they rebuild their own lives. May we always remember that it is in giving that we receive. And may we never forget – Americans shine when standing together!
Cindy’s mom watched her daughter gain significant weight in a short period of time during high school. This concerned her as it would any parent. Her mom urged her to attend Camp Jump Start, a summer residential healthy lifestyle/weight loss camp. Cindy refused until she saw her weight continue to rise and her health continue to deteriorate as she began to develop signs of diabetes.
Cindy is not alone. According to a study published last year by JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly 50% of adults living in the U.S. have diabetes or pre-diabetes and many do not even know it. The journal Pediatric Obesity predicts by 2025, if no preventative measures have been able to combat childhood obesity, there will be 91 million obese children in the world; which will also increase all obesity-related illnesses, including diabetes, to catastrophic levels. No mother wants this for her child!
Diabetes occurs when your body cannot produce and use its own insulin well enough to control the sugar in your blood. When you have high blood sugar then your smallest blood vessels are damaged and this leads to:
Infections and amputations
Cindy came to camp at age 17, weighing over 200 pounds. In her 8 weeks in the program, she lost 30 pounds, and gained the education and life skills she needed to continue her healthy lifestyle at home. Her signs of diabetes disappeared. Over the following year at college, she lost another 50 pounds.
Cindy returned to camp as a camp counselor, eager to inspire other kids and teens to eat right, get vigorous exercise, and feel good about themselves. She has maintained her weight loss for almost half her adult life now and has a healthy attitude about her lifestyle.She reversed her diabetes and it has never returned!
It started with a mom’s concerns, a teenager’s resistance and ended happily with a commitment to learn and make lifestyle changes that have improved her life and give her control of her future.
These kinds of lifestyle changes can help you prevent diabetes:
Lose 5 to 7 percent of your body weight if you are overweight
Portion control what you eat to the actual serving size
Read food labels for serving sizes – Be careful as they DO try to trick you!
Eat whole grains, fruits and vegetables, limit foods high in sugar and fat
Include at least 30 minutes of “Push Yourself Activity” every day
It helps you lose weight
Lowers blood pressure and blood cholesterol
Helps you use insulin by getting the blood sugar to the muscle instead of harming the blood vessel
Did you know in just health care costs…
A child on the verge of being a diabetic can have additional medical bills of $6,000 per year?
A child diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes can have additional medical bills of $20,000 per year?
Another way to understand what is going on in your body:
Think of it like your car. You notice the gas gauge is close to empty so you pull into the gas station. You notice that the diesel fuel is six cents a gallon cheaper than the gasoline. Not knowing any better and wanting to get the most for your money, you pull up to the diesel pump and you fill up with diesel. You turn on the ignition and the car coughs and sputters. You put the car in gear and it shutters and jerks along then stops. You get out of the car and you see black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe. Your car has to be towed to the garage and you tell the mechanic, “My car broke down right as I left the gas station.” The mechanic asks, “What are you using for fuel?” and you say, “Diesel.” He says, “I have an idea, try gasoline.” So he drains the diesel which is kerosene out of the gas tank. They clean off the spark plugs and fill the tank up with premium gasoline. Now you turn on the engine and it runs great. “Oh, that mechanic is so smart. He fixed my car.” The car was not broken. The engine was clogged up then malfunctioned because the diesel fuel was not the right fuel source.The car’s fuel system was not designed to run on the cheaper fuel and it caused the car to breakdown.
Thus goes the human body. The standard American diet (SAD) is the wrong fuel for our bodies. We will not see a change in our health until we eat the right fuel then our body will run efficiently. To change the diabetes epidemic we must change the way we eat BEFORE we get the disease. Historically we treat the symptoms of diabetes, isn’t it time we take care of the cause?
Hippocrates, a Greek physician in the 4th century, said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” It was true then and it is just as true today.
This is easily noted when in the 1700’s sailors recognized that those who ate citrus fruit were able to avoid the disease known as scurvy and those that missed out on the citrus fruit developed scurvy. When those sailors with scurvy were given citrus fruit, they became well again. It was the Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in the citrus fruit that was needed by the body to function properly. It seems so easy in hindsight to be the detective in the scurvy case but at the time it was not so obvious.
We learned from this history that there is a definite link between nutrients in food and disease. Given our Standard American Diet (appropriately called SAD) it is no wonder that heart disease, diabetes, cancer and dementia rates are skyrocketing!
Did you know that 75 percent of children ages 7 -11 already have beginning signs of heart disease in their blood vessels? Yes you read that correctly–3 out of 4 children are already sick!
Did you know that 79 million people live with prediabetes? The numbers are growing with 25 million people in the U. S. already having the disease and 7 million of these do not even know they have it yet!
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 his 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?
Do you understand that this is not normal? Our modern lifestyle is making us sick!
We sit too much and eat without thinking. Then we wonder why we are sick. The only way to reverse the trend is to change our choices and we do that by informed decision-making. We have to choose to eat healthfully and be fit through activity or exercise. We have to educate ourselves through reliable sources on how to be smart consumers. Personal responsibility is key for a positive outcome with your diagnosis.
Good nutrition is our foundation to a healthy life. Foods such as fruits and vegetables have a bountiful number of phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals in them all working together. These nutrients keep our bodies functioning normally and help fight off disease.
Nutritional scientists are trying to identify and understand how each one works and the effects they have on the human body. There are thousands of phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables and we understand only a few of them. For instance lycopene is the best known phytochemical in tomatoes. We know lycopene is a carotenoid and it helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer by activating phase II enzymes. Yet, lycopene is just one of thousands of phytochemicals in a single tomato.
Yellow and red onions also are powerful in the fight against cancer. They are considered an allium vegetable and contain organosulfur compounds. When the cell walls of this vegetable are broken – by chewing or chopping – then the chemical reaction begins. This reaction appears to detoxify cancer cells and halt their growth. So if you eat onions everyday then you may have stopped a cancer in its tracks without ever even knowing you had it!
Educated food selection is your first line of defense in maintaining your health or improving your illness. Modern medicine and medications have their place in your treatment AFTER YOU have done your part! According to the listed disease trends, you may be fighting for your life and not even know it yet.
Halloween is almost here and if you are like most households, candy sits in a big bowl, ready for trick or treaters. Each time you pass the bowl, you pick up one item thinking just that one little piece cannot hurt, right? Think again!
Eating just a few “extra” calories a day or skipping a workout adds up to energy imbalance. This imbalance will sneak up on you quickly, as the scale continues to go up and you are getting heavier and heavier.
Each summer our campers get to plan their own snacks on occasion and the trail mix snack is a highlight. The campers order their individual, special order mix days in advance. They measure each option and tally up their order sheet, so their snack is under 150 calories. They may pick from pretzels, nuts, cheerios, raisins, M & M’s and marshmallows to name a few options. We all have different preferences and we all like choices.
At camp they do not get the choice to opt out of activity though. We work off those “extra” calories. To get this point across we walk the track for 30 minutes on trail mix nights. Calories in versus calories out is not an exact scientific equation but they get the message.
It is true if you have already eaten enough calories to sustain yourself during the day, your body will store those “extra” calories as fat. Those “extra” treats do not have to be candy either. It can be just one cookie, a small soda or a bag of chips. Although a snack may be small, it is the repetition of having it every day over and over that gets one into trouble. Those “extras” can add up very quickly as the scale creeps upwards.
Do the math. We know there are 3500 calories in a pound, if you have an “extra” 150 calories each day and there are 7 days in a week then in one week you have 1,050 extra calories. In one year (365 days x 150 calories per day) you will have over 54,700 extra calories! This means you will have gained over 15 pounds in one year’s time eating just a little something extra. Now that is significant!
How can you avoid being tricked by treats? Try something new this Halloween.
Put your spare change (coins) in a bowl and give out money.
Give out small toys like whistles or candy-scented markers.
If you must have candy, then buy a kind that you do not like!
Buy treats on Halloween itself so it is not in your house for long.
Get the candy out of the house–put it in a laundry basket and leave it outside your front door.
It can also be scary going to Halloween parties knowing treats will be there, so plan ahead.
Eat before you go to the party and take your own treat to share. See Pinterest for Halloween themed fruit trays, vegetable trays or low-calorie punch.
Take small decorated plates and tall thin glasses as a hostess gift and use these so you do not over-indulge.
Position yourself away from the food and keep yourself busy socializing with friends. Share a few spooky stories and enjoy the Halloween costumes. Focus on laughing with friends instead food.
Remember: Halloween is over at midnight so get rid of any leftovers! Take the treats to the fire station, police station or send to a soldier overseas. Some dental offices will even “buy back” candy.
Keep your home a safe space so you are never tricked by treats again!
Divorce: Did You Even Think About Me? Letters of Hurt and Healing is a book that explores the effects of divorce on children, from their 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. Many children are in the same position and feeling the same emotions. Many children find their emotions are normal and may find comfort from one of the responses. 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. The ending of this book also comes from the children s collective thoughts when divorce is necessary.
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.
This place has changed the lives of all of us in some way. I want to say thank you for having me come here. If I had stayed home for the last month I would have gained weight. Instead I have lost 34.1 pounds.
I felt like I could not fit in anywhere I went, but I found my place here at Camp Jump Start. I may not have done my best every day, but I did try.
The one quote I love the best is “when you want to be healthy, there is no SOME day—there is only TODAY and the days after. There are seven days in a week—and someday is not one of them!
For me to find my place and make many new friends while losing weight is good enough for me. I love it here! This is like a home away from home. I will miss everyone. I will hopefully continue this lifestyle until I die. I want to teach it until everyone is healthy. I will always remember how you helped me accomplish my goals. Thank you for everything that you have done for me.
Nick’s mom was a pediatric endocrinologist where I worked. She heard about our camp from a nurse whose son attended. This nurse raved about their family’s experience and tried to persuade this doctor to send her son to camp. The doctor stated that “those camps do not work!” As time went on this doctor spoke of the frustrations she had with her own son. She counseled other families about the prevention and treatment of obesity and stated that she went home mortified that her own family had a secret. Eventually the doctor was desperate and sent her son to camp. The hardest part of parenthood is coming to realize that you cannot “fix” your own child. This is human nature. Nick was pretty miserable when we first met. Being fat takes the fun out of childhood. At camp he found hope for a better life. He thrived on the challenges and he also enjoyed the girls’ attention! He saw the advantages of a healthy lifestyle and was determined to hang on to this new identity. His success continued at home because of his internal motivation and the support from his family. He became interested in sports and was now able to make the team. It has been 7 years since Nick’s first camp experience. He is a normal sized young man. He is almost 18 years of age. Now he is a 3 sport player! He is a 3rd time wrestling varsity starter—he was second city champ and second at regionals and he is a rugby varsity starter. Their rugby team came in 2nd at State (Illinois) last year. If this was not enough—he led the football team in sacks last year. Nick is a success because his family embraced the needed changes and supported him. It really was Nick that took full responsibility for his life choices. He understands consequences and chooses wisely more often than not. He also enjoys the lifestyle Nick’s story can be viewed on our website www.campjumpstart.com in his own words. He and his mom are on video and then there is a follow-up showing him at a reunion camp. He is willing to do another video, so I will try to get there in the near future.
Being a nurse and teacher for 20 years I was on the frontline when the childhood obesity epidemic emerged. I worked with students in a major medical center. The children’s hospital on campus began to see 5 year olds with cirrhosis of the liver, 8 year olds having strokes, and 20 year olds having heart attacks. We even had to change the name of Juvenile diabetes to type 1 diabetes because kids had begun to develop adult onset diabetes now called type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is absolutely preventable and no child should have it! This is the diabetes of my grandparent’s generation. From experience we know that in 10-15 years after diagnosis we will see the complications from type 2 diabetes which are heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and amputations to name a few. Type 2 diabetes is an unforgiving disease which will not discriminate for age.
My entire life has been dedicated to health and education which I consider to be basic human rights. I truly believe that when people know better then they can do better. I also believe that when you lose your health—nothing else will ever matter quite the same again.
Some will say I am the hardest working woman that you will ever meet. I say that I have never worked a day in my life! What I do is who I am. I am a nurse and teacher. It is all consuming. One cannot leave work behind in either profession…..you must always be “on” when needed.
My mid-life crisis occurred when I was 40 years old. I saw a catastrophic event emerging and I began looking for solutions. I went to work at what looked to be the best weight loss camp for kids in the nation. On the internet it appeared to be perfect. Oh my—nothing could have been further from the truth. It was at that camp my rose-colored glasses were shattered. It was all about BIG business weight loss hype, repeat customers and money. I did not consider it safe for kids or employees. Profit was their driving force. I came home from that camp and said to my husband “Honey, give me all your money because someone who cares about kids needs to do this. I know what works and I know what is missing. And we have enough love to share to help kids heal and become successful.” The man said yes and we have been saving lives ever since.
Our camp has been built on love. It has taken great personal sacrifice in an effort to “save this generation of kids”. We sold personal possessions like grandmother’s crystal and we both worked other jobs to pay for the things to start camp. We did not receive salaries most of these years and we work every day of the year, we sold our home so that we could pay staff in the recession and moved to a dilapidated cabin at camp. We did not have hot and cold water in our bathroom for 2 years because we had to fix the other cabins for campers first.
I slept in my office at the hospital from Monday through Friday so that the money I saved on gas could be used to buy paint, etc for camp improvements. I knew where to get a gurney from the emergency room in the evening and what patient floor had extra sheets and pillows that I could use. I knew which public restroom had a lock so that I could brush my teeth and get a “bath by sink” before day shift came to work. I took brown bag meals and work from camp to keep my busy through the week.
These were the easy sacrifices. The hard ones have been the realization that we cannot get back the time that we have given up with our own families. Special moments like our 25th and 30th wedding anniversaries were spent celebrating with our 80 camp kids instead of our own family. Both sets of our parents are elderly and we know that we are missing out on time with them. This is perhaps the hardest sacrifice. Yet we know that our life experience has come together for this one purpose. We truly believe that children are our future and we actually are doing something about it.
The motto was “whatever it takes” and it took a lot for a new nonprofit without funders to survive during this recession. It has been a long 10 years, but we along with our exceptional staff have saved more lives here than I ever did in a traditional nursing role
For my husband and me, this is our encore career. We created a “LivingWellVillage” to address this crisis in our society with a program that works. This is not the “retirement” we worked to achieve but living a life with purpose is a life that matters. We are in search of an army of like-minded people to help us re-direct the lives of a nation. Our mission is essential to the future of our nation’s being!
I will always remember Mark! He is the dad of a camper who made me realize the power of one in changing the world. He came to visit his daughter half way through summer camp. He ran down the hill, picked me up, kissed me on the lips and swung me around all the while saying “thank you, thank you, thank you!” Now I had been happily married for 20-something years and had not been kissed like that by anyone except my husband in quite some time so I was a bit taken aback. I was wondering who this man was and to which child he belonged. Before camp I talk to parents on the phone and I do not see them except for a few minutes when they drop their child off for the summer. Most of the time I am not looking at them anyway since I am picking through their child’s hair looking for head lice the first time we meet. I am called back to reality when I hear this dad say “I have not seen my daughter smile like that since she was an infant. Thank you!” There are tears in his eyes. and suddenly mine too. His daughter was 14 years old, 40 pounds lighter than the last time he saw her and her signs of diabetes had disappeared. He found at camp what we all seek for our children—health and happiness. Mark’s daughter got a second chance. Her family gave her this opportunity and she became responsible for her own life and choices. She will choose to live life well….or not. Simply, the choice is hers. At any time she will be able to use the tools she learned at camp even after we are all long gone. She has achieved success once and if she needs to find it again, she has the tools to do it.. It was two years after that moment when Mark called me again. He asked if we would meet him as he was passing through St. Louis. I closed my eyes and could picture every detail of his face and I just knew that I would spot him in a second. Instead I walked right past him without recognizing him! He had lost 150 pounds, given up smoking and was traveling to Phoenix to run his first marathon. That is the power of Camp Jump Start! We will never be able to calculate the ripple effect but I know the power that has been unleashed thanks to Mark! Moral to the story: Sometimes we do for our kids what we would not do for ourselves. This grassroots effort is how we change our nation’s health—one child and one family at a time. It is a life long struggle for many but working together makes the road to health a bit less bumpy. ****Stories that appear here happened to real people and are told as I remember them. No child or family is identifiable and some stories may be blended between people so that no one will recognize a specific person or event. Truly most of these moments cannot be made up in one’s wildest imagination, but some stories do sound similar even when you think it could not happen to anyone else! The purpose of my blog is to relate to those in similar circumstances. We want to bring to you the inspirational stories that we have witnessed and we wish to make life’s journey a bit easier for those coming after us.
We need to slow down because we move through life too fast. All the conveniences of the 21st century have not given us what we really want: more time. We get caught up in a whirlwind and do not know how to get out. If we say our family is most important to us, then we need to put our time and efforts with them. This is not easy in our world, but it can be done once you are conscious of your wishes. Over the years, it has been convenient to place the blame on genetics for being overweight. It is far easier to accept when you can point the finger to someplace other than looking in the mirror. But the same genetic pool can turn out two very different children. Many would say the skinny one is lucky and the chunky one is not. But in reality, the opposite may be true. It is recognized by many that being overweight is a symptom of being unhealthy. So the chunky kid actually is getting the wake up call to do better. The skinny kid may very well have the beginning stages of heart disease from eating the same foods that weighed down the chunky kid, but the skinny kid is living in false security that they are healthy. Therefore, parents are not punishing the skinny kid by keeping junk food out of the home. Our home must remain the safe zone by stocking only foods with benefits. Snack items should be string cheese, low-fat pudding, or fruit, to suggest a few. Genetics may predispose us to obesity, but it is truly lifestyle that causes it. Let us set our families up for success by creating a safe environment and a fundamental base for the family’s healthy development. This new year let us choose wisely and begin to make the priorities that we say we have in life really become the priority of our day.
If only kids came with instructions, we could be perfect parents. Regrettably, there are no instructions and therefore no perfect parents. We try to do our best raising our families but the busyness of life gets in the way. The problem rests in the fact that sometimes we do not have enough information to make the best decisions. I am a firm believer that “when you know better—you can do better”. These are suggestions for resolutions to a Happy and Healthier New Year that will lead to a Happier and Healthier Family. When a baby is born, we are so excited. We count their fingers and toes, we ask the doctor if the baby is healthy and, if we are lucky, the doctor says “yes”. We expect that to mean for the next twenty-one years our child will be well. But no one explains to us the important part that we must play, and we really do not get any training for the most important role for which we are cast. As parents, we see only sickness and health; the spectrum in between is lost. We need to pay attention to this gray area. A parent lovingly fulfills every basic need for an infant, and as the infant grows, it learns to do these tasks by mimicking the way of the parents. As mothers, when a baby cries from hunger we pick them up to comfort them, speak soothingly to them, and feed them. It is an enjoyable time between mother and child. But some babies come to associate food as the comfort. Unless we expand upon this coping mechanism, this baby is destined to a life of emotional eating. This New Year, let us resolve to choose an enjoyable activity that role models to our children how to deal with stress on a daily basis. Try walking, biking, or dancing to deal with frustrations instead and include your children in this activity. Children copy what we do, not what we say. And we benefit as a family because sometimes we do for our children what we would not do for our self! The childhood obesity epidemic is a complex problem for society, but truly as parents we are much more concerned about what occurs within our own four walls at home. Many families believe that their chunky child will outgrow their baby fat, but it takes only a few extra pounds to weigh a child down. Then the child does not feel well participating in activity so they become less active and the pounds begin to pile up. Kids are cute but they are cruel to each other. The old saying of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” was never farther from the truth. The words are forever etched in our children’s brains and hearts and the pain is far more debilitating than broken bones. Their spirits become broken instead. This prevents our child from becoming who they were meant to be. The vicious cycle is set because more than 8 out of 10 of these children will go on to become overweight adults, carrying with them forever all the baggage from childhood. That is if we continue to feed this vicious cycle. This New Year let us resolve to ask our pediatrician what a normal weight range is for each of our children and our self. Parents are forced out of denial and empowered by this knowledge. No longer will weight be a forbidden secret, but a symptom that can be healed by the family. Many physicians feel helpless dealing with this obesity epidemic because it requires intense education/assistance to put the family on a healthy path. Time that most of them do not have to give. Most physicians have not even taken nutrition courses, so they do not feel comfortable being the expert, either. But they can refer you to one! It would be an honor to be a part of your life journey.
Like many things in life, we need to stop thinking so much about something and just start. Whether it be a diet, exercise or writing a blog….just thinking about the issue at hand can paralyze us. So today I decided to begin my journey in the world of blogs. No more thinking about it. I am now doing something about it and I challenge you to do that which you have been thinking about longer than you should. Just start…. I hope from the stories and thoughts that I share in this blogosphere, you will find something worthwhile. After all, life is about sharing our journey with the hopes that our path makes it easier for someone else to follow. My life has never been boring! After 30 years of working with kids, I guarantee that you cannot make these things up that I will share in future blogs. Today though I am thinking about the show “Biggest Loser”. I have never been fond of the name but no one asked me. I do admit that a lot of good has come from the show. It has brought attention to a health crisis in our nation. It has inspired many to take action in their own life. It has educated those that judge that maybe it is not so easy to just lose weight and exercise. It has shown us that in the United States of America malnutrition is in abundance. Several years ago I met with one of the successful participants on the “Biggest Loser”. We met at a Starbucks in Chicago at his request. He wanted to know what we did at our weight loss camp for kids that was different from what everyone saw on the “Biggest Loser”. I explained that our camp was not just about diet and exercise. We dealt with emotions and issues like divorced/separated/blended families, adoption, loss of a loved one and anxiety to name a few. We taught stress management along with nutrition classes. We were active and had fun at summer camp letting kids be kids. Kids had the opportunity to grow from mistakes in a safe, structured environment while adults supervised and intervened as necessary. Today kids lack this support system in many cases. We developed individual plans for home so that kids could maintain success and the entire family could live well. He told me that the “Biggest Loser” only pushed contestants for diet and exercise. It was all about the numbers. After all, it was a television show and ratings were the driving force. It was not about a mission to change and save the world. It was about business. No wonder this man gained his weight back. I do not like the idea of young children on the show this coming season. I am certain that there will be drama and the cameras will capture all the vulnerable moments that will be etched in America’s minds. People will be talking and judging. Great for ratings but not great for kids! Some may be treated like celebrities for a time while others will be openly ridiculed. Then the season will end, the show will close and they will be forgotten on the set, but the children will never be able to leave it behind. Reruns will pop up when least expected and it will live forever on the internet. My concern is that this show will exploit kids. I believe that life is hard enough already for these kids and a child cannot give informed consent to this scrutiny. I understand that desperate parent’s will do desperate things if they think it might help their kids. They simply do not know what else to do. I know that this is not it! As I write my blog, I too will share stories about kids. But it will NEVER be about one kid. All stories will be true events just mixed up because I never want a child recognized by what I write. Truth is many stories are similar and people who have never been to camp may feel like I am telling their personal story. Childhood is a sacred time and we as adults need to honor this age of what should be innocence. Adults are put in a child’s life to protect them. In our society today parents are searching for answers. I can tell you that this crisis is not the child’s fault nor do I think that it is the parent’s fault in most cases. We, as a society, have created this catastrophic event and it is up to ALL of us to make the necessary changes. While many people continue to talk about this, I actually believe the children are our future. This is why we have been DOING something about this health crisis. The time for talk is over if we are to save this generation of children! Watching kids get yelled at and struggle on national television is NOT the answer. Want to make a real difference? Come help us do what is right for kids!
Jean Huelsing said she was inspired to start Living Well Village nearly a decade ago after seeing overweight children suffering from a variety of illnesses normally seen in adults. She’d been a registered nurse for 20 years. Huelsing said she found it shocking that so many children were suffering from diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and depression. She wanted to do something to help children reclaim their health and build self-efficacy.
“I decided to step up and be part of the solution,” Huelsing said as she puttered around the village in her golf cart recently. She’d like to see a world where no child would have adult disease and no one dies from preventable illness.
The village is on a 250-acre plot near Imperial, Mo., with wooded hills and a lake. It’s home to Camp Jump Start, the nation’s only nonprofit weight loss camp. Huelsing prefers to call it a “healthy lifestyle immersion camp” because it focuses on building a child’s self-image and healthy habits, not just losing weight.
The camp opened in 2003, and in 2006, the camp became a nonprofit, Living Well Foundation, which is now a BBB Accredited Charity. Huelsing says that 90 cents of every dollar donated is used to further the foundation’s mission.
The foundation offers a summer weight loss camp for children 9 to 17 years old, wellness programs for college students, weekend adult programs and distance learning for campers and their parents after they attend camp. Children come to Camp Jump Start from all 50 states and 20 foreign countries, paying $4,000 for a four-week session or $7,295 for eight weeks. Some scholarship aid is available from donations by parents of past campers, but it doesn’t cover demand.
Before children arrive, parents are asked to fill out a 30-page application with detailed information on the child’s health, dietary and other habits. Huelsing tries to screen out campers with severe eating disorders and emotional problems. Even so, she’s found that about 5 percent of campers had attempted suicide before coming to camp. None have made attempts after attending camp, she said.
The first day at Camp Jump Start begins with an early wake-up call. Campers are weighed and have breakfast. After that, they have to run 6.5 laps around the camp’s track, the equivalent of a mile. That’s after they walk up the hill to the track.
“They don’t like it at first,” Huelsing said. One boy took 18 minutes to complete the run the first day. By the end of camp, he was running it in six and a half minutes.
Campers attend three morning classes, many involving physical activity. After lunch, there’s a class on leadership and then field sports. They swim in the late afternoon, then have dinner, chores and “call time,” a once-daily chance to use cell phones to talk to parents or friends. There’s usually an activity in the evening, “shower hour,” free time and a snack before bed.
“We don’t torture them,” Huelsing said. Everyone is encouraged to participate in all activities and to try new things.
Head counselor Jeremy Simmons has taught many campers, including older teens, how to ride bikes for the first time. He taught one disabled girl who’d been told she would never ride, a feat Huelsing calls monumental. Simmons can relate to campers because he weighed 245 pounds when he first came as a counselor in 2006. He lost 51 pounds that first summer and is now slim and fit.
“I got my life back,” said Simmons, a math teacher in Pattonville during the school year. He has continued working at the camp because he believes he can make more difference in children’s lives in the eight weeks at camp than in an entire school year.
Halley Felty, a counselor from Kansas City, came to camp after her sophomore year in high school, when she was five feet tall and pushing 200 pounds.
“It turns out to be the best decision I made in my life,” said Felty, now a sophomore at Mizzou. “I am clearly not an ideal weight yet,” she said, and she sweats through classes along with the campers. “I’m not going to ask (campers) to do what I wouldn’t do,” she said.
Huelsing has worked with researchers from several universities on medical and nutritional studies of campers, some of them published in medical journals. Her work has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health. Huelsing is concerned when she hears parents ask her to “fix” their children when they arrive at camp. “I tell them their kids aren’t broken, but something in their family lifestyle is,” she said. She tries to get children to see their own value while changing their habits. “Their job as a kid is to figure out what they’re good at and to know that they each have a purpose.”
At 12 years old, Summer Davis was frustrated with the amount of weight she had gained.
“I started getting really annoyed and mad at myself for being overweight,” she said.
She began researching weight loss tips online when she stumbled across the website for a camp near St. Louis: Camp Jump Start, a weight loss camp for 10- to 18-year-olds. “I realized you have to work hard instead of taking a pill or doing some weird thing to lose weight fast – you have to actually work hard,” Davis said.
She ordered an informational DVD and sat down with her parents to talk about her options for going.
Each week costs about $1,000, and each session is four weeks long. Campers can attend two sessions per summer. The camp includes exercise programs, a safe environment, air-conditioned cabins and child/parent education.
Davis’ family started saving money, and this summer, Davis went to camp.
Jean Huelsing, a registered nurse and fitness practitioner, started the camp with her husband using their retirement money. She had seen too many children in hospitals struggling with serious weight-related issues.
“We saw 8-year-olds with strokes, 20-year-olds having heart attacks, and now we’re aware of a 14-year-old girl who has a bilateral – mastectomy all related to obesity,” she said. “Obesity is our new epidemic, and we have to pay attention to it because it is going to be the downfall of all of our health care.”
Huelsing said campers usually lose about 7 to 10 percent of their body weight each four weeks they are at camp.
Exercise is presented as fun and is no longer a “dirty” word for campers. During their stay, campers do activities such as kayaking, swimming, biking, running, aerobics and yoga.
This summer, as a whole, campers lost a combined 2,514 pounds, and they took a combined total of more than 9 hours off their mile run times.
Forty-four campers arrived with signs of diabetes, but 24 left without any signs, and the other 20 all improved. “Kids live for today – they don’t see the consequences for decisions from today,” Huelsing said. “That’s why they have adults put into their life, so that we can protect them and guide them.”
But when it comes to physical fitness, that guidance gets difficult – Huelsing said many adults don’t have education in nutrition and physical activity.
Camper Madeline Appel, 11, said she like exercising at camp better than at school because camp counselors set an example by playing games alongside campers – unlike her P.E. teachers, who she sees sitting down drinking soda while the students exercise.
“They all get into the game and they encourage us to play and they’re playing with us,” Appel said. “It’s cool how they’re just not sitting on the bleachers saying, like, ‘Lets go!’ ‘Get a move on it!’ They’re actually playing the game with us.”
But one thing the camp doesn’t have is an indoor gym – and Huelsing said that makes things difficult. Campers sometimes have to do their aerobics inside buildings that have concrete floors and very little space.
Huelsing knows the concrete floors could hurt the campers’ knees in the future. But she also knows that if these children don’t lose weight, many of them might not make it to 30 years old.
“I have to look at the lesser of the two evils and make that choice,” Huelsing said. “I wish I didn’t have to make that choice.”
The gym could cost up to $2.5 million, but Huelsing said she has to trust in her faith that she will be provided with what she needs.
Along with physical health, Camp Jump Start also addresses mental and emotional health. Campers are given a happiness-life survey before and after camp. Each camper surveyed this summer showed improvements in liking themselves better after camp.
Huelsing said about 5 percent of campers who have come to the camp have previously attempted suicide, but she doesn’t know of any suicide attempts that have been made after children attend Camp Jump Start. She said it’s important for kids to feel like they are worth taking care of.
“Who knows what they’re going to do in life,” Huelsing said. “They might be the kid who goes to Mars. They might be the kid who finds the cure to cancer. They might be the kid who’s able to cure our whole society and find world peace. I have no idea what they can do, but I know that it will be pretty important.”
Another part of camp is the spiritual side. On Sundays, campers can sign up for Reflections on the Water, a time for camper-led worship. Campers of all religions are encouraged to participate and share.
Many times, campers use their faith for encouragement in their weight loss journey. Appel’s grandma sent her a new Bible to encourage her at camp.
“The first night I prayed to go home because I didn’t want to stay here,” Appel said. “Then, kind of in a way, God told me that I didn’t want to go home, and he told me that if I went home that I wouldn’t be successful.”
She lost 12 pounds during her first four weeks.
But more important than the numbers, both Appel and Davis are excited about their new lifestyle. They made plans to go shopping for a new wardrobe after camp. Davis planned to shop at Hollister, while Appel wanted clothes from Von Maur’s teen section.