Before I get started on this post, let me do some self-disclosure. I'm a relatively healthy (knock on wood) individual who is blessed with pretty good genetics when it comes to weight. I come in at 6'2", 170 lbs., which rings me up a BMI of about 22. All my health care metrics are in good shape (again, knock on wood)...
But, I work at it. I run, on average, 4 times a week, and I don't eat much high fat or fried food. Without the exercise and diet habits, I probably track like some of my friends, which would probably put me in the neighborhood of 190 with a little pouch in the middle. My family is like me, and physical activity is at the core of how we spend a lot of leisure time. A healthy family diet is part of the deal too.
Personal situation aside, I'm sympathetic when I hear about people struggling with weight issues. I'm never more sympathetic than when I read or hear about kids struggling with weight issues early in their lives. That's why I had an interest in the recent New York Times article talking about the lack of insurance covering weight loss camp for kids.
From the New York Times:
"There are nine million overweight or obese children in the United States. And although the prevalence of childhood obesity has tripled since 1980, there are few comprehensive or affordable programs to treat them. Summer weight loss camps are usually profit-making and can cost more than $1,000 a week. Most insurance does not cover that cost.
For Dr. Walter J. Pories, a well-known gastric bypass surgeon, the dearth of government and insurance financing for such comprehensive weight-loss programs is “the single most frustrating problem in dealing with childhood obesity.”
Several national groups are pressing for government financing or insurance reimbursement for more intensive weight loss treatment for children, including weight loss camps. In the meantime, many children mostly have to follow Tiffany King’s lead. She submitted a personal essay that was well written, sad and compelling. “If I could get on my knees and beg for this campership, I would, because I want to feel good about my life,” she wrote. “Sometimes, if I’m walking down the street, I can hear people talking about me and staring at me.”
I'm not the guy who's ordinarily going to run to the insurance industry's defense. I get frustrated, just like my employees, when red tape holds up needed treatment. But there's an obvious point the folks, who will shout out the need for weight loss camps, aren't sharing at the appropriate volume.
Here's the reality - A kid can go to weight loss camp, lose 10% of their body weight and pick up some great ideas how to live their lives with proper diet and exercise. Unfortunately, if their parents are obese, sedentary or fond of fried foods, the kid generally won't keep the weight off. The NYT was kind enough to balance the story out with the following:
"The big challenge comes later, when children resume their normal routines and confront the smorgasbord that is America — food in their own kitchens and at friends’ homes, fast-food restaurants and school cafeterias.
Dr. Pories, who also heads the Metabolic Institute at East Carolina University, found that children lost an average of about 8 percent of their body weight in a program he studied over three years; but two-thirds regained all or part of their weight.
Even Dr. Pories, who has been involved in promoting weight loss camp scholarships for underprivileged children in eastern North Carolina, says, “A two-thirds failure rate is not acceptable.”
It's all about the support system you are going back into. If a kid has family and friends who don't exercise and eat healthy, there's no way the kid keeps the weight off. To be fair, this is a story that transcends analysis from any single perspective. There are cultural, socio-economic, educational and other issues at play. The availability of weight loss camps is the least of the challenges.
Weight loss camp for the kid isn't fixing the issue. Perhaps weight loss camp for the family?