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Ex-staffers accuse diet camp
of setting unhealthy goals


July 2, 1996
Web posted at: 6:00 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Linda Ciampa

WALTHAM, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Summer diet camps promote themselves by promising quick weight loss through exercise and healthy eating. But concerns are being raised about one summer camp in Massachusetts, where former staff members say teens are encouraged to lose too much, too fast.

Camp Camelot will be home this summer to about 100 teen-agers, who will spend seven weeks working towards one goal. The camp's advertisements promise to help campers "slim down this summer" and "lose 20-45 pounds in just seven weeks."

"I hope to lose about 20 pounds by the end of the summer," said camper Marissa Levy. "And I hope that I'll be healthier and thinner, like every other teen's fantasy."

But experts say that's too fast to lose weight. And several staff members quit the camp last week, saying their concerns about the daily eating and exercise routines were ignored.

"A safe amount of weight to lose in a seven-week period is seven to 14 pounds," said Nicole Kerr, a registered dietitian. "Here at the camp, they recommend 20 to 45 pounds."

Kerr questions why thin girls were put on the same severely restricted diet as the girls who were overweight. Everyone in the program is on a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet, plus the teens exercised up to six hours a day. Kerr said she decided to quit after her concerns were ignored.


"I definitely believe we are setting these kids up for disordered eating patterns," Kerr said.

There is no weight requirement to get into Camp Camelot. All a camper needs is a check for about $5,000 and a doctor's note saying their child is healthy.

"This is not a hospital or a clinic ... this is a summer camp," said Camp Camelot's Michele Friedman.

She says the camp teaches teens healthy eating habits, how to enjoy exercise and, above all, how to safely lose weight.

"I do know girls do come away feeling healthier, looking better, feeling that they understand more about how they're going to go to college, or eat in a restaurant or prepare some of the food at home," Friedman said. "So, it makes sense that they've changed some of their bad habits."


But one former counselor, Dawn Rassell, says the kids are really focusing on being thin. (85K AIFF sound or 85K WAV sound)

The American Camping Association says Camp Camelot has a clean record and it is not under investigation. However, parents who wish to send their child to a weight loss camp can do some investigating of their own.

The American Dietetic Association recommends finding a camp that builds self-esteem, allows the kids to exercise individually or in groups, doesn't enforce daily weigh-ins and teaches campers healthy eating habits.

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