Wellspring camps

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Wellspring Camps are a group of children's health and wellness camps located in California and Florida. The camp focuses on changing behavior and eating patterns in order to create long-term healthy lifestyles for participants. Due to "economic feasibility" Wellspring Camps is not currently operating. However, the camp previously operated in La Jolla, California and Melbourne, Florida.


Wellspring opened their first two summer camps in June 2004 under the corporate name Healthy Living Academies.[1] Camp Wellspring, located in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, accepted women ages 16 – 23. Wellspring Adventure Camp, in the mountains of North Carolina, admitted boys and girls ages 10–17 years old. Ryan Craig, a former member of the Aspen Education Board of Directors was appointed president of Healthy Living Academies.[1]

Healthy Living Academies' clinical program is headed up by Daniel S. Kirschenbaum, Ph.D., chosen because of his experience in developing successful weight loss programs for hospitals across the country. He is a past president of the Division of Exercise and Sport Psychology of the American Psychological Association and has authored over 100 scientific articles and eight books, including Treatment of Childhood and Adolescent Obesity and The 9 Truths About Weight Loss.

Original advisory board

For the launch of its camp program, Healthy Living Academies assembled an Advisory Board consisting of experts in pediatric obesity. These Board members included: Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Psychology at Yale University and Director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders; Georgia Kostas, M.P.H., R.D., Director of Nutrition at the Cooper Clinic, Dallas, and author of The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution; Melinda Sothern, Ph.D. of Louisiana State University Health Sciences and Pennington Centers, and author of Trim Kids, The Proven 12-Week Plan That Has Helped Thousands of Children Achieve a Healthier Weight; and Dennis Styne, MD, Rumsey Chair of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of California Davis, a pediatric endocrinologist who specializes in pediatric obesity and its complications.[1]


One of the more high-profile cases for Wellspring was Georgia Davis, who gained more than 500 pounds after leaving Wellspring.[2][3][4][5]

An older study from 2005 which includes a small selection of campers and only self-reported data, found that 70 percent of Wellspring campers had maintained the weight or continued to lose in the six to nine months after camp ended; the weight loss afterward averaged 7.4 pounds. Research conducted by Dr. Daniel Kirschenbaum, Wellspring's former Clinical Director and Director of Chicago's Center for Behavioral Medicine & Sport Psychology, tracked Wellspring's long-term outcomes as compared to other summer weight loss programs.[6] According to Dr. Kirschenbaum's research, campers consistently demonstrate average weight loss of 4 lbs. per week, and 30 lbs total in 8 weeks. In 6-12 month follow-up studies, the average camper goes on to lose more weight– an additional 5-8 lbs., on average.

Wellspring's long term outcomes and approach have come into question in the medical community. Many physicians and dietitians, including vocal critic Robert Ludwig, criticize their low to zero fat approach, and question how successful Wellspring is in creating long term weight loss results. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children and adolescents must have a minimum of 20 grams of fat per day, but not to exceed 30 grams of fat, in order to maintain healthy brain growth. Wellspring teaches its campers and family that this is not necessary.[7] Additionally, Dr. Ludwig has said that he is particularly worried about the effect on vulnerable teenagers who regain weight after their families have sacrificed so much financially to send them to Wellspring. "The sense of failure that can set in afterward could inflict long-term damage, "he said. Pediatric endocrinologist David Ludwig is the director of the obesity program at Children's Hospital in Boston[7]

Wellspring differentiates itself from traditional fat camps, where the focus has historically been on short-term weight loss rather than long-term lifestyle modification. The New York Times reports that more than half of all campers attending traditional weight loss camps are repeat customers, indicating that most of these campers regain substantial amounts of weight within the first year.[8] Wellspring's research indicates that over 70% of their campers maintain weight loss from camp, or continue losing weight. Typically, the only doctors that are on staff at every Wellspring camp are clinical psychologists that are personally groomed by Dr. Kirschenbaum.[9]

Another Wellspring success story Jahcobie Cosom is now looking at gastric bypass after gaining weight post Wellspring. "Jahcobie Cosom tried the usual diet plans. He lost weight -- for a time -- at a school focused on weight loss. But now, he weighs more than 500 pounds. His next planned stop is gastric bypass surgery." Source: The Washington Post[10]

Wellspring Plan

Template:Advert section Wellspring Camps are based on the Wellspring Plan, a fitness and weight loss plan designed by experts in the fields of fitness, weight loss and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The Plan combines scientific research with an approach that is designed to be simple and sustainable. The goal of the Wellspring Plan is to help campers gain skills and motivation for lifelong healthy living.[11]

Wellspring's long-term outcomes—including sustained weight loss and improved health, mood and outlook—have been presented at international conferences and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.[6] A recent study found that 70 percent of Wellspring campers had maintained the weight or continued to lose in the six to nine months after camp ended; the weight loss afterward averaged 7.4 pounds.[8]

Activity management

The Wellspring Plan is based on the belief that, for weight controllers, simple, clear and easily measured goals help them stay focused.[12] Research has shown that 10,000 steps of activity every day does such things as increase metabolic rate all day and accelerate metabolism of fat. Given that more than 85% of high school students fail to achieve 10,000 steps per day,[13] this is a central goal of Wellspring's activity management program.


Wellspring's nutrition plan is based on a low-fat, low-calorie diet. Wellspring claims that this is achieved by teaching campers to cook, order, and identify healthy food choices. In addition, Wellspring campers are permitted to have as much "uncontrolled" food as they wish, as long as they measure and self-monitor their eating.[14]

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Wellspring's fitness and weight loss camps provide cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for every camper because CBT has been proven in many scientific studies to help children, teens, and adults change diet and activity behaviors better than providing just education or advice.[15] Specifically, cognitive-behavioral therapy involves goal-setting and tracking, problem solving, and stress management training to help weight controllers change permanently. Wellspring employs Masters- and Doctoral-level therapists (called behavioral coaches) to provide both one-on-one and group therapy sessions for campers.[16] Behavioral Coaches also stay in regular contact with families and campers for the year following camp as part of Wellspring's Continuing Care Program.[17]

Family Involvement

2-day family workshops are scheduled at the end of each camp session. Attending families participate in all aspects of the program and learn the details of the Wellspring Plan and the key behaviors they can support at home.[17]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 http://www.wellspringweightloss.com/pdf_files/HLA_News_Release.pdf, April 21, 2009
  2. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/07/13/britain-former-fattest-teen-gains-back-more-than-500-pounds/
  3. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/w_DietAndFitness/britains-fattest-teen-georgia-davis-regains-202-pounds/story?id=12026461&page=2#.UNt1_W-Cngs
  4. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20610727,00.html
  5. http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2012/05/britain-fattest-teenager-evacuated-home-georgia-davis
  6. 6.0 6.1 Kirschenbaum, D.S., Craig, R.D., Decker, T.M., & Germann, J.N. (under review). The remarkable potential of scientifically based immersion programs for the treatment of childhood and adolescent obesity: Wellspring camps demonstrate substantial weight loss even during a follow-up period. Obesity Research.
  7. 7.0 7.1 https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/16/AR2008051603581_2.html?sid=ST2008051901576
  8. 8.0 8.1 Ellin, Abby. "Are Fat Camps A Solution?" The New York Times, June 28, 2005.
  9. Weingarten, Tara, "A Summer Camp for Losers," Newsweek, May 19, 2008.
  10. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/photo/gallery/080509/GAL-08May09-113726/index.html
  11. Cynthia Levin, Psy.D., Interview with Daniel S. Kirschenbaum, Ph.D., http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=812, April 29, 2009
  12. KIMBERLY STAUFFER, "New Program Helps Youth Learn How to Battle Obesity," The Houston Chronicle, April 23, 2008
  13. M Hohepa et al. (2008). "Pedometer-determined physical activity levels of adolescents". J Physical Activity & Health. 5: S140-S152.
  14. Churnin, Nancy, "How to Lose Yourself at Camp," Dallas Morning News, March 24, 2009
  15. Joan Arehart-Treichel, CBT Teaches Obese People How to Think Thin, Psychiatry News August 3, 2007, Volume 42, Number 15, page 18
  16. Ann Yelmokas McDermott, PhD, MS; Amar Shah, Medscape General Medicine. 2007; 9(3):18.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Daniel S. Kirschenbaum, Ph.D., Ryan D. Craig, J.D., Kristina Pecora Kelly, M.A., Julie N. Germann, Ph.D. "Treatment and Innovation", Obesity Management, December, 2007
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