At spa summer camp, kids check Gameboys at the door

For a handful of kids, summer camp starts this week at the spa. Only they’re not getting Ice Cream Pedicures, as the WSJ suggests. Instead, from July 12 through July 25, Generation X-Box is attending one of the country’s best weight-loss programs during Family Week at Pritikin Longevity Center Center & Spa, in Aventura, Florida. Pritikin, if you’re not familiar, is the spa Michael Moore made semi-famous and where guests learn to reform their eating habits, lower their blood pressure, kick diabetes meds, and have their accomplishments published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The one- or two-week-long camp, now in its sixth summer, began when Pritikin physicians, many with kids of their own, witnessed just how difficult it is for children to eat healthfully and stay physically active, says medical director Danine Fruge, MD. “Fast food restaurants are everywhere, and gym class is no longer on every school curriculum.” And then, of course, there’s the epidemic rate of obesity in American children.

You won’t hear many adults arguing with the antidote—teach kids that there’s life beyond Grand Theft Auto and Dorritos. Or as Dr. Fruge puts it, getting in habit of eating fruits and vegetables every day and making fitness and healthy living fun. But just how do you teach the kids that?

Well, Pritikin’s camp activities differ from, say, Lake Arrowhead’s daily roster of canoeing and Kumbaya-ing, with every funk fitness and tennis match and cooking class meant to underscore new health habits. And the mess hall here doesn’t pander to picky eaters. Instead it weans kids off McCalories, cokes, and grande frappuccinos. And that’s key to the kiddy reprogramming here. “Because of multi-million TV advertising budgets from the fast food industry, children in this country think that hunger equals happy meals,” says Dr. Fruge.

Pritikin kids do something a lot of New York adults could benefit from and attend cooking classes, and they attempt brave new foods like vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries, and pinto-bean burritos with roasted chicken. “Kids learn new eating and fitness habits by, quite simply, habit. The more they do it, the more comfortable and enjoyable it gets,” says Dr. Fruge, who points out that the family participation is what reinforces the lessons at home. (Parents attend the traditional Pritikin Health and Weight-Loss Program at the same time and participate in some of the children’s group fitness activities.) Not surprisingly about half the campers are children or grandchildren of former Pritikin success stories. According to Dr. Fruge, the other half is made up of first-time families, who see Pritikin as a healthy spa vacation destination, a group clearly not interested in an ice cream pedicure.

Children’s rate for one week $1,500, two weeks $2,500, http://www.pritikin.com

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Filed under spa travel, Weight Loss

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