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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 08:20 GMT 09:20 UK
Fighting back against fat
Exercise is part of the camp regime
Britain's only summer camp for overweight children is helping youngsters to fight back against the rising tide of obesity among the young.

One in three British children are overweight, and it is estimated that the number of overweight teenagers has doubled in the last 20 years.

Some doctors are concerned that young people may even be out-lived by their parents as a matter of routine.

At the Carnegie Weight Loss Camp outside Bradford in West Yorkshire young people between the ages of 11 and 16 are taught about the benefits of exercise and a healthy diet.

Bob Townsend
Bob Townsend is tempted by unhealthy food
During the six week course they are also encouraged to think about why they piled on the pounds in the first place.

Libby Williams is one of the students at the camp. At 12 she is acutely aware of her body image.

"I see my best friend as skinny as a stick, and it makes me feel uncomfortable."


Amber Kay, 12, lost 11lbs in her first week at the camp. She blames the growing levels of obesity on bullying.

"If you have problems you can comfort eat, and get overweight."

Lucy Smith, 14, who lost 10lbs in a week, blames the easy availability of fast food.

"There are more options than ever before, and school dinners seem to be fattier."

Camp trainer Paul Gately blames television for much of the problem.

"TV watching has a massive impact on these kids. Not only is TV watching a sedentary activity, but kids are bombarded with advertisements."

Bob Townsend, 13, agrees. He says he has become very aware at special offers aimed specifically at children.

"You see kids starting to eat more and more, and as they get older getting bigger and bigger.

"But you see adverts saying 'supersize only 30p more', and you think 'what a bargain, might as well get it'.

"But it is not doing you any favours putting on more weight."

Expert meeting

Obesity experts are meeting on Tuesday in Bristol to discuss the problem of childhood obesity.

Dr Laurel Edmunds, of Oxford University, said there was no simple solution, and the problems were getting worse and worse.

She said type 2 diabetes, commonly associated with middle age, was now being seen among children.

"This is really worrying. The country cannot afford an epidemic of type 2 diabetes."

She said it was a serious concern that children would die before their parents.

"Our whole society is becoming more geared up to making everybody overweight.

"The lack of physical activity in everybody, but particularly our children is a real concern, and a real future health risk."

Dr Edmunds said part of the problem might be linked to parents' reluctance to talk to young girls about weight for fear of increasing the risk of eating disorders.

"It is a huge concern for parents. They would much rather have a plump child than one that is anorexic or bulimic, so they tend to do nothing, they don't even talk to their children about weight until their child insists on it being discussed."

Later life

Dr John Reilly, from the University of Glasgow, told the conference obese children were now much more likely to remain overweight as they went through adulthood, than they were 20 years ago.

He said: "It is a fairly common perception among families and health professionals that it (childhood obesity) does not matter that much.

"But childhood obesity does matter. It has adverse health implications both in the short term and the long term.

"We will get a lot more long standing obesity than we have ever had previously - and that is a lot more dangerous."

See also:

17 Sep 02 | UK
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