What are weight loss camps really about? What are some of the unhealthy lessons that they promote? How can we build awareness about their effects on women? In this podcast episode, Dr. Castagnini interviews a group of women about their experiences at weight loss camps.


Esther Tambe is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist based in Long Island, NY. She received her Master’s degree in Nutrition with a concentration in Exercise Science from Long Island University. She also received her bachelor’s degrees in Nutrition from Long Island University and Health Science-Public Health from Stony Brook University.
Esther has spent her career working in underserved communities providing nutrition education and counseling to individuals with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and HIV/AIDS.
Visit Esther's website and connect on Instagram.


  • An important reminder
  • Experiences at weight loss camp
  • The dangers of weight loss camp
  • Relationships with family members

An important reminder

It is important to remember that weight and health are not the same thing and should not be equated.
Unfortunately we live in a very fatphobic society whereby somehow health is determined by one thing, thinness. And again … the bottom line is that weight and health are not correlated. (Dr. Castagnini)
You simply cannot look at someone and make a claim about how healthy their body is. It is impossible because health comes in many shapes and sizes. The diet and a large part of the medical industry want you to believe that health looks a certain way because it makes them money to sell you products that are designed to fail.

Experiences at weight loss camp

When the guests were children, they started going to weight loss camps between the ages of 9 and 15.
“The whole concept of fat camp or weight loss camp was not something that I was comfortable with and it had been a topic in my family that was hard to hear.” (Guest)
Whilst many of the ideologies around weight loss camps were unhealthy, a number of the women who attended developed a sense of community. For many, the experience was polarising, where they enjoyed the friendships that they made there, but the actual reason for being there was wrong.
“It does expose you to a binge-restrictive cycle…but in reality, the environment wasn’t realistic.” (guest)
Most decisions in the camp were based on reinforcing restrictions. Often, this came about through a schedule of rigorous exercise and calorie counting. This created a dangerous psychological environment because weight loss was validated and praised by the people who ran the camp.

The dangers of weight loss camp

Several of the habits and characteristics of their eating disorders were developed at weight loss camps.
“I remember hearing this one girl, she was sitting out from exercise because she had taken too many laxatives, and I was nine, so I didn’t know what laxatives where. And then, that just put this weird little curiosity in my head… and I started using them, and I was 11.” (guest)
The camp enforced an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise by first encouraging girls to exercise, then doing a weigh-in, and finally, by skipping the subsequent meal.
“So that just set up the pattern of “hey, if I skip a meal, I’ll be thinner”. (guest)

Relationships with family members

For many of the girls, there was an expectation to please their parents by coming home thinner. The focus was more on their bodies than on how they felt about themselves. However, the camps themselves employed false marketing by appearing to be about health and nutritional education. Usually, though, the camp counselors were often underqualified and promoted unhealthy and damaging information.
“No credentials, just they’ve maybe read a book, maybe they went online… teaching impressionable children about nutrition.” (guest)
Whilst parents believed that the amount of money they paid guaranteed their children would be well looked after, in reality, there was a lack of transparency around what actually happened at the camps.



  I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "Hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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