Edited by Corinna Egge and Alexandra Ruiz

Camp Shane’s very own former Georgia camper, Brooke, 17, is featured in this month’s issue of Seventeen for her weight loss journey! Brooke, a three time camper at Camp Shane Georgia, was originally dreading having to spend her summer at ‘fat camp’. However, she’s not only dropped over 80 pounds, but has gained confidence and a love for working out over her summers at Camp Shane. Read her story from Seventeen magazine below!

[The following is directly excerpted from Seventeen Magazine]

“My Mom Made Me Go To Fat Camp”

“Brooke, 17, couldn’t wait for a chill summer with her friends. But after she was diagnosed as obese, reality set in.” AS TOLD TO ANDREA STANLEY

Brooke: Three years ago, as my freshman year in high school was ending, all I could think about was my upcoming freedom. I had become friends with one of the “cool” upperclassman girls, and I couldn’t wait to hang out with her. We had all of these summer goals: relax at the beach, go to the movies, just have fun. But that never happened.

One day after school, my mom sat me down, made me watch a video for a place called Camp Shane, and told me I was going there. Not only was it more than six hours away from my home in Savannah, Georgia, but it was also a weight-loss camp for kids. I was going to fat camp. It seemed like I was being sent away because I didn’t look good enough, and it was heartbreaking. I remember thinking, ‘All of my friends are going to forget about me.’ I shut down and went into denial, thinking my mom wouldn’t really make me go.

The “F” Word

I started gaining weight around fifth grade. My parents were going through a divorce, and we began moving around. That was tough for me. It took a while to meet new friends, so I was bored a lot, but I did have food to keep me busy. I didn’t even care what it was – I ate everything.Feature Friday Brooke before pic

My mom noticed I was getting bigger and would take away my phone if she caught me sneaking food. She’d tell me to exercise and to take a walk, and I would – right to the store for chocolate and honey buns. I never thought of myself as “the fat girl”. But I didn’t think enough of myself to believe I had the option to be anything other than what I was. I’d say, I’m just Brooke; there’s nothing special about me. I wasn’t being honest with myself about how unhealthy and unhappy I was. At school, where I was “the nice girl,” people rarely brought up my weight because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. But one day during freshman year, after a pair of pants I’d squeezed into tore in the middle of math class, some kids pointed it out. They didn’t make it into a big thing, but I was mortified.

A couple of months after that, I went for a checkup and found out I was 220 pounds. The doctor told me I was obese and at risk for diabetes. My self-worth was so low, I was like, ‘Whatever’. But my mom was worried and decided to send me away for help.

For weeks, I pretended it wasn’t happening. When I told a couple of my friends, they were sad we wouldn’t be able to spend the summer together. As the first day of camp got closer, I tried everything to change my mom’s mind. I said I was sick; promised to go on a diet; complained I didn’t have anything to pack; gave her the silent treatment. Then I got angry and said hurtful things in hopes of making her feel so guilty she’d let me stay home. Nothing worked. It sounds dramatic, but if felt as if my life was over. Little did I know, it was just the beginning.

A Big Change

Walking into camp was terrifying. I’d never been away from home before. I wanted to hate it, but right away, I thought,  ‘This isn’t that bad’. The counselors were nice, and it felt comforting to see other people who looked like me.

I spend most days playing various sports and working out. And the food was pretty good – there was even angel food cake! Still, the first few weeks were hard. We got on a scale every week, and sometimes I wouldn’t lose any weight, which was frustrating. But when I started to see muscles appear, it felt so good. I realized this wasn’t about what I was losing – it was about what I was gaining: strength. I also discovered I love to dance – and eat vegetables! I became a runner, made amazing friends, and even met a cute boy.

My mom hand planned for me to be at camp for only four weeks, but I liked it Feature Friday Brooke w famso much, she let me stay for six. When I got home, my family couldn’t believe how much I had changed. I’d lost 20 pounds, and not only were all my old clothes super-baggy, but I also was happier and more confident. Back at school, people had questions: Was it like The Biggest Loser? Was I only allowed to eat vegetables? Meanwhile, guys started hitting on me. It kind of made me mad – I was invisible to you before, but now I’m worth looking at? Now it was my time to ignore them.

That summer changed everything for me. I’ve gone back to Camp Shane every year since – that’s all I’d want for my birthday and Christmas gifts. Today I’m down to 145 pounds. I love being active, and I’ve learned to cook. I just graduated from high school and plan to major in exercise science at Columbus State University. I thought I was being sent away to change my appearance, but it wasn’t about that. It was about learning to value myself, take care of my body, and be comfortable in my own skin. And that’s beautiful.”

The Camp Shane Team

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