Most people think of diet boot camps as a crash course in weight loss involving a week of intense food deprivation and hard slog in the great outdoors.
However, there are many different types of weight loss boot camps – from outdoor boot camps which put dieters through physical endurance tests, as well as re-educating palates – to bikini boot camps to help you shift stubborn love handles ready for summer.
Boot camps are usually based on military exercise regimes which have been adapted to help people achieve maximum fitness in as short a time as possible. The best boot camps also help the dieter understand their eating patterns and habits – including why they may have let their eating get out-of-control.
There are many reasons why people put on weight, from following a more sedentary lifestyle to post-pregnancy pounds, or even after experiencing a trauma which leads to comfort eating. This in itself can lead to mixed feelings of being comforted, while also experiencing self-loathing or intense disappointment at being unable to resist eating your favourite treats.
Boot camps do not specifically tackle eating disorders, however, as these can be complex and may result from longstanding issues.
Boot camps aim to retrain eating habits and kick start an exercise regime within the space of around 5-7 days, with the emphasis on visible results and weight loss.
Putting on weight can act as a form of disguise to mask the real you, perhaps as result of lack of confidence or a fear of being noticed. This may seem a contradiction – but enveloping yourself in a generous outer skin can protect that insecure person inside, who may wish to simply disappear into a comfortable shell.
Weight gain can prompt a cycle of comfort eating and yo-yo dieting which ultimately may have a detrimental effect on health as well as happiness.
Exercise is an important part of dieting – and the regime involving team work established at weight loss boot camps can help inspire dieters to keep up the good work when they leave.
Exercise is also very important for boosting mood – and mood and appetite, as well as energy and even sex drive, are controlled by the same area of the brain, which is known as the hypothalamus.
When we become depressed levels of the happiness chemical serotonin – a neurotransmitter in the brain – also fall and a cycle of depression can develop, as the more down we feel, the less serotonin is produced. This can mean we are tempted to binge eat to try and make ourselves feel better.
Certain types of food act as natural antidepressants and at diet boot camps healthy eating as well as exercise can boost mood and help dieters feel better about themselves. Food which acts as a natural antidepressant contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which boosts serotonin production.
Different types of food containing tryptophan include turkey, dark cherries and 70% cocoa dark chocolate.
Exercise at a diet boot camp will also boost blood flow to the brain – and this again helps improve mood through increasing oxygen supply to the brain and other vital organs.
It is therefore easy to see how sitting on the sofa munching through a packet of chocolate biscuits or a family bag of crisps can not only make you fatter – but also feel more depressed, setting up a vicious cycle of behaviour; as the fatter you get, the more sugary, salty, fatty treats you need to feel better and the less exercise you take.
Diet boot camps help break this cycle of behaviour to reintroduce healthy patterns of eating nutritious food, as well as energising dieters and boosting their mood.
The support of fellow dieters at boot camp can also be crucial – and firm friendships can be made as you encourage each other to lose fat and get fit together.
Diet boot camps are by nature residential – and for some dieters organising a break may in itself seem like a steep hill to climb.
But breaking the habits you have formed which are adding to your weight and making you potentially unhealthy as well as unhappy, is important.
Just as a holiday can inspire you to change your life, a diet boot camp is a tried and tested way of targeting specific patterns of behaviour – your eating and exercise patterns – and changing these around into much healthier regimes.
Illnesses and disease which are known to be diet- and weight-related include type-2 diabetes, cancer, stroke, heart disease, vascular disorders (eg DVT), arthritis, osteoporosis, weakening of the joints (requiring hip or knee replacement), allergies, asthma and irritable bowel syndrome, to name just a few.
By changing your diet, you not only lose weight, you also can regain your love of life.
If you have a history of compulsive eating, weight increase or yo-yo dieting, booking into a diet boot camp can be the first step to finding the real you hidden inside that comfortable blanket of extra weight.