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Bringing Healthy Camp Habits Home!

By Dr. Jim “Bones” Sears

For two weeks each summer I work as the camp doctor at Gold Arrow Camp. 2017 will be my 13th summer at GAC and I look forward to it every year. My kids attend as campers, and they have a blast!

boys-cabin-1289I’m always amazed at how good I feel after two weeks up in the mountains! For one thing, I’m always moving. Each morning, I get up a bit early and go for a 30-minute hike. this really gets the heart pumping and is a great way to start the day! The rest of the day, I’m walking all over camp with all the campers going from activity to activity. Sometimes I take an extra trip from the lake up to the nurses’s building to take care of a bump or a bruise, but the whole day everyone is moving. When I get back home it doesn’t have to mean a return to the typical sedentary American lifestyle. There’s no reason why we can’t all wake up 30 minutes early and go for a walk or a jog before starting the day. We can walk or bike to school or work (I actually do ride my bike to work). We can walk to lunch – that’s actually one of the more refreshing things I do. I walk about 5 blocks to one of my favorite Asian restaurants. Taking a walk after dinner is also a great way to keep moving and it usually leads to some good family conversations. I bet you can think of a dozen more ways to keep moving!

olc-0300Aside from constantly moving, another reason we feel so good is how we eat, or more specifically, what we DON’T eat. We don’t snack on junk! We have three healthy meals complete with lots of fruits and veggies, but the absence of junk snacks in-between meals is saving us several hundred calories a day. And it’s not just the calories that matter, it’s the fact that most of the snacks at home are empty junk calories like chips, cookies, or sweets! At camp, the kids are snacking on apples, oranges, or raisins. Take the junk away (even at home) and I guarantee that you will start to feel better. What?!? No snacks?!? It’s funny, but my kids and I don’t even miss it. We’re usually too busy having fun to notice that we’re even a little hungry. It’s interesting that it seems the moment I stop moving and start lounging, that’s when I get the cravings to snack!

bears-adverture-2633One of the other things that I absolutely LOVE about being up at camp is the “no electronics” rule. For 2 weeks, all the campers have no cell phones, no texting, no Wii, no Playstation, no Xbox, no facebook, not even TV! Nothing but nature, and each other. Imagine trying that at home. How much would your kids complain if you told them no TV or video games for the next two weeks? You would have a mutiny on your hands! But up at camp , no one complains, and they have fun…TONS of fun without all that. Apart from all the camp activities (canoeing, biking, sailing etc), even in their leisure time they play games, sing songs, run around and have a blast, without any electronics. The benefits of relating to each other instead of a screen are amazing! It gives some very overused parts of your brain a little time off…and awakens some of the neglected parts. Of course, you don’t have to be at camp to unplug your kids. Every few months, usually on a weekend, I’ll just let the kids know that we’re going unplugged for a day. WHAT?!?! was their response the first time I tried this, but they quickly found other ways to have fun. They invited friends over and rode bikes, played capture the flag, went on a “treasure hunt”, and constructed a fort. When was the last time your family sat around the kitchen table and played cards, told stories, looked at old photos…or did anything that didn’t involve TV or video games?

Try it! You’ll be amazed at how much your imagination can develop and how much fun you can have as a family using each other as entertainment!

sup-0861For my kids (and myself for that matter), the time at camp is the best two weeks of the year. It is the perfect time to give our bodies and brains a much needed vacation from all the stress, technology, lack of movement, and processed foods that are normally a big part of the typical American life. It’s a time to recharge, relax, and remember what it feels like to be in optimum health. It gives me a great goal as to how I should feel all year round. 

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Dr. Jim “Bones” Sears is a pediatrician in southern California when he isn’t sailing and mountain biking at GAC.