Nation’s First Therapeutic Boarding School for Overweight Teens, Academy of the Sierras, Announces Initial Student Weight Loss Results

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Weight losses at therapeutic boarding school for overweight teens are unprecedented in history of treatment for childhood obesity

Aspen Education Group today announced initial weight loss outcomes for students attending the first semester at Academy of the Sierras, the nation’s first residential treatment program and boarding school for adolescent and childhood obesity. For the 14 students who attended at least 9 weeks of the September – December 2004 semester, the average total weight loss was 55 pounds, or 4 pounds per week. 93 percent of students lost more than 30 pounds each over the three-month period.

Such weight loss is unprecedented in the history of treatment for adolescent and childhood obesity.

“On a national level, clinic-based professional weight loss programs for adolescents have typically achieved average weight losses in the range of 1-4 pounds per month,” said Daniel S. Kirschenbaum, Ph.D., Clinical Director of Academy of the Sierras and a Professor at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. “Students at Academy of the Sierras were able to achieve far better weight loss results by being in a controlled and supportive environment that is helping them develop self-regulating skills. Their accomplishments were facilitated by a team of behavioral clinicians, nutritionists, educators, personal trainers, residential counselors and medical professionals.”

In overweight children’s normal environments, their own biological resistance to weight loss, ingrained lifestyle behaviors, peer pressure and cultural influences combine to make successful weight loss very difficult to achieve or maintain. “But an environment that promotes the development of super-normal healthy habits – such as self-monitoring, goal setting; problem solving and stress management – for an extended period of time gives overweight teens the opportunity to dramatically reduce their weight, improve their fitness, improve their moods and feelings of self-worth, and develop the skills to sustain lifelong mastery of weight control,” Dr. Kirschenbaum said. “We also work very closely with families and have an elaborate after-care plan to help students handle the transition back home successfully.”

In addition to their weight loss achievements, all students at the Academy recorded outstanding improvements in fitness, as measured against baseline conditioning tests. Students achieved improvements through walking and exercise programs that averaged approximately 15,000 steps per day, recorded on pedometers. This exceeds the 10,000 steps per day targeted in clinic-based professional weight loss programs, and is associated with excellent long-term outcomes. Measures of strength also revealed favorable changes. Students also demonstrated an average improvement of 40 percent in upper body strength over the first semester.

“We are very excited about our early results at Academy of the Sierras,” said Elliot Sainer, CEO of Aspen Education Group. “The weight losses are remarkable, but the behavioral changes we are seeing are equally impressive.”

For example, over the two-week Christmas break at their homes, 69 percent of students actually lost weight, a key indicator of behavioral change given the students’ histories of consistent weight gain over the holiday season.    

Academy of the Sierras employs lifestyle management training that includes cognitive-behavioral therapy and coaching, an extensive activities program, personal training sessions, educational classes and peer interaction.

According to Ryan Craig, President of the Healthy Living Academies division of Aspen Education Group and Executive Director of Academy of the Sierras, the first semester’s success will provide critical motivation that will help the students continue to master the behaviors necessary for maintaining healthy weight over the long-term. “Through intensive training and cognitive-behavioral therapy, we expect to see equally impressive results for maintaining or continuing the weight loss after these students graduate,” Craig said.

Academy of the Sierras, located in Fresno, California, is the nation’s first year-round residential treatment program and therapeutic boarding school for obese and overweight adolescents. The program accepts boys and girls ages 13-18 who are at least 30 pounds overweight and who have been struggling with weight or obesity for at least two years. For more information on Academy of the Sierras, visit http://www.academyofthesierras.com or call admissions at (866) 364-0808.

Academy of the Sierras is part of Aspen’s Healthy Living Academies, a division devoted to the establishment of boarding schools and summer camps to address the teen obesity crisis in America. The Healthy Living Academies advisory board consists of international experts in pediatric and adolescent obesity. To learn more, visit http://www.healthylivingacademies.com.

Aspen Education Group is the nation’s leader in providing educational opportunities that improve the quality of life for troubled children, teens and young adults and their families. Through Aspen’s 30 programs in 11 states, parents can choose from long-term residential treatment to community-based outpatient services, with a variety of therapeutic interventions that include boarding schools, special education day schools, outdoor therapy and wilderness programs. AEG was named among the top 100 education companies for the last two years by Eduventures, a leading independent research firm dedicated to learning markets.

For information about Aspen’s other therapeutic schools and programs, visit http://www.aspeneducation.com or call (888) 972-7736.

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