Fat farms are weight loss retreats/spas that put participants through rigorous fitness regimens in order to lose weight rapidly. They work by combining boot camp-style fitness with starvation-level nutrition and use controversial treatments such as colonics. These farms originally catered to wealthy women, often celebrities, who wanted to lose weight quickly for a movie role or for an event such as a wedding. Over time, the trend filtered down to the upper and middle classes of women who could both afford the high-priced retreats and had the time to devote to them. Fat farms provided short-term weight loss, but upon returning to one’s regular lifestyle, weight was often regained. By the 1970s, fat farms were no longer as popular due to an increasing focus on healthy diets and long-term weight management rather than rapid weight loss.
Similarly, in the ’60s and ’70s, children’s fat camps began to be popular. Since the 1920s, society began to focus more on beauty than on health. Young girls wanted to become fashionably thin and were frequent fat campers. Like fat farms for adults, these camps had very restrictive diets. With the emergence of second wave feminism, fat camps became less popular. Mothers and other women who were influential in children’s lives began encouraging girls to focus on what they could do with their lives rather than on how they looked. Additionally, like fat farms, most campers quickly regained the weight when they returned to their everyday lives.
Today’s fat camps and the more appropriately named weight loss spas focus more on teaching young people and adults healthy life habits that promote weight loss and healthy weight management. These healthy life habits include a more scientific approach to eating in which one focuses on the body’s needs and combines healthy eating with a more active lifestyle.