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Fatpacking: A Modern "Fat Camp' to Help Participants Lose Weight and Get Fit While on Vacation

Travelers Today       By    Karen Fredrickson

Updated: Aug 15, 2013 07:17 PM EDT

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There is a new type of fitness travel vacation, known a "fitpacking," which aims to help travelers kick start a healthy lifestyle, according to Frommers. 

Fitpacking is an alternative to the old-fashioned idea of the less-polite concept of a fat farm, where travelers go on backpacking tours to some of the most beautiful areas of nature in North America. The trips last from one to two weeks, and maintain a vigorous itinerary that leads most participants to lose inches and pounds without having to maintain a traditional weight loss diet.

"I used to have a corporate job," Steve Silberberg, the founder of Fitpacking, told Frommers. "I was about 25 pounds overweight then.

"I was always into backpacking and when I went on vacation, I noticed that afterwards my clothes fit better and I felt a whole lot better," he continued.

Siberberg decided to take the idea of high activity travel, and turn it into a company. In 2005, he started taking novice backpackers on trips to help them lose weight. Each trip begins and ends with a tape measure and a body fat evaluation.

"If you're going to claim that people are going to lose weight, I feel it's important to demonstrate that," Silberberg said. On average, the participants lose several inches and approximately five pounds of fat in a week. This may differ from their overall weight loss as travelers may add muscle mass due to the activity.

Tours come in many variations, but usually involve about eight to 10 hours of hiking a day, with travelers carrying about 40 pounds on their backs.

"Two week trips are better than one, and not just because you'll lose more weight," Silberberg said. "If you've never backpacked, it can be a shock to the system putting 40 pounds of weight on your back.

By the fourth day, most have overcome that hurdle and are able to enjoy themselves more," he continued.

Silberberg recommended people planning to participate in a tour begin a walking regimen before the tour departure. Then they'll feel more comfortable when they start walking in the wilderness.

Most participants are between 25 and 60 pounds overweight. The group is generally sympathetic to those who may be struggling. The guides are able to help with the medical problems that inevitably arise with new hikers, such as blisters and other common problems. They all have multiple certifications in wilderness and CPR skills.

Meals are included in the tour and will vary on a daily basis.

"Our philosophy is that calories are calories, and when you're carrying 40 pounds a day on your back, you need to give your body enough calories," Silberberg said. "That doesn't mean we fill our packs with M&Ms, though.

"Instead, we take food that's lightweight, won't spoil, and is healthy and tasty," he continued. "So you might have vegetable stir-fry at night or lunch of hummus."

Silberberg also stresses that the hiking tour don't address the psychological aspects of weight gain.

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