Wellspring Academies Success Stories
Our alumni are extraordinary individuals who made the choice to face their challenges and adopt a new, healthy lifestyle. In reading their stories, you may find similarities with your own story, or that of a loved one. Students arrive at Wellspring with much in common—a shared history of struggling with weight and the need to change some major parts of their lifestyle. But they leave with even more in common, including many pounds lost, a renewed confidence in their abilities, and a lifelong dedication to their own wellness.
Below are the success stories of a number of Wellspring Academies Alumni, many of whom were profiled in book, The Sierras Solution. We welcome you to spend some time getting to know them and the unique situation that brought each to Wellspring.
You can read about Wellspring Academies from parents' perspective by visiting Wellspring Academies Parent Reviews. We're also happy to connect you with Wellspring alumni so that you can ask questions and hear their stories directly. Just give us a call at 866.277.0221 and we'll arrange for you to speak with alumni in your area.
- TANISHA M. did NOT want to attend Wellspring at first…
- JESSE G. chose Wellspring instead of bariatric surgery…
- JUEL K. was in denial about her weight…
- DANIEL B. was struggling in high school and had fallen behind…
- HILLARY K.'s weight became a problem in middle school…
- TERRY H. came into the world bigger than most…
- LAUREN S. agreed to attend Wellspring after a particularly tough year…
- ALISON S. remembers always being chubbier than everyone else…
- ANNYA M. began getting teased in 3rd grade, the same time she developed sleep apnea…
- DAN K. arrived at Wellspring hopelessly depressed…
- HENRY E. had tried Weight Watchers, the South Beach Diet and Atkins…
- LAUREN E. was always very big for her age and used her size to excel in sports…
- LAWRENCE M. was socially isolated and his grades began declining…
- TAMARA B. began to wear boys' clothes to hide her body…
- THERESA G. never realized how negatively she felt about herself…
- JILL R. ate to deal with feelings of helplessness…
- JOSH S. expressed anger and frustration by underperforming in school and overeating…
- BECCA M.'s weight had a negative effect on her confidence from a very young age…
Tanisha M. lost 280 lbs. (so far!) at Wellspring
At first, Tanisha was extremely resistant to the idea of attending Wellspring. But at 17 years old and 510 pounds, Tanisha's parents knew that they needed to take action or risk losing their daughter.
"My parents decided that I needed to go to Wellspring. I did not agree. I did not want to leave home, and more than that, I did not want to think about my weight. It was only once I actually got to the Academy that I realized how much I needed it. I started to see results and that made me want to give the program 110% of my energy."
"I think that Wellspring worked for me because I gave it so much effort. This program for me is all about self-awareness and taking responsibility for my own actions. My whole outlook on life has changed because of Wellspring. I am more confident, comfortable, and actually excited about the future."
Jesse G. lost 76 lbs. at Wellspring and an additional 30 lbs. at home
Obesity runs in the Guth family, so dad, Freddy, and mother, Audry, have always been aware of what they ate and how much they exercised, although making sure their youngest son Jesse followed suit was not always so easy. While the food in the house was nutritious, Jesse was eating compulsively, hiding junk food in the house and eating fast food outside the house. At 15 years old and 5'11", his weight had ballooned to 321 lbs.
Through his parents prodding, Jesse had tried nearly every type of diet and special program available. Jesse's mother, Audry, commented, "It was threats, it was bribes, it was scare tactics. Nothing worked. We were nagging instead of letting him take responsibility for his own weight." The day Jesse's therapist recommended bariatric surgery, Jesse's parents "freaked out", and decided to contact Wellspring Academies.
When information from Wellspring arrived, Jesse ripped the package to shreds. "I kept telling myself that I did not need help and I could do this on my own." But when his weight exceeded 320 lbs, he was ready for help, "I finally accepted the fact that without a supportive environment like Wellspring, I could not do this. I rushed into my mother's bedroom and told her that I was ready."
Like many students upon arrival, Jesse was scared – scared to be living away from home, scared to meet new people, and scared to make the necessary behavioral changes for long-term weight management. Once he lost a few pounds, his attitude changed. He took responsibility for his weight and took control of the situation. "I think one of the keys to success of the program is that they don't spoon-feed you everything. The kids had to learn and own it," said Audry. Jesse certainly learned the keys to success, dropping 76 lbs. in less than 7 months at Wellspring Academies.
While Jesse achieved remarkable results while at Wellspring Academies, his continued commitment to a healthy lifestyle led to an additional weight loss of nearly 30 lbs at home. His parents certainly have noticed not only a physical change in Jesse, with his total weight loss in excess of 100 lbs, but they also noticed improved self-esteem and self-confidence. Stated Audry, "It's a huge accomplishment. Anybody who has tried to lose five pounds knows how difficult it is to be able to lose 100. It's incredible. He's happier and more social." Most importantly, Jesse is proud of himself and intends to "maintain his healthy lifestyle forever. I am now in control of myself and I have the confidence to fight through any obstacles that may stand in my way. I will never be that way again."
Juel K. lost over 100 lbs. at Wellspring
Juel was living a lifestyle that she knew was unhealthy. Negatively influenced by her friends, she was underperforming at school and rapidly gaining weight. At 5'6" tall and 282 pounds by age 16, she had avoided facing the truth about her weight, and was surprised when her parents approached her about bariatric surgery.
The day Juel's parents told her they were considering lap band surgery for her, she felt surprised and hurt. She had avoided weighing herself for some time, but an honest look in the mirror let her know that her avoidance had resulted in substantial additional weight. She knew that the weight gain was one of many areas of her life that were troubling her. "I was not in a good place. I was doing things with friends I was not proud of and avoiding things, like school, in which I knew I could do better."
Faced with the possibility of surgical intervention, Juel realized that she needed to get serious about her health. But she wanted to make changes that would last. "I wanted to earn my changes. And plus, I knew getting lap band would only change my weight—it wouldn't help me with the other things I knew in my heart I needed to work on." When she and her family found Wellspring Academies, she felt that this was her chance to lose weight and make lifestyle changes that would improve all areas of her life.
When Juel arrived at Wellspring Academy of California in January 2008, she was ready. "I was afraid I was going to screw up my life. I was ready to make changes at Wellspring." Juel knew that Wellspring is where she wanted to be and was determined to find success at the Academy. She committed to following the Wellspring Plan and started seeing and feeling results immediately.
In fewer than 7 months, Juel lost nearly 100 pounds at Wellspring. But she says that what she's gained in her life is even more important. Her friends at Wellspring understand what she's been through and support her new healthy lifestyle. She's distanced herself from the people who encouraged her negative behaviors in the past and knows that her new friendships will last a lifetime. And most importantly: "I'm much happier, more relaxed, more mature, and more self-confident."
Looking ahead, Juel sees continued weight loss and continued dedication to her new lifestyle. Having previously struggled in school, she now takes pride in her (almost!) straight-A report card. She's proud of her weight loss, and even more so of the many changes it represents. "It's not just the outside I'm proud of. I'm a totally different person on the inside."
DANIEL B. maintained 133 lbs. of weight loss 2 years after leaving Wellspring
Daniel was struggling in high school and had fallen behind when he came to Wellspring Academy. He was almost a full year behind his grade level academically, despite substantial intellectual gifts and great potential as a leader. He was also quite depressed.
During his 9 months at Wellspring, Daniel completed two academic years of study in 9 months, lost 145 lbs, dramatically changed his emotional functioning, and went on to study architecture at Arizona State University.
He was chosen by his peers to give a speech at the Wellspring transition ceremony on June 5, 2005. (We use the term "transition" because no one ever "graduates" from weight control.). Below is part of his speech:
I came to Wellspring under the impression that I would lose a little weight and then go home back to my old ways with no changes, but what I was confronted with has changed my life for the better.
I came here full of ignorance; I honestly thought that I didn't have any problems. But thanks to this wonderful cluster of comrades I have obtained an entirely new view on life. I had a lot of problems when I first came here. I couldn't control my anger, and would become enraged at the drop of a hat.
The worst was probably my depression, which caused me to deem things as boring when they used to be fun; it got so bad that I lost interest in things that I used to enjoy. I came here with every intention of failure, but not a single person here ever gave up on me, even when I gave up on myself.
Thanks to the staff and students at this school, my entire lifestyle was revamped for the better.
In short, this school has made me come to terms with myself and who I really am. Thank you for making me become myself and not giving up on the one who didn't even believe in himself. I can't express how grateful I am to have been here; not only for the changes I have seen in myself but for the changes I have seen in others.
I have been converted into the person that I really am, and don't think there will ever be any way for me to repay this community. Thank you for this chance that I didn't even want or suspect, because it has made me a better person, and there is not a gift I could ever give to show how much this matters to me.
HILLARY K. lost 60 lbs. in 5 months at Wellspring Academies.
Hillary is a creative and musical young woman who grew up in South Carolina around supportive friends and family. Her weight became a problem in middle school. She tried many diets and attended group meetings and a traditional weight loss camp. Nothing worked. When her mother nagged her not to eat something, Hillary responded by binging and getting upset. When she hit early adolescence, she continued to gain more weight, and eventually attempted to commit suicide.
Hillary agreed to attend Wellspring reluctantly and did not embrace the program at first. She was reeling from the transition to a new environment and coming to terms with the body she had abused over the past few years. In time, Hillary found herself opening up and being "herself." Her confidence improved, no longer relying on being the "funny fat chick" to gain friendships.
Hillary is a talented singer/songwriter and often treated Wellspring to her songs. One of her songs goes like this:
It had been a long time since I could say I was healthy, and happy.
I haven't felt that way in years.
I was always a chubby child.
I was that blue-green-eyed girl with blonde ringlets, rosy cheeks and a smile.
Tragedy broke me, beat me, and eventually made me stronger.
When I am overwhelmed I swim through it, the past left behind me.
Here's how Hillary describes her experience a year after transitioning home:
I got really depressed my sophomore year of high school and I think that's when I gained a lot of the weight. I didn't really realize how much weight I had gained until the end of my junior year – about when I decided to go to Wellspring. I had great friends and nobody saw me as this huge chick, but I kind of was.
When I got depressed, I stopped caring about what I ate. I wasn't really that active and I had these two friends who would always call me fat and make fun of me for being Jewish.
I'm so much more confident after losing 60 pounds and keeping it off for a year; that's for sure. I appreciate myself more and I see who my real friends are, too. Then there is the strange difference in how people treat a person once they've lost that much weight. A lot of the school used to think of me like the comic relief fat chick or something like that. They didn't really look at me as a person. When I came home from Wellspring, it's like people are checking me out. People are hearing me out and it's just a different, a whole different environment.
TERRY H. lost 305 lbs. in 16 months
Terry came into the world bigger than most; he was over 10 lbs at birth. This continued into his school-age years. He painfully recalled how he had to wait for a custodian to bring a high school desk to his 5th grade classroom before he could sit with the rest of his class. In time, other kids would torment Terry. Terry would defend himself by using his size and anger to make others afraid of him.
Terry's self-esteem plummeted through experiences of rejection from girls and even from the football team because he was so heavy. He moved several times and did not have a chance to make friends. He only survived by intimidating others so that they would stay away from him.
Then, at the age of 11, his father was sent to prison. Terry felt he was supposed to assume the task of becoming the "man of the house," an unrealistic expectation that only further contributed to his failing self-esteem.
In a few short years Terry weighed over 500 lbs. He continued to feel angry, depressed and hopeless. Eating excessively became a means of escape and his weight escalated to nearly 600 lbs, making him one of the heaviest human beings in the world, and perhaps the heaviest for his age.
Terry tried several weight loss programs without success. When he arrived at Wellspring, he was in denial about his physical limitations, telling the Directors he loved street hockey and had played it "all day" frequently over the summer. At the same time, Terry couldn't walk from the dorm to the dining hall without stopping to catch his breath. When Terry was asked to do his first timed mile, it took him almost 30 minutes, and he had to be picked up by a van at the end.
At first, Terry didn't believe Wellspring would work for him because he had tried and failed so many times. It was only the rapidly falling numbers on the scale during his weekly weigh-ins that convinced him it might actually work.
Terry began to open up and face his past and the emotional hurt and frustration from out-of-control weight gain. He engaged more fully in the program and was soon able to walk a mile in 13 minutes. By the end of his enrollment, he achieved his personal goal of running the mile in less than 9 minutes.
For Terry, the honesty in the Wellspring Program was invaluable. He had lived in denial about his eating and his physical capabilities for much of his young life.
Here is how Terry characterizes his experience:
The first day of pre-kindergarten was when the tormenting started. A little girl with red hair and freckles came up to me and said to my face, ‘You're fat!' At first I would dismiss this and say that they didn't know what they were talking about. I was pretty big, about twice the size of my classmates. Becoming a teenager was even harder. All I wanted was acceptance. I never really was accepted, so I made everyone afraid of me. My life was on a downward spiral of doom. I really didn't look forward to the future. I was struggling to get by, day by day.
As I matured and became more independent, I became even more stubborn. There used to be a little flame in my eyes and, as I became older, it slowly faded away, along with my self-esteem. I had a lot of control over what went into me, yet it was always filled with lard. I became a 591 lb. depressed teenager in desperate need of exercise and emotional health. I had expectations of losing weight miraculously. Somehow it didn't turn out the way I planned, like when I tried out for the football team and got rejected for being obese and out of shape.
The most significant change in my life in the present period of time is that now I believe I can do anything, as long as I put my mind to it. I used to believe that I couldn't, but Wellspring has changed my mind, changed the way I think. For that, I am grateful. Three words to describe me today are motivated, positive and strong/confident. I am now motivated toward my goal of losing weight, now that I know I can. I am going to try my best to stay positive through this roller coaster ride. I am still confident and strong willed. I will succeed.
LAUREN S. lost 50 lbs. in 4 months
Lauren grew up in a comfortable home in Southern California. She was overweight from the time she was quite young, joining a Weight Watchers group with her mother when she was 8. She struggled to keep up with her friends in activities and yearned to fit into more fashionable clothes. Her parents continued to encourage her to lose weight, but to Lauren it felt like she was being "hounded."
After a particularly tough year, Lauren agreed to attend Wellspring. She learned that she was going to have to make a substantial effort in order to succeed, and she made the decision to do so, rocketing through the program and winning many accolades.
The following excerpt from her writing shows Lauren's frame of mind near the end of her time at Wellspring :
Over three months ago I walked onto the Wellspring campus, unaware of what I was about to get myself into, and here I am now. Even though I have been through extremely hard times, I am glad I stuck it out. Since day one I did not want to be here. My first night I cried so much I made myself sick and told everyone who would listen that I was going to run away.
Before I got to Wellspring, I was constantly depressed, crying for no reason, staying in my house, and only going out for school and food. I was emotionally drained and damaged by my grandmother's death 9 months earlier, a good friend's suicide 2 months before, a brother going through rehab, and not being happy with myself on top of it all. Leaving home to go to Wellspring, I was miserable. I was more homesick than I thought anyone could be. All I could think about was how much I basically hated this place and I didn't want to admit that I needed to be here.
I put myself to the test and worked through blaming myself for things like my good friend's suicide and my brother ending up in rehab. It wasn't my fault and I knew I had to stop blaming myself. I look back at what I was then compared to what I am now and the only thing that truly explains what I am today is what my BC (her behavioral coach at Wellspring ) told me from day one. I thought of myself as a worthless dirt cloud, when really, after working through all the "dirt" and rough spots, I am starting to see a diamond.
This experience that I was so unsure of facing has ended up being the most life-changing and mind-changing event that will ever happen to me. Working so hard and pushing myself beyond my limits has never paid off so much.
I am committed to staying a long-term weight controller and continuing to use the coping skills I have gained here. Never ever do I want to see again the days of being too upset and unhappy with myself to go to the mall with my friends or being too ashamed to throw on a bathing suit and go for a swim. I like the new me. I like fitting into cute clothes and being able to cope with my emotions that can run everywhere at once, or sneak up out of nowhere.
As my time at Wellspring is coming to an end, I look at how far I have come in utter amazement. Staying here and pushing myself as hard as I could, even through the hard times and the fact that I wanted to go home, have let me prove to myself I can do anything I set my mind to. I will not forget the past. As I turn away and wish it farewell, I promise that my present self will no longer dwell on the past. My future awaits me.
ALISON S. lost 50 lbs. in 5 months
Growing up, Alison remembers always being chubbier than everyone else. She saw herself as a boring person who "just had to get by." She began putting on more weight in middle school. She dreaded parties and other social events because she was so uncomfortable with herself. When her parents brought up her weight she would get angry and defensive, denying that her weight was a problem.
She would say: "I'm comfortable with it; you guys are the ones that are uncomfortable with it."
But, as she remembers, "every time one of my friends (who were half my size) would complain about having to lose weight, every time my family tried to help me diet or exercise and failed, every time that number on the scale rose, I felt worse and worse." She fought with her family constantly and claims she secretly loathed her friends, and slowly, began to hate herself.
She tried losing weight in many different ways, but her successes were only temporary; she gained all the weight back each time. She would often get discouraged and talk herself out of her problem, thinking "Well I'd rather be happy and eat what I want than be unhappy and be skinny all the time."
Throughout childhood, Alison devoted herself to the arts. She particularly loved ballet, and advanced enough to begin pointe (dancing on her toes). She had to be checked out by a doctor to make sure she was strong enough to sustain her weight on her toes. When she went to the doctor he told her that her weight was such that she would crush her feet. Her desire to continue dancing is what pushed her to finally find a solution to her weight.
Six months later, Alison left Wellspring 50 lbs. lighter. She describes herself as a completely changed person, both physically and emotionally. Her relationship with her family has improved greatly; the arguments have disappeared and everyone is enjoying themselves much more.
Three months after enrolling at Wellspring Alison wrote the following:
I didn't realize that it wasn't my weight that made others see me as untouchable. I created the idea that I was a loner when I withdrew from everyone. By middle school I became very cynical. I viewed human beings as cruel creatures who were unable to live with each other and the rest of the world.
I started to slowly hate myself and wished I could just hurry up and die. But I kept up the pretense that I was a happy, normal, good student, who never did anything wrong. I did not want to think about my future, because I didn't want to experience it.
I have made huge changes since coming to Wellspring. I have little or no thoughts about hurting myself or dying because, for once in my life, I am truly happy. Because I'm loving myself for who I am and I am more comfortable with myself,. I am becoming a positive influence.
I would describe myself with these three expressions: truly intelligent; persevering; and motivated. I have finally reached the point of true intelligence because now, not only am I book-smart, I'm life-smart. I am on my way to becoming an Long Term Weight Controller and I know how to keep myself emotionally okay.
ANNYA M. lost 151 lbs. in 9 months
Annya grew up in a small community in California's San Joaquin Valley. She remembers being overweight her entire life. Third grade was when other kids began teasing her and also when she started suffering from sleep apnea - a common, life-threatening respiratory condition in seriously overweight people. Sleep apnea means you literally stop breathing at night, which wakes you up and requires a machine that pumps in oxygen as you sleep.
Annya tried to hide herself from other people as much as possible. Arriving at Wellspring with 407 lbs on her 5'2 frame, she attributed a significant portion of this weight to sedentary behavior as a result of isolating herself, which prevented activity and promoted even more problematic eating. She felt like a freak because of the hurtful stares she experienced whenever she left the house.
During Annya's first enrollment at Wellspring, she lost 150 lbs. She was due to return after a family trip away from campus, but found it challenging to be away from her family. So she opted to return home.
While she continued losing a moderate amount of weight at home, it wasn't as fast as she wanted. So she convinced her parents to send her back to Wellspring again. After her return, she lost another 35 lbs. and is enjoying vastly improved physical health. Her sleep apnea is completely gone and she has cut the amount of time it takes her to walk/run a mile by 50%.
Before learning to control her weight, including gaining confidence in her favorite sport of soccer, Annya turned to the television for company. Now she says television is boring. She walks with her mother almost every morning when she's home and teaches her younger brother to play soccer.
Annya described her journey in this way:
In elementary school I was really shy and didn't hang out with lots of friends. People used to make fun of me about my weight. I started getting heavy around 1st grade. When they made fun of me, I wouldn't protect myself. I was a little fat girl getting heavier and heavier.
At junior high school, kids would sometimes make fun of me behind my back. They would talk about me like they didn't know I was hearing them and I didn't have any feelings.
Lazy, sad, and scared are the words that described me at this time of my life. I was lazy. I didn't want to do anything. I was sad all the time about my weight. I was always scared that I would die at a young age.
The biggest change in my life was coming here to Wellspring. I am so happy to be here.
DAN K. lost 129 lbs. in 9 months
Dan arrived at Wellspring hopelessly depressed and feeling hopeless about the future. Dan internalized a great deal of negativity based on failing experiences and taunting by other kids about his weight and obsessive tendencies. Although he did quite well in school, he was socially isolated – he had few friends and spent most of his time playing video games and reading.
Dan changed dramatically at Wellspring and was not only accepted, but loved by all. From a withdrawn, shy, self-described "ball of misery and hate," he became Seymour Krelboyne, the nerdy but lovable lead in a remarkable production of "Little Shop of Horrors." Dan's numbers were show stoppers as he mesmerized the audience with his amazing singing. The Wellspring community buzzed for months about Dan's performance after the curtain was drawn for the final time.
Here is Dan in his own words:
You see me before you, a happy, healthy young man, excited about life and his future. I wish I could say that this is how it always was, but alas – this is nowhere near reality. Just six short months ago, I was a physical, emotional, and mental wreck.
For as long as I can remember, I've always had a weight problem. Since kindergarten, I would be playing games with friends and finding out (often painfully and embarrassingly) that I couldn't do everything they could. When the older kids would call me names, the others would join in. I found out the hard way that young children don't always understand the meaning of friendship. Being an extremely sensitive individual, I would often cry and scream. An image was forming in my head – one that told me that I was weak, inferior, and worthless.
This image buried itself in my subconscious and fed off of my peers' taunts. In exchange, it gave off insecurity, doubt, and pessimism – pretty much nothing good. Like a beast in waiting, it grew, and grew, and grew, and grew until I believed everything negative about myself that everyone said to me. When it grew large enough, it moved to my conscious mind and started to breed depression.
By 8th grade, I was a pessimistic 287-lb. ball of misery and hate. I hated school; I hated life; but, above all, I hated myself. I wasn't ever happy. I began having thoughts of suicide.
As I entered High School, I was still a 290-lb. wreck – I was not, however, a 290-lb. suicidal wreck. I could feel happy, but these moments were often temporary, quickly overshadowed by depression. Then my mom heard about Wellspring, and a week later I arrived here.
After six months, I can no longer call myself a 290-lb. emotional wreck. Hell, I can't even call myself a wreck! The part of me that wanted to destroy everything is now working to better itself. And though I'm still somewhat insecure and unhappy at times, it's far, far from the old me that would write all over his desk about how much he hated it all.
It has been said that you cannot love others until you love yourself. I know now that this saying is 100% true. For perhaps the first time in my life, I can safely say that I am happy and I love myself. Six short months ago, I never even thought I'd see the day where I could say that honestly.
Not only this, but my physical self has also drastically improved. 103 pounds lighter, I can run, jump, and do things that everyone else can, too (which is so wonderful after all these years of trying). I know now that I am not worthless or inferior, because if I was it would have been impossible for me to have lost all of that weight.
HENRY E. lost 108 lbs. in 6 months
Henry was born in Chicago and raised in Florida by two loving parents. His mother claims that his first word was "more" and he developed a weight problem as a child. Although he struggled with attention-control issues in elementary school, he became an excellent student and later a very skilled tennis player.
To lose weight, Henry tried Weight Watchers, the South Beach Diet, and the Atkins diet. He actually lost 40 lbs on Atkins "but then slowly gained it back, and then gained more." Before arriving at Wellspring , he had given up to the point that he thought it would be best to keep eating a lot so that he could qualify for bariatric surgery.
Henry is now in his sophomore year at Miami University in Ohio.
Shortly before completing his time at Wellspring , Henry wrote the following:
I had been heavy my entire life. In high school, freshman year I was an outcast. I was under the impression that everyone did not like me and that none of my peers wanted anything to do with me. I had friends, but I even doubted that they liked me. I was only 40 lbs overweight, but I was very self-conscious about it. Every day of my life was hell, because I let it be.
I used tennis to cope with my unhappiness and I didn't keep gaining weight because of the tremendous amount of time I put into the game. My eating habits were awful; I ate many thousands of high fat calories a day, but three to four hours a day of tennis prevented continued weight gain.
Before my junior year my tennis coach, who was like a second mother to me, left spontaneously, without warning, never to return. I was crushed and ended up giving up on my tennis. During this time period I began to binge eat. I would generally eat over fifteen thousand calories a day and over a thousand grams of fat a day. I ate as much fat in one day as I would in over fifty days at Wellspring . It was that bad.
By January I weighed over three hundred pounds. That meant that I had gained over sixty pounds in the previous five months and I was scared to death. It was then that I made the decision that would change my life – the decision to come to Wellspring.
I arrived at Wellspring on January 10th, weighing 308 pounds. I came here thinking that I would be miserable. But, in fact, my social life here has been better than anywhere else. I made friends here really easily because we all could relate to each other. I made relationships here that were stronger than I even knew relationships could be.
This school changed my life in so many aspects. This program helped me lose over one hundred pounds and my negative self-view. I came here paranoid about what people thought of me and I will leave knowing that what they think is of no importance to me; what really matters is how I view myself.
If I didn't come to Wellspring, my future would have been very grim. I would, at this point, probably weigh over 400 pounds and would still have all my social inadequacy problems. Basically, I would be on the fast track to a short and miserable life that would be threatened at an early age due to health reasons.
Because of all the change that has occurred, my future looks a lot brighter. I am now almost at my goal weight and have made very significant emotional changes. I am confident in my ability to live a healthy life, to be a long-term weight controller. I also am now confident that when I start my senior year at a new school, I will not only be myself in front of other people, but I will be proud of who I am.
I have changed more in these six months than some people do in a lifetime and for that I am eternally grateful. I am finally content with who and what I am.
LAUREN E. lost 46 lbs. in 4 months
Lauren grew up in Houston as an active child. She was always very big for her age and used her size to excel in sports. She was often ridiculed by other kids. Still, as she became a teenager, she had a close circle of friends and was never depressed about her weight. She was the only child at home and received a lot of positive support from her mother and father.
When her mother raised the possibility of Wellspring, she resisted at first because she didn't want to leave home. Then, she realized how much her weight interfered with her participation in sports and affected her appearance and health. She thought it would be hard, but worth it.
Just a few weeks after arriving at Wellspring, Lauren wrote the following:
I lived in Texas my entire life and I love it. My mom is the most amazing person in my life. She pretty much holds me together. My dad is so supportive and he encourages me to work hard and to do the best for myself.
I was twice as heavy and about a foot taller than everyone when I was in kindergarten. In sixth grade, all of the other girls were wearing size 1 and 0. What was I? Size 14 – in middle school! That was hard. I remember going to the stores and my friends were looking at all these clothes and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I can't fit into this – and I'm not even a teenager yet.'
My best years were 7th grade through the middle of 9th. They were great because I was close with my friends and I was starting to grow up. The end of my 9th grade, though, was hard. I really started to notice my flaws. I noticed my weight, not having a boyfriend, not being able to fit into cool clothes, and not being able to run fast enough on the basketball court. Then, I didn't even get on the softball team. I realized, ‘Wow, I really need to fix my health just so I can be an all-around better person.'
My life this past year was great and bad in one year, which is somewhat strange. It was great because I learned who my real friends are; this is the best thing. Then, I also realized that my weight was just a huge problem that was keeping me from feeling confident. I guess people's lives are always complicated.
I ended up at Wellspring and I think it is going to change my life. That is all somebody who is overweight dreams of doing. Wellspring is showing me how to work on my weight and more than that – showing me how to solve my weight issues.
LAWRENCE M. lost 90 lbs. in 7 months
Lawrence lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with three siblings and his parents. Both of his parents are lawyers. According to Lawrence, his father sometimes works 48 hours straight.
Lawrence was diagnosed with multiple allergies at a young age and remembers being restricted from many popular foods, like pizza. These restrictions led him to indulge. "I was not allowed many of the same things my friends were and because of that, I found opportunities to sneak foods. It became a comfort to know that my parents didn't have complete control."
Lawrence struggled socially and his weight affected his ability to feel comfortable at school. Lawrence was socially isolated and his grades began declining as his weight increased. He also exhibited peculiar behaviors like completing homework, but intentionally not turning it in. Often he felt angry and out of control.
After losing 90 pounds at Wellspring, he discovered that not only did he feel better about himself, but that others responded very differently toward him. "I actually have a life now. My friends will have some reason to remember me besides the fact that I was the quiet kid. I actually make an impact on my school. They are aware of me and they sort of like me, too. There have even (at last) been incidents where I have been flirted with by some girls at parties and such."
Lawrence wrote the following a few months after arriving at Wellspring:
When I was about 10, I started believing that God was out to get me, and believed that more firmly as time went on. People started chiding me for my poor contributions to sports at school, my grades were constantly in jeopardy, allergies would kick in all the time and cause me to do even worse academically, and I almost never invited my friends over because I preferred reading or watching TV. Because I was gaining weight at the time and we would sometimes play games with "Shirts vs. Skins", my dislike for sports intensified into hatred and shame.
How did I view my future? I didn't, because I didn't like what I saw. I just hoped that something would change. And let my mind wander in the countless thousands of pages and pixel images available to me. I could only be described as distraught.
In my teenage years, life at my school had become completely unbearable. I would come home at 6 p.m. from sports every night and collapse from the combined effects of fatigue, exertion, and the emotional drain that arguing with my school, my teachers, and my parents had on me.
I changed schools in 9th grade to one that had a far more flexible environment (no coat-and-tie dress code, coed, and optional sports). For a year, I excelled and was happy. I weighed nearly 220 pounds, but I made good friends, got into interesting classes like Directing and Improv, and got to hang out with girls.
The next year, all of my grades declined. Cs in math, Bs in history, Ds in science – and all the while I was gaining weight. I also went on Weight Watchers, tried exercising with my mom (I hated that) and even tried going to France for a semester to see if that helped. The result is that I reached my all time high weight – 286 pounds.
So, now I have spent 6 months here at Wellspring. What's changed? My parents don't argue and yell at me anymore; my dad and I talked about our lack of time together and are prepared to change it; my classmates got to see me and were all amazed by my weight loss; and, I no longer see everyone and everything through a pessimistic haze. I feel stronger. I've prioritized and organized my life at bit and I've tested some of my opinions about myself. I was delighted to find that they were wrong.
So the words I use to describe myself now are (bear with me) gravitas, veritas, and Wunjo. They sound weird, but they work better than any English equivalent. Gravitas and veritas are Latin. Veritas means truth and honesty. When I say it describes me, I don't mean that I cannot tell a lie. That's easy. But now I don't lie to myself. I have confronted the dark corners of my mind and have exposed the truths that I feared for so long. I know myself.
Gravitas basically means resilience: your ability to stand firm and face challenges. Before I came here, I would toss my homework and my social life aside. Now I do the work and feel that I could host a party every week (with my more responsible friends, anyway). I have found gravitas: I stand tall against the conflicts within my mind and in my life.
And then there is the Norse rune Wunjo, the Rune of Harmonious Merging. I have seen the part of me that I have hidden and I have seen the full extent of the damaged and dying form of my older self and I have accepted them. Now they work together. And because of that I am a stronger individual than I ever thought possible. And you know what? I like the new me.
I'm Lawrence - and for the first time, there is real hope for me.
TAMARA B. lost 53 lbs. in 3 months
Tamara is a determined young woman who has grown up in Alaska. After an active childhood, the adolescent shift to focus on appearance and socialization began to damage Tamara's self-esteem. She began to wear boys' clothes to hide her body and she would put herself down in front of her friends. Tamara thought if she did it first, it would prevent the relentless teasing from others. Tamara was the class clown, but recognized this was a role she played to mask how badly she truly felt about herself as she became heavier and heavier.
Tamara tried group support weight loss programs and she and her mother consulted physicians for medical advice. She lost 20 lbs after eating salads for a month only to regain the weight and further her sense of failure. Her weight gain and low self-esteem, led Tamara to begin engaging in risky behaviors, including substance abuse. Soon she found herself in trouble with the law. Both her father and a supportive counselor saw what was happening and Tamara found herself at Wellspring.
Tamara hit the ground running at Wellspring, relieved to have a chance to change her trajectory. Tamara executed her program nearly flawlessly and lost a dramatic amount of weight in a relatively short period of time. She was able to be herself and discovered her strengths, including a remarkable determination to become a successful long-term weight controller. "Being fat isn't me," she said. "I think everyone wants to be happy in the future, but I'm going to make sure it happens for me."
As Tamara wrote near the end of her time at Wellspring:
My feelings about myself in middle school and elementary school differed. In elementary school I always thought of myself as the top of the class because I got good grades and was very successful. When I hit middle school, I realized that nobody cared about grades. They only thing that people cared about were looks, how many friends you had, popularity, the clothes you wore, and who was going out with whom. Suddenly I wasn't the confident, outgoing person that I used to be.
As I've aged into my high school years, I've also been influenced by peer pressure. Instead of having supportive friends telling me to stay away from things that could get me in trouble, I had the exact opposite. My friends would try to coax me into doing things with them. I've come to realize that my friends don't control me, I do, and at the end of the night when I get in trouble for something, it was no one's fault but my own.
These last three months have been the best, but worst months of my life. It all started off when I got in trouble with the law at home, which actually turned into one of the best experiences of my life. Little did I know that the stupidest action of my life so far would turn into the opportunity of a lifetime, and the most significant change in my life, which is coming to Wellspring. The judge agreed that if I came here and did well, all charges against me would be dropped.
A majority of my beliefs have been tested during my stay here so far. I used to think really negatively about myself until I met people that are in the same shoes as I am. Before I came here, I would never hear compliments about myself, which changed soon after I arrived. This has resulted in a better overall self-image, which will help me go farther in my life.
Another belief that I came into this program having was that I wasn't worth anything. I thought that because I was bigger than everyone, that also meant I was lower than everyone. I soon realized that wasn't true when I came here.
If I had to choose three words to describe myself at this point in my life, they would have to be: myself, courageous and determined. Before I came to Wellspring, I always felt like I had something to hide with my personality. Since I've been here, I realized that I can be myself and not get made fun of for doing that. People accept me for me, not for being sugarcoated or fake.
The second word I chose is courageous. I think it's pretty courageous of me, or any student here for that matter, to come to a place completely foreign to them so they can change the rest of their lives.; I'm here to make myself a better person.
The third word to describe me now would have to be determined. I know that coming into this program I'm going to experience ups and downs, hopefully more ups than downs. But no matter what, I am determined to lose the most weight I can here and make the best of the opportunity I was given.
THERESA G. lost 52 lbs. in 5 months
Theresa grew up in suburban Massachusetts with an older brother and sister. Although her parents divorced when she was quite young, she had a happy childhood.
As she began gaining weight in her teenage years, she tried a few diets, but none worked for her. She had an active social life and wasn't particularly depressed. Her main concern about her weight was the decline in her athletic skills that resulted from the additional weight. Theresa had already graduated from high school by the time she enrolled at Wellspring.
Since returning home, Theresa reports that "My life has been insanely different. My social life is so awesome. I'm working at two jobs that I like. I just love the people at these jobs. I'm definitely more secure with myself and just taking things in perspective."
Midway through her time at Wellspring, Theresa expressed her thoughts on her journey:
I have come a long way and I still have such a long way to go.
My weight didn't really ever affect me socially. I was picked on once, but that was it. But I do know that I had a feeling that I've never really wanted anyone to get too close. And I used to pick fights with everybody.
I never had boyfriends, ever. I was so insecure about myself, but not realizing it. I never realized how negatively I felt about myself until I came to Wellspring. In fact, I never even admitted to myself that I had a weight problem. That made it a very large step for me to come to Wellspring three months ago.
Before I got to Wellspring I thought, ‘I'm overweight and that's it.' It's so easy to be overweight and so easy just to say, ‘Whatever.' It's so easy to give up. I had surgery to remove a cyst during my sophomore year of high school and they told me that I didn't have to do gym. I was so happy to get out of gym and I'm sure that year I gained a lot of weight. I did nothing all year because I didn't have to.
I played tennis and basketball during the year before that surgery. Toward the end of my freshman year I realized that I couldn't play basketball as well as I used to. I was a point guard and then they started playing me as a center and just for defense. That was kind of a blow to my ego. I love basketball and I was so frustrated that I couldn't play it as well or as much as I used to. When that doctor gave me an excuse to quit, I took it rather than face my weight problem and do something about it.
Now that I can face this problem head on I feel much stronger. I have admitted to a huge problem in my life and I am taking it on. I am also strong because I can push myself to do something about which I had no motivation to change just a short time ago. I also feel confused about being in this completely new world (Wellspring ), but I'm also fine with being here. And I am very happy to be finally losing weight in a healthy way. I'm also comfortable with the people here at Wellspring . In the past three months since I got here I have grown so much. So many things have changed for me that I can't wait to see how it all goes.
JILL R. lost 76 lbs. in 9 months
Jill remembers being overweight since pre-school. Her weight began to affect her very early on, and she started dieting. Nothing seemed to work and her weight continued to increase. This was worsened as she ate to deal with the feelings she experienced as her body was changing and she felt pressure from family, doctors and peers. But her weight was something she simply felt she could not control.
Starting in 7th grade, a series of unhealthy decisions and friends led to depression, which led to Jill weighing 230 lbs. Jill reached a point where she felt Wellspring was her "last chance."
When Jill first arrived at Wellspring, she continued to feel helpless for a period of time. An illness caused her to return home for nearly 2 months. When she returned to Wellspring in January of 2006, Jill was ready to take control of her life.
One key part of Jill's success was the passion she developed for running. While running was painful initially, soon it became a healthy coping skill. Jill cut 3 minutes off her timed mile and increased her endurance. In the fall of 2006, Jill was the youngest runner to complete a local half marathon.
Jill is a young woman who was desperate to gain control over her body and her life and found health and joy in the process.
Here is what Jill wrote to her fellow alumni six months after returning home:
My worst memory was the beginning of last year. In the beginning of the year I got involved in a lot of things that weren't necessary to my life and I started to make the wrong choices with people I hung out with and the things I was doing. I ended up in some situations that really impacted my life and I was lifeless. I got suspended from my Catholic School and I became really immature. I was really depressed for a while and didn't really know what to do with myself but eat my feelings away. I became really paranoid all the time and I hardly wanted to go anywhere and I never understood why this had to happen to me.
Weight has pretty much always been an issue in my life. I was pretty active, but I ate really unhealthy. My weight started to become a major issue in the 7th grade after my problems earlier in the year. I never really noticed how big I actually got until this past summer. One day I looked in the mirror and I realized I really need to do something about it. It had pretty much taken over my life completely. I was also treated a lot differently from my family and friends. When my mom started to notice that I was packing on around 230 pounds, she got scared and so did I. I disappointed myself that I let it go that much and I knew I needed to do something about it. I had become extremely unhealthy emotionally and physically.
Now, I look back and realize that a year ago I weighed 230 pounds. I was in denial about the weight, depressed, hopeless and couldn't run as much as a couple of feet. Six months later, leaving Wellspring , I weigh 80 pounds less. I joined my school's cross-country team, which I love.
Yesterday, I ran the Bay State ½ Marathon and finished 792 out of 2,000. The first thought that popped into my head was – Wellspring . Wellspring truly saved my life. I couldn't be more thankful. My fellow students are such inspirations to me. I hope none of them gives up, ever.
JOSH S. lost 62 lbs. in 5 months
Josh is an intelligent and creative young man. His weight problem started in elementary school when he struggled with going back and forth between his mother and father's homes. Josh expressed anger and frustration by underperforming in school and overeating to show his parents the pain he felt. He also struggled to cope with his father's substance abuse. Josh tried several diet programs recommended and enforced by his parents, which fueled the anger and frustration, especially when they didn't work.
After a painful experience at military school where he gained more weight, Josh arrived at Wellspring . While he was initially resistant to the idea, he dove right in once he arrived and discovered it really did help him lose weight. He was relieved that he was able to make his own choices at meals.
At Wellspring, Josh developed a love for activity and low-fat food. The boy who used to think he was too intellectual and overweight to participate in sports became an avid athlete and enjoyed the way low-fat food and exercise made him feel.
Through controlling his weight, Josh experienced success in areas where he had previously perceived himself as a failure. He was very well-liked, he lost weight and he did well in school. In one of his assignments at Wellspring , Josh talked about what it was like to be a role model, a far cry from the overweight and angry teenager he was prior to experiencing this success. "The best thing is I feel like a role model. That boosts my self-esteem to the stratosphere."
Here is what Josh wrote three months after arriving at Wellspring:
"Josh, where's your homework?" I look at my teacher with a glint of satisfaction in my eye, "At home, I guess." As I got home after school, I look at the door to my dad's room, still locked. I run into my room and look for something to take my pain away. I want to cut, no… I'm too afraid to ever do that. I want to kill myself, but I know life's too worth it to waste. But in this search for a final redemption all I can do is cry myself to sleep.
This was me two years ago. A highly depressed and Attention Deficit Disorder inflicted 13-year-old. A few days after this I found out that the reason my Dad was always locked in his room was a severe drug problem. There was only one way to even make the pain lessen just a little bit: get back at Dad. There were only two things that my Dad cared about in my life at the time: grades and health. I hadn't turned in my homework for two weeks now; it was only eighth grade, it wouldn't count towards college. I had eaten so badly I felt atrocious. But I couldn't wait for him to see me failing and fat, so he could feel as I felt: the horrid despair.
Eventually I needed my life back and I knew where to start. So I started turning in homework and getting better grades. But eating-wise, I was a failure. I realized that, just as my Dad had done with drugs, I had become addicted to food. I tried fad diets, exercise, all for failure. I wondered if I'd ever be normal again.
For my ninth grade year my Dad finally went into rehab. I also went to a military school. I thought I could get back into shape while my Dad got clean. I was gravely mistaken because they had three buffet style meals a day at that school. I was doing the play for my school so I could skip PT (physical training). I gained another thirty pounds and was at my highest weight ever. My Dad got out of rehab at the end of that year and I was still fat. I was distraught.
My Dad had succeeded where I had failed. I felt so weak, but it just made me gain more weight. I felt I was stronger than Dad, but he was doing so much better and I was doing so much worse. My Dad finally realized he needed to help me through all of this pain. And during this time I realized he was much like me in ways I never thought. He wanted to help me, not hurt me. And that's how I got here, to Wellspring.
Since I got to Wellspring my life has completely changed. I've lost 47 pounds and have progressed so much emotionally that I'm starting to see white as black and black as white. And the best thing, I feel like a role model. That boosts my self-esteem to the stratosphere. Finally, I'm at a point in my life where my entire family can be happy.
BECCA M. lost 65 lbs. in 7 months
Becca's weight had a negative effect on her confidence from a very young age. Although she doesn't recall being teased, her lack of confidence limited her interactions with other people and her willingness to be involved in activities or sports. Eventually, this led to isolation and more eating. Food was a constant and reliable companion and source of comfort to Becca. The cycle of weight gain and using food as a coping mechanism worsened with each passing year.
Becca never denied that her weight was a problem and tried multiple diets. The failure of these diets further discouraged her. A family member told Becca about Wellspring, and she was excited about giving it a try. While initially shy, she found her confidence living among peers working on the same problem and she gradually flourished, enjoying physical activity like playing on the soccer team. Becca gained control over her weight and this further improved her self-confidence. By the time she transitioned home, Becca had stepped out from under the, "weight that has been my shadow for years."
This is what Becca wrote in a letter to herself a few weeks after arriving at Wellspring:
Right now my feelings are a little confused. I am actually really upset about my weight, but I have never admitted it to myself or anyone else. One thing that is going well for me right now is that I am losing the weight that I wish was never on me.
The program here at Wellspring has helped me a lot. What I wasn't expecting is for my attitude to change around my family and for me to feel more confident about myself. I feel that if I lose all the weight that I want then people won't care about what I look like. It's not just that I would feel more confident and I won't be afraid to go shopping anywhere.
In the next few months, I am hoping to learn how to maintain my weight loss by becoming a long-term weight controller. I'd also like to be able to help my family out because it isn't just me with a weight problem.
Right now I am also feeling a lot more confident because not only have I lost 27.2 pounds in just two months, but I have also noticed that I haven't been caring about what I look like when I go out. I can wear whatever I want and still feel confident about how I feel and look. My goal weight is 125 and I need to lose 61 more pounds. I am so proud of myself. My mom is even proud of me and when I go home I know that she will help me stick with my program. I know that she wants this for me and I really appreciate her for that. Although I am not the nicest person in the world to my mom, sister and brothers, I feel that doing this will change my attitude towards them and my friends.