Tony Sparber, Director, New Image Camps

Sparber family

Tony Sparber is a man with a mission. He has seen first-hand how eating has gone wrong for kids. As the Director of New Image Camps, he educates kids on proper eating and nutrition guidelines, and provides ample opportunities to build self-esteem. LoveToKnow Kids enjoyed the opportunity to spread this strong man's powerful message through our exclusive interview.

About Tony Sparber

Tony can directly relate to the kids he hopes to help. As a slightly overweight child, he was often the last one picked for teams in gym class. All changed for him at the age of fifteen, when his parents started their own camp to help kids lose weight, Weight Watcher's Camps. He was then able to directly learn the difference thirty pounds would make to help him become more comfortable with himself and more confident with his peers.

He now possesses over 20 years of experience in the weight loss camp business, combining his work with his parents and later the creation of his own camps, New Image Camps. Tony has a Bachelors degree in business with a minor in physical education. He is also a member of the American Camping Association, the National Camping Association and the Norwood, NJ Board of Recreation.

New Image Camps

Tony's camps include three separate locations, Camp Pocono Trails in PA, Camp Vanguard in FL and Camp Ojai in CA. All three are designed for kids ages 7 - 19, to help them have fun while also losing weight. The program is designed to build their self-esteem and nutrition awareness, which are important skills to take home ensuring they continue to maintain their weight. The kids spend time in activities to build friendships, physical awareness and healthy eating habits. In the past summer alone, they had over 1000 campers within the three camps, for a combined weight loss of 13,000 pounds.

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Interview Questions with Tony

What do you see as the number one diet problem kids face today?

The number one problem is portion control. Kids not knowing the correct amounts of foods they should be eating. We go on the theory that you can eat almost anything you want as long as it's portion controlled. When this comes to kids, it is mostly a lack of parental knowledge in knowing the right portion size. America is generally a country where the size of portions in our restaurants are twice the size they should be - a nation super-sized.

How can parents be sure kids are eating healthy at school?

The problems with the school lunches are the content, but that is improving. One problem that is not being addressed is the availability of other items at lunchtime. Even at school, a kid can buy as much as they want. Schools do not set up a portion control situation.

In a brown bag situation, it is more about what the parents are bringing in. In grammar school through middle school, parents have tremendous impact on what the kids are doing. Whether the parents make their kid's lunch or allow them to buy it, the parents are making the choices. Some parents also give their kids money to use the snack machine or soda machine. Parents that are giving their kids this access to money are making a big mistake.

What can parents do to learn portion control?

There is a ton of information out there about what to do. Our site offers Internet counseling to help parents or other services like that are out there. Most important is the implantation of doing what is right. Being firm and not putting high fat products in their lunches.

What are great ideas for bag lunches that are healthy, but kids will still eat?

One of the nice things about today's technology, is there are a lot more foods to pack in lunches, like low-fat chips versus the standard greasy ones. Portion control is even more important than what you give them. How big is the sandwich, how many bags of chips are you sending and the amount of cookies?

Should parents ban fatty sweet foods entirely?

I don't believe in deprivation. I believe in portion control. At the camp, you can eat almost anything. We serve chocolate cake, frozen yogurt, spaghetti and meatballs, pancakes; but the difference is it's portion controlled, and made with lower fat ingredients. I do think kids need to have some sweets, but all in moderation.

What are some after-school snack ideas?

It is a great time for cut celery or carrots, and kids will come to enjoy them.

Also, keep your kids busy and active. After school can be a dangerous time - kids will tend to sit in front of the TV, game box or computer. Instead, make sure that your kids are doing something. One of the main reasons for the large obesity problem is a lack of exercise. Parents really need to make an effort. Find programs, classes and things to keep them busy and give them a purpose.

How should parents battle peer pressure and nutrition concerns?

Parents need to be firm and strong. Times are changing and I think that parents need to look at the studies that say how obesity is affecting our country. Kids today are exposed to television, but why can't we also tell them about a study that shows how obesity cuts your life span by ten or twelve years? You need to educate your kids about why it is not good to be overweight and why it is important for them to eat healthy now.

Especially as a family they need to eat healthier. A big component is when you have two parents who are not eating healthy; it is going to be difficult to sell it to your child. Yet, if you set a good example, you are eating properly, you set a good table at home, and then you have the opportunity to teach your kids. The parents are the ones in control. This is particularly important when kids are young and you still do have some control. Don't sit back and think they are just going to grow out of it.

Tony Sparber, Director, New Image Camps