As the only program of it’s kind in the world, there are typically question and assumptions that family and student’s will have. We have listed the most common of them below.
In the same way that we approach each young lady who attends Gem Academy uniquely, there are always variations of questions or concerns. We encourage you to contact us directly with more specific questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What about academics (competitive, college)?
We have accredited academics and have the availability of AP, honors and college credit courses. Regardless of where a student is, they will be able to stay at level or move ahead.
College admissions departments are looking for experiences that sets a student apart. They look for students who can make a difference. In uprooting herself and taking on a challenge that few are successful at, she will put herself in a small percentage of the successful. That she did all this while working to be an agent of change and help others will set her apart.
Guaranteed, in the litany of admission essays that her future college admission board will read, there will not be another student who has done what your daughter has done.
The staff at Gem and the families of our students understand that long-term health trumps any competitive advantage. Our students will finish their experience at Gem from a position of strength, their opportunities won’t be fleeting or fragile. They will be able and confident in creating the opportunities they want.
Isn't sending my daughter to a boarding school extreme?
The best way to address this is to reframe from a shame or punitive based position and ask this question; When Olympic hopefuls or the elite youth performance artist leave home to go and receive the best training possible or the best instruction available for their talent for months on end we don’t view that as extreme or negative. We see that as providing the best opportunity we can for them to be successful. That is exactly how we view our students and their time at Gem; as exceptional young women receiving the best training and instruction there is available and becoming absolute experts at something so very few people can truly do well.
Also, it is important to note that over 80% of the inquiries we get are from the students themselves. They understand that Gem is where their opportunity is the best and their success almost certain so sacrificing a short period of time to start a longer and healthier life seems like a small price to pay to them.
Do you use medications, supplements, etc for weight loss?
No, in 99% of cases there will be no need. Those who are on them will at some point be able to stop using them (with their doctor’s permission). Typically, those interventions are used in situations when environmental changes are hard to make. Gem’s environment and experiences are the intervention so in all but very rare cases no supplementation or medication is necessary.
Do you have a doctor on staff?
Our students continue to work under the care of their current (home) pediatrician or doctor who clears them to participate. We do work with a consulting psychiatrist to continue to monitor and manage medications while a student is at Gem. In cases of emergency or a more serious issue we have two of the finest facilities in the country for our students less than ten miles away in Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Mayo Clinic.
Will my daughter have fun?
Yes, and a better kind of fun. What is meant by that is that many of the students that enter into this process having to look to actions or things for joy or escape because they aren’t feeling a great deal of authentic joy due to struggles with their health, bullying etc. As they start to accomplish what they set out to do and haven’t been successful at before they start to find happiness in smaller things and more frequently. So even though we will surf in San Diego, indoor skydive, go to water parks etc., they won’t have to wait for those days to have real fun.
Will my daughter be hungry/ get enough to eat?
The ingredients and foods served (higher protein and fiber) are geared for feeling and staying full. As far as getting enough to eat we have 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. Only a portion of their food is regulated, and the rest is completely up to them. The autonomy is critical in making their success all about their efforts not about being at Gem.
They can lose weight there but what happens when our daughter returns home?
From the first day a student steps foot on the Gem campus we are preparing her for her return home. Our team approaches each student as a separate case to work to find options, support and triggers. We work closely with the family over the entire stay to create the best possible scenario to return to. The student’s visits home act as working field trips to try their new skills and learn what is working and what is not, that way when they return to Gem we can continue to hone our efforts to create more support and opportunities for them in their home environment.
Then we continue to support and engage our student long after they leave Gem because given past experience the more engaged a student is in continuing care and mentorship the more successful they will be.
We've considered bariatric surgery, why would Gem be better option?
Simply put we are more effective than bariatric surgery not to mention safer. With average bariatric procedure you will lose only 60% of your extra weight (which in most cases will still leave you in the clinically obese range). With Gem you participate until you have reached your healthy weight range and YOU will have lost the weight, so you’ll understand how it’s done and how to maintain it moving forward. With bariatric surgery they use illness and injury to make you change eating behaviors but after about 18 months that whip goes away, and you must learn healthy behaviors without fear as a motivator. In our experience there has not been one consulting physician or bariatric surgeon that has ever recommended surgery over a program like Gem Academy.
Our daughter hasn't needed therapy before?
Therapy often gets a bad rap. It’s not always this heavy, dramatic process. At the very basic level of how we engage in the change process is that we are needing to change behaviors that we established along the way for a purpose that served us. They filled a need. So, in changing behaviors, we need to know how to fill that need either with the new behavior or something else entirely. If we don’t, the change won’t last. To navigate this process takes someone with training, experience and an outside perspective, that’s a role our clinicians execute very well.
What is often not considered is the adjustment a student goes through after having radically changed their physical appearance. This can be a big change and learning to navigate the world and relationships takes time, understanding and support from people who have walked this path with hundreds of students before.
Is Gem Academy a "Boot Camp"?
Absolutely not. We focus on movement not excursion. When you are able to intervene on all the most important fronts pertaining to obesity management (food, movement, sleep and emotional health) at once, the interventions don’t need to be extreme because there is balance.
Won't she grow out of it (maybe it's a phase)?
The statistics say no. Varying studies put the percentage between 80-85% of obese teens that will become obese adults. Without a gender breakdown and given the late maturation of boys compared to girls, the assumption could be made that the percentage may be even higher for girls.
The number of fat cells for a human is established by puberty and outside of very extreme cases will not change over the course of their life. For adolescents with obesity this means they have a condition that they need to learn about, understand and become very good at managing; and the sooner the better.