CHILDREN who attended Britain's first "fat camp" last year are proving to be gluttons for punishment by rushing to sign up for this summer's programme.
About 25 of last year's 40 campers are asking for more after spending two to six weeks at the Carnegie National Weight Loss Camp run by Leeds Metropolitan University.
One teenager even turned down the chance to go to South Africa, preferring to spend her summer in Leeds.
But the second helping of camp life is not because the pounds have piled back on. Most of the camp's inaugural graduates resisted a return to chips and chocolate once they were released into the path of temptation.
The 11 to 17-year-olds lost an average of four pounds a week while there, and most have continued to lose weight since. Fifteen-year-old Jonathan McEvoy cut his 15-stone bulk to just over 12 stone. A stone and a half came off in five weeks at camp.
Despite holidays in Florida and Benidorm, the Burnley teenager has managed to heed the advice of the nutritionist he saw twice a week at the camp. "I just really enjoyed it and I can't wait to go back. I never really liked sport butwe did lots of good things like football, tennis and swimming.
"And because we were all in the same boat, it was comforting to know no-one was calling you names or staring at you," he said.
One of Jonathan's pals has gone on to join the Territorial Army and another converted couch potato has become a fitness instructor.
Camp director Paul Gately - who for the rest of the year is a sports lecturer at the university - said: "Last year's camp wasn't without its critics but we have proved conclusively that the children have benefited in terms of health with an average increase in their fitness levels of 20 per cent, coupled with significant weight loss.
"The campers also benefited psychologically: independent research showed improved self-esteem by the end of the camp, including their perceptions of athletic competence and physical appearance. They were also less worried about their weight and looks."
A pound;38,000 award from the National Heart Research Fund will allow the children's progress to be monitored back in their homes. The camp is based at Woodhouse Grove, an independent school in Leeds with a tradition of sporting excellence. It costs pound;1,950 for six weeks and is non-profit-making. For the first time the camp will be open to non-boarders this year.