Nutrition and Exercise at WinGate
At WinGate, we take a whole-person approach to helping troubled teens and young adults recover from their life problems.
We work to maintain and improve the physical health of our clients as well as their mental and emotional health. A nutritious and balanced diet and regular exercise are important parts of the WinGate program.
We realize that many of our clients have led unhealthy lifestyles prior to entering treatment, and work to make sure that our clients leave WinGate are more physically healthy than when they entered.
Regular physical exercise is a key part of the WinGate program. Studies have shown that regular physical exercise improves mental health.
Most of the physical exercise at WinGate comes in the form of hiking. Whether through dayhikes or hikes with a backpack, clients hike most of the week. Wednesday through Sunday are the hiking days in a typical week. On these days, the groups are generally moving campsites every day, typically hiking between two and six miles per day.
Groups sometimes hike more or less, depending on the physical abilities of the clients, their level of motivation for the hikes, the weather, and many other variables. We have found that this regular exercise makes for happier, healthier, and less restless young adults. Exercise goes far in helping them in their recovery to mental well-being.
Wilderness Therapy Provides Healthy Meals
At WinGate Wilderness Therapy, we have put extensive work into creating a diet plan that is nutritious and healthy. At the beginning of the hiking days, clients are given a full ration of food. This food, mostly made up of staples like rice, grains, and beans along with fresh fruits and vegetables and lightweight sources of protein, was planned by a nutritionist to be balanced and to contain over 3000 calories a day, with even more in the winter months.
It is up to the young adults to portion out this food into regular meals. This personal cooking serves a dual purpose. First, our young adults build a sense of self-efficacy as they learn how to cook for themselves, a skill most of our clients carry home with them. Second, they learn to value self-control over instant gratification, as they find themselves running low on food if they eat too much too soon in the week.
They receive more than enough calories to get through the week, but it's up to them to make it last, a lesson that is particularly important for young adults struggling with substance abuse. Learning through their meal planning to delay gratification can be an important lesson that can help young adults avoid picking up that first drink or drug and relapsing, or simply teaching them the self-control they will need to have as responsible adults in the modern world.
Our Therapeutic Program Promotes Helping Others
Two days a week the groups "lay over" which means they don't hike. These days as set aside for group and individual therapy and for staff rotations to exchange. These days are also "service meal" days, where the entire group eats together.
A different pair of group members prepares each meal as an act of service to the group, teaching them the importance of helping others. The clients look forward to these service meals. It doesn't hurt that these meals are usually very tasty, made from fresh and whole ingredients and balanced nutritionally.
Our goal at WinGate is to build healthy, self-sufficient, and emotionally-balanced young people. For many, a key part of their continued recovery will be maintaining and building on the healthy exercise and eating habits that they begin at WinGate. Many carry on the lessons of hard work, self-control, and self-sufficiency into their lives and apply them to other situations that come up. Through whole-person treatment that includes exercise and a well-planned nutritious diet, we do our best to make sure that the young adult that leaves WinGate is healthier in every respect than the one who came in the door.