A memoir of growing up fat

Filed under: Teens, Places To Go, Health & Safety: Babies, Nutrition: Health, Development/Milestones: Babies, Mealtime, Books for Kids

Ah, summer. It's nearly upon us. As adults, many of us think back upon that season with a sense of nostalgia--the time off from school seemed to last forever, and whatever did we do with all of it? For others of us, though, summer brings back some memories that are not so great. For those of us who were 'pudgy' or 'husky' or whatever they were calling it back then, summer meant a lot of bad things: shorts, bathing suits, and, for a few of us the dreaded fat camp.

For one author, fat camp couldn't have been more real. Writer Stephanie Klein, known for hot memoir Straight Up and Dirty, growing up overweight meant spending summers at fat camp. In her new book, "Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp" she recalls losing 30 pounds one summer.

Klein describes her experience at camp as humiliating, saying the children were weighed on meat scales and at truck stops on truck stop scales, and that there was barbed wire around the perimeter to keep kids from sneaking out. On the plus side, she made new friends, including those of the opposite sex.

I never went to fat camp. In fact, I think it's terrible to call it such a thing. That really is humiliating. I was pudgy but never obese. I know several people who were, though, and to be honest they probably wish they had been sent off. When you're young, you're at the mercy of the food your school offers and your family's eating habits, for the most part. Most of us weren't--and still aren't--educated about exercising, portion control and that calories add up.

No one ever said to me, "hey, choose mono-unsaturated fat over the saturated kind," or "lay off the white bread," or "hey--muffins are just CAKE." Armed with that information alone I might have made it through middle school without feeling like I had to wear a t-shirt over my bathing suit. To look at me now--to look at so many of us now, you can see we finally got the information. But, at what cost?

For Stephanie, or "Moose" as she was known, eating meant doing so in secrecy, out of spite and out of denial with no regard to portion control. She went through her adolescent years being called Moose and other names. On the other hand, she rushes to defend anyone who is being made fun of. Ultimately, she says, it doesn't matter why someone is fat, but rather what that person plans on doing about it.

Is fat camp the answer? I certainly don't know. Read Stephanie's memoir, though, and you might get one from her. All I know is that, with my kids, we're going to be outside as much as possible and play, play, play. I know at some point I'm going to have to focus on food, on what I learned from my eating habits as a kid, those of my parents and those of my husband, and take all that into consideration, but until then and even after it I'm going to also focus on just being healthy.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.