NPR logo Facing Fat Camp

Facing Fat Camp

Courtesy William Morrow/HarperCollins
Courtesy William Morrow/HarperCollins

Fat camp is one of those things. One of those things, you know, that you really sort of want to know more about. Whispers in the hall at school, "Did you see Jane? She has so lost weight. I totally heard she went to fat camp."

There's derision in the accusation, but probably a lot of curiosity, and even envy, too. I know I've always wondered about fat camp — when MTV did its two-part special on a fat camp in the Poconos, I watched it twice, and I'm not alone.

Enter Moose. Blogger Stephanie Klein became famous by blogging frankly about her life and dating exploits, but she wasn't always popular. As a kid, Stephanie was fat. Her parents sent her to fat camp, and she's condensed those summers into a book she named after herself, Moose. It's revealing, it's candid, it's uncomfortable. At school, Stephanie was unpopular — the jocks called her "Moose." At camp, she was popular, dating one of the most desirable boys, hanging with the cool girls... Until they turned on her. Turns out, fat camp's a lot like life on the outside, but recalibrated.

Did you spend your summers away, exercising, drinking tons of water, eating with chopsticks, and sneaking over to the boys' side of camp? What did you learn at camp... the good, the bad, the ugly?



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Kids can be really harsh in school and we should not tolerate bullieing but I think fat camp is a good idea. There is no way to rationalize allowing a child to stay overweight. It is incredibly unhealthy to be overweight, especially when young. Telling our kids it's okay to be overweight or "fat is beautiful" is killing them. It's the same as telling them it's cool to smoke cigerates.

Sent by Robert | 3:12 PM | 7-31-2008

I always wanted to go to fat camp. As an overweight teenager, my greatest fantasy was a summer of transformation, in which I would return to school in the fall, beautiful and slim. It never happened. Instead, while my parents worked all day during the summers, I watched TV all day and felt worse and worse about myself.

Sent by Anne Paris | 3:12 PM | 7-31-2008

I haven't been to fat camp, but my mother put me on very strict diets as early as seven years old. I was forced to exercise and ate differently than the rest of the family. I am just learning how to find balance and happiness in my relationship with food and my body. You can't force children to change, you can only be a positive role-model. They must find balance for themselves, the last thing a child needs is to be told by their parents that they need to lose weight. Get outside and play with them, subtly control their portions and model the behavior you'd like to see, even if you're not fat!

Sent by LauraLee Miranda | 3:17 PM | 7-31-2008

I had the opposite problem; I'm now 47, and as I grew up, I was belittled and made fun of for being too thin. I am still uncomfortable with my body shape because of childhood teasing from peers and family. I have told my girls, don't get too excited about society's view of what is "beautiful". As I grew up, bigger was better; as they've grown up, ridiculously thin (which I actually am) is "beautiful". It's all worthless. Healthy -- whatever size that makes you -- is what is important. Not SIZE!!!

Sent by Geneva Bosak | 3:18 PM | 7-31-2008

As a kid I was teased for being skinny. I was called, Olive Oyl, Bones, flat chested, stick figure, etc. Being skinny can be just as traumatizing as being overweight.

Sent by Tonita | 3:19 PM | 7-31-2008

MOOSE is an amazing book. Made me relive and think about my adolescence.

Sent by Jenny Janis | 3:20 PM | 7-31-2008

Most people don't realize two things about Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder:

1. Girls have it at the same rate as boys do, but given the mistaken stereotype (that ADHD is all about physical hyperactivity), girls' ADHD is too often missed.

2. There is a link between obesity and untreated ADHD. In short, some people with ADHD "self-medicate" with food. It calms the "noise" in their brains.

Also, a hallmark of ADHD is being unable to "stop" (it's thought that the inhibitory system of the ADHD-affected brain is weaker). So, these children with ADHD can have a harder time knowing when to stop eating.

Moreover, another hallmark of ADHD is missing phenomenon both external and internal. In other words, they don't notice when their hunger is satisfied and so they keep eating.

There are brain issues other than ADHD that affect eating disorders. And any parent who wants to help their child should learn about them for the health of the child.

Gina Pera
author, Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder

Sent by Gina Pera | 3:33 PM | 7-31-2008

THE DARK SIDE OF CAMP. My daughter went to "fat camp" No one told me the obvious. People are fat for different reasons - my daughter is fat because I'm fat, her father is fat and we are a family that loves to eat and spends many happy hours with loved ones around the table. THE DARK SIDE OF FAT CAMP is that there are other reasons for being fat: emotional & psychological reasons. I was horrified to find out that my daughter was exposed to kids who had SERIOUS PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS - one girl had been sexually abused by her brother - there was a court order prohibiting him from living in the family home; another girl was suicidal; one girl's mother had committed suicide; etc., etc. I had no idea my daughter was going into a situation where young people were dealing with these horrors - there were no counselors to help my daughter deal with the horrors her friends were facing and no one told me so I could have made an informed decision or talked to my young teen about problems that face other people and how we need to address them and how we feel about them.

Sent by LINDA | 3:35 PM | 7-31-2008

Could you comment on how insulin resistance has been associated with overweight kids?

Sent by Gary Robbins | 3:36 PM | 7-31-2008

It amazes me these days where a young woman would say she it petite but that's next to a giant redwood. I used to see some cute girls years ago with a piano butt but they played piano. Kids these days don't do anything but sit and eat junk food. How can you respond to someone that asks you if they look good when they are wider then they are tall.

Sent by Bob Sakall | 3:47 PM | 7-31-2008

So, Linda, your child is fat because her friends have problems? Um, no. But keep thinking that way and your daughter will end up a diabetic and have to have weight loss surgery. Take responsibility for your own child- no fat camp- just give her small, nutritious meals.

Sent by Rob Wells | 3:48 AM | 8-15-2008