LYNN NEARY, host:

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington. You may have seen the ads in the back of the Sunday paper. They show pictures of pudgy kids swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, and getting weighed. These are camps for overweight kids, and the ads offer the promise that while the campers are having some summer fun, they'll also be shedding pounds. With childhood obesity on the increase, many parents are turning to weight-loss camps as a solution. But not everyone agrees these camps work.

In her new book, "Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp," author and blogger Stephanie Klein writes about her experiences in such a camp. Stephanie Klein is going to be joining us momentarily. We're waiting for her to get to the studio. And in the meantime, we want to hear from you. Give us a call. Have you ever been to a fat camp as a counselor or a camper? Have you sent your child to one? Why? Did it work? Tell us your story. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. The email address is talk@npr.org. And you can comment on your blog. It's at npr.org/blogofthenation.

We're going to go to calls - we don't have any calls, so I am just going to chat here a little bit, hoping that Stephanie Klein will be with us momentarily. We are looking for experiences of people who may have gone to camps for overweight kids. We're referring to them as fat camps because the title of Stephanie Klein's book is "A Memoir of Fat Camp." So, we don't mean that in a derogatory way.

That's one of the things I'd like to ask her about, because I'm sure that's not what they were called when she was a child. But this also is a show about the problem of obesity that we're hearing about so much among kids, and what are the problems leading to that and, really, solutions to that, I would say. And does something like a fat camp really work?

I think we've got a caller on the line now. Let's see. Tony, hi. Go ahead.

Tony?

We do not have a caller on the line.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: Tony, are you there?

Sorry about that. There is not a caller on the line. So, any thoughts that you may have on this subject, as I said, I think we can - we know that in the news lately there has been a lot of talk about childhood obesity, what causes it, and what are the solutions. And sometimes the solutions can bring problems of their own, in that the emphasis that gets put on kids losing that weight, it can be really tough on children. And I think you'll hear later when Stephanie Klein joins us, it can lead to problems like bulimia, other kinds of eating disorders. So, these are all the issues that we're trying to cope with right now. I think we've got a caller on the line. Let's go to the phones. Hello?

Hello? You're on the air.

Unidentified Caller: Yes.

NEARY: Hi. Go ahead.

Unidentified Caller: I was invited as a child. My best friend was a little bit overweight, and because her mom was in charge of the weight-loss camp, she invited me to be a model child because I wasn't overweight.

NEARY: Oh, wow.

Unidentified Caller: And I was supposed to be the example of what these other girls should become.

NEARY: So, what did you do? What were you asked to do?

Unidentified Caller: I was just asked to be there and do what they were doing, and just show them that because of the way my body was, it was easier for me to do what they were being asked to do. And if they would strive to be like me...

NEARY: Wow.

Unidentified Caller: That they could, you know, accomplish things better and what not. But what I've found from it was not only was it hard for me because it was trying to teach me that it's not OK to be overweight. And also, my best friend, I mean, I could see - she went to Weight Watchers, she went to so many different clubs, and I could see that it really strained on her self-esteem.

NEARY: Did the other kids - did these kids resent you, I wonder? Were they angry at you?

Unidentified Caller: You know, they were really accepting. It was kind of odd. But it was an interesting - I didn't really know that I was supposed to be the example until after I had gotten back home. And I had had some comments like, oh, well, you know, aren't you glad that you're not like that? You don't want to become like that, do you?

NEARY: Now, did you go to the camp for the whole time? Was it, I mean...

Unidentified Caller: I did.

NEARY: Oh, you did. And the whole time you were just sort of pointed out as if you're the example?

Unidentified Caller: Pretty much.

NEARY: Yeah.

Unidentified Caller: Pretty much.

NEARY: So, did you think they're a good idea or not? I mean, what's your opinion of them in the end.

Unidentified Caller: I think they're horrible. I think that everybody needs to just accept themselves for the way they are, and you know, work on being a better person. You can't cure somebody, you know, if they don't think there's something wrong with them. And telling somebody that there's something wrong with them, you know, I think, does more damage than just, you know, working to be a good example and have a better, you know, maybe diet or exercise or whatever, without telling them, oh, you know, you're fat, this is not OK, you need to be like so-and-so because that's just so degrading to somebody. Even as a child I think that it does irreversible damage to somebody.

NEARY: Well, thanks so much for calling us.

Unidentified Caller: Thank you.

NEARY: Appreciate your point of view. And I believe that we do have Stephanie Klein on the line now. Stephanie, are you there?

Ms. STEPHANIE KLEIN (Author, "Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp"): I am here and so glad to be here.

NEARY: I'm glad that you're - we're glad to have you, Stephanie.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: So, let me - I wanted to start by asking you about the title of your book, which is "Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp." First of all, let's talk about that first part of that title, "Moose." Where did that come from?

Ms. KLEIN: It came from the mouths of very sensitive boys who decided to nickname me Moose and they would scream it down the hallways at school.

NEARY: And the effect of that on you was?

Ms. KLEIN: Oh, it was awesome. I loved it. It was horrible. It's really, really heartbreaking. Here you are, 13-year-old girl, wanting, obviously, in adolescence to fit in, for people to like you, and especially boys to like you, and the boys were calling me Moose. And they weren't just saying it in passing. They were screaming it to the point where everyone would turn around and look.

NEARY: Wow.

Ms. KLEIN: And I would come home crying.

NEARY: And what about - you also call this "A Memoir of Fat Camp," which I'm assuming is not the official name of such camps.

Ms. KLEIN: Right. You won't find that in any of the brochures, certainly. Most camps call it fit camp or health camp, but once you've been a camper and counselor, as I've been, at these camps where they basically limit your caloric intake and up you exercise, once you're a camper, you can sort of make fun of it and say, wow, my parents shipped me off to fat camp. So, that's what I've decided to call it in the subtitle of "Moose," because I wanted to keep it as true to the experience as it actually was.

NEARY: So, your parents sent you there. Did you want to go?

Ms. KLEIN: I actually did want to go very much, because I hated school. I hated the reflection in the mirror. I wanted so much to be someone else, and I mistakenly believed that someone else involved, you know, my changing my weight. I thought that if I was thinner, the rest of my life would change.

NEARY: Did you have any fear of being stigmatized? I mean, did you tell other kids what kind of camp you were going to, or did you hide it? What did you do in terms of that?

Ms. KLEIN: I definitely didn't that summer that I went away announce it or megaphone, hey, you'll be sorry for calling me Moose because I'm going to fat camp and come back looking hot. Although I did think those things and wrote them in my diary, certainly. But no, I wouldn't go around telling people, but when I came back and they'd say, wow, you look like great, what did you do? I'd say, oh, I went to the Fatty Farm.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KLEIN: I admitted it but I've since learned - I've written on my website, stephanieklein.com, about, you know, the experiences, and what I did was I wrote people's actual names that I went to camp with thinking, well, maybe I'll get re-in-touch with them. And I did, but not in the way I'd hoped. A lot of people said, take my name down! I don't want people to know that I ever went to a fat camp! So, I did respectfully taking their names down right away, because I didn't even realize that people would be ashamed about it.

NEARY: Now, so, you're sort of saying - it seems to me you're saying that there was some comfort in being in a camp with other kids who were in the same predicament that you were in, so to speak.

Ms. KLEIN: Oh, absolutely. There's, you know, there was that comfort of, oh, wow, you know, no one's - not everyone is noticing me for my weight anymore, or at least not for being fat. I was noticed for being on a thinner side of fat, and there's a comfort in that the opposite sex is finally - and this is true for everyone, not just me - is paying attention to you, and everyone's having their first kisses and their first boyfriends and girlfriends at fat camp for that first summer, because at home, the opposite sex isn't paying attention to you. But all of the sudden at camp, everyone's pretty much in the same oversized boat.

NEARY: Now, one thing you said that is interesting is that nobody was really talking about health so much back then. It was really all about appearance.

Ms. KLEIN: Yeah, it was absolutely aesthetics. I mean, I remember when I came home crying one day to my father, finally worked up the courage to say, you know, the kids at school call me Moose. And he started actually not comforting me, but laughing hysterically. And that was something that I shared with a lot of the kids at fat camp. You know, we found that common ground, because of all us were, you know, ridiculed by - whether it was our parents or our peers, you know, once we got to camp, we realized that that we had that commonality, not just the weight, but how we - well we were received there.

NEARY: Yeah.

Ms. KLEIN: And so, it was all about the aesthetics of it.

NEARY: Yeah. Let's take a call now. We're now going to go Julie. She's calling from Madison, Wisconsin. Hi, Julie.

JULIE (Caller): Hi, Lynn. Thank you for taking my call.

NEARY: Go ahead.

JULIE: Well, first I really want to thank your guest for writing this book, because I do have a teenage daughter who has been to fat camp twice. And the things that your guest is sharing are absolutely, you know, the same things that our daughter said when she came home. On one hand, I really want to express to parents maybe that have an overweight child that fat camp is a lot of fun. My daughter had a blast. She lost, gosh, 20 pounds in three weeks.

And then the second time she went for a summer and lost 45 pounds. But the down side of fat camp is that it is quick weight loss, and unless the family is also taught to change their lifestyle, and the child is truly taught to change their lifestyle, the kid will gain it all back, and that is exactly what happened.

NEARY: It did happen. Did she ever lose it again? I mean, did you go through the steps you're describing, changing lifestyle and really dealing with it on a daily basis?

JULIE: Well, unfortunately, like a lot of families, you know, you have the working parents. They have the crazy lifestyles. And those are all big excuses for saying, no, we really didn't. And actually right now, we're looking at the possibility of cognitive behavior therapy for all of us, because we're typical Americans and we live to eat instead of eat to live.

NEARY: Yeah. Thank so much for your call, Julie.

JULIE: OK. Thanks.

NEARY: I mean, that's one of the things you talked about, too, Stephanie. We're going to have to take a break in a moment, but just briefly, you did get into eating disorder as a result of this, didn't you?

Ms. KLEIN: Oh, absolutely. You learn a lot of great habits at fat camp, and you have a lot of fun. But I also definitely learned some very bad eating habits, including learning how to make myself, you know, binge and purge. I learned that at fat camp.

NEARY: Yeah. We are talking with Stephanie Klein about her new book, "Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp." And in a moment, a health reporter will be joining us to discuss whether fat camps really are the best way to help kids lose weight. You can join us. Give us a call at 800-989-8255. You can also drop as in email. The address is talk@npr.org. I'm Lynn Neary. It's Talk Of The Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

NEARY: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Lynn Neary in Washington. A bit later in the hour, we'll focus on the new round of attack ads to hit the presidential campaigns. Do negative ads work? We'll find out.

Right now, we're talking with Stephanie Klein about her book, "Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp." You can read more about Stephanie's ongoing relationship with her weight at npr.org/talk. There she writes more about the hate diet, where romantic picnics with crab cakes and prosciutto give way to desperate post-breakup dieting.

Have you ever been to a fat camp as a counselor or a camper? Or have you sent your child to one? Did it work? Tell us your story. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255, and our email address is talk@npr.org. You can also comment on our blog. It's in npr.org/blogofthenation. All right. We're going to take a call now. We're going to go Sarah. She's calling from New York. Hi, Sarah. How you're doing?

SARAH (Caller): Hello?

NEARY: Hi. Go ahead.

SARAH: Hi. I was a camp counselor at the weight-loss camp in western Massachusetts a few years ago.

NEARY: And what's your take in these camps? You think they work or they don't work or...

SARAH: Well, I think with most of sleep-away camps, it's a real mixed bag for the kids who go. One of the things that allowed for was an interesting social restructuring. The kids who at school were - felt really left out were able to be popular, you know, for first time some of them were.

NEARY: Mm-hm.

SARAH: And ultimately, I - my camp that I worked out was - I thought it was really poorly run, a lot of poor decisions about nutrition for the kids. And sports and activities that the parents were promised didn't pull through at times...

NEARY: Oh, really? So, you felt that they didn't even maybe deliver on the core thing, of nutrition and exercise.

SARAH: Right. It was really interesting to watch. There were lots of questions about our chef's actual nutrition background and his ability to provide the kids with healthy food, even the camp nutritionist, on how she was doing, a lot of the sports activities the parents were promised. We would bring our kids to them, and there just wouldn't be a tennis instructor, and I would have to teach tennis. I've never taught tennis or played tennis.

NEARY: Wow. Now, let me ask you something. Do you yourself have a weight problem as a counselor, people who have dealt with weight issue or not?

SARAH: It really varies from person to person. I went because my brother was going to be camp counselor there. He just got wrapped up in this thing and so I came along, too. We'd grown up heavy, but never particularly concerned about it. And at camp, my kids, they just thought I was - I mean, I could do cartwheels and a lot of them couldn't, and that was a (unintelligible) difference between us.

NEARY: All right. Thanks so much for your call, Sarah.

SARAH: Thank you.

NEARY: Stephanie Klein, I think something Sarah said sort of reflects what you talk about in your book, which is, you know, becoming the popular kid at fat camp, but then, of course, then you have to return to reality, too.

Ms. KLEIN: Absolutely. At fat camp, we used to make a joke that right here - around here, he's Joe All Star, but in the normal, quote/unquote, "normal world," he's Joe Lunch Bucket, and that we all really have this big chance to shine, where at fat camp, we can all be forwards instead of fullbacks. And I absolutely was among one of the kids who felt - I was 100 percent the popular girl when I was at fat camp, and at home I was Moose.

And I returned back to that world, and I think one of the challenges for camps, or any controlled environment that you put someone in, is how do you give them a taste of what it's really, really going to be like once they do leave that controlled environment? And how are they going to maintain and make the right choices when they don't have someone telling them what to do?

NEARY: Yeah. Did it give you any confidence at all when you return to school? I mean, did you feel better about yourself? Did that help you at all socially or not?

Ms. KLEIN: It didn't help socially. You know, I think a lot of us, what we get is what I called the someday syndrome. And it's true with weight, but it's true other things, too, thinking, oh, someday when I'm thinner, I'll be popular, someday when I make more money, I'll be happy, whatever it is. And I learned, even at that young, young age of 13, that I had to start figuring out how to be happy whether I was thin or not. It really didn't have anything to do with how popular I was. And that was a hard lesson for me to learn, that it had more to do with my personality also.

NEARY: Well, joining us now to talk about health and weight-loss camps is Sally Squires. She was a health reporter for the Washington Post for over 20 years. She's now the director of health and wellness at the communication firm Powell Tate, Weber Shandwick, and she join us here in Studio 3A. Thanks for coming in.

Ms. SALLY SQUIRES (Director, Health and Wellness, Weber Shandwick): Thank you.

NEARY: Now, you covered health issues for decades. So, is there real consensus among experts on whether these weight-loss camps are a good thing or a bad thing?

Ms. SQUIRES: Well, there actually is, and I also - I co-wrote, a number of years ago, a book called "The Stoplight Diet for Children," which was based on a federally funded program that was at the University of Pittsburgh, Behavioral Modification for Families. And it showed that kids could lose weight, and the same thing is true of children who go to these camps. They may be imperfect in some ways, but there are some really good studies - I did a quick literature search and found that in some cases kids can lose as much as 12 pounds over a summer, which is pretty significant for kids who are morbidly obese. That may not be as much as they need to lose.

But it is the opportunity, as you've been hearing, to - for some of these kids to bond together, and yes, then you just - you have to reenter the real the world and that may not be always exactly the way you want it to be. But it does offer the opportunity - and these studies show that - to learn some good habits and develop some good exercise routines, but the trick is applying that when you get home.

NEARY: Continuing.

Ms. SQUIRES: Yes.

NEARY: And that's always the hard part about losing weight.

Ms. SQUIRES: That is always the hard part, and I was the creator of the Lean Plate Club franchise at the Post, and now I'm doing something called sallysquires.com. But this is something that's not just true for kids. This is true for adults, too, that we - this isn't, you go on a diet, you go off of it. This is figuring out a lifestyle that you can live with for the rest of your life, and that's what so important for these children.

NEARY: Stephanie Klein, when you look back on it, do you think of it in positive or negative terms, your experience?

Ms. KLEIN: That's hard to say. I mean, it's both. There was absolutely the camaraderie and the wonderful feeling of not being alone. We all lost weight. I lost 30 pounds that first summer. It was a never a question of, are you going to lose weight? It's, are you going to return the next summer even fatter, was really the big question that we should be asking, because it's not so much about losing weight at the actual camp. I think a big part of these camps, what they should be doing, is having these kids journal what they're eating, so they get into the habit of journaling, because you are more aware of what you're putting into your body when you do something like that.

NEARY: Wait, were the kids really aware - or that question you just posed, are you going to come back next year even fatter? Were the kids really...

Ms. KLEIN: Oh, we called them fat camp champs. That's what we called each other if we came back. I went for five summers, so I would know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KLEIN: I've been the camper and the counselor. And we'd would say, oh, you know, are you going to be a fat camp champ, meaning you think that when you leave here, you're going to, you know, come back even bigger, or you're definitely keep coming back. And just to give just a quick example, the parents sometimes would try to be helpful, and they sent menus, saying, OK, well, maybe you could go over in nutrition class what you might be - here's a menu from a local restaurant - what you might be ordering that's a healthy choice once you're home. Sounds like a great idea, except as kids, we took those menus, and forget about talking about the menu in nutrition class. The bunk lights would go out, we'd turn on our flashlights, and we would have someone read all the content of the menus out loud...

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: Oh, God.

Ms. KLEIN: Because we were, like, so craving and wanting what we couldn't have. And that's part of the struggle. I mean, sure, in a controlled environment, you can lose the weight, but it's setting them up to be in a mind set of, I want, I want, I want, I can't have, but when I leave here, I can. And that's we need to change.

Ms. SQUIRES: And that is one of the really important questions that in - this has to be a family approach, or wherever these kids are going back, that you don't go away and then come back into whatever situation it was that was helping to gain weight unless everybody's invested in it, and that's what the study showed at the University Pittsburgh, that the whole family has to be on board, whether everybody's overweight or not. Everybody has to make this commitment to eat more healthfully together.

NEARY: Right.

Ms. SQUIRES: Otherwise, it's just a recipe for disaster.

NEARY: All right. Let's take a call now. We're now going to Brian, and he's in Birmingham, Alabama.

BRIAN (Caller): Yes.

NEARY: Brian, go ahead.

BRIAN: Yes. Hey, I was just calling. I love the program, been listening for awhile, and I can actually relate to this one particularly. I went to a fat camp when I was 13, like your callers and your guest had been saying, had a wonderful time, absolutely wonderful. It was so pleasant to not be one of the odd people out. I was at that age that, when I finally got finished there, I was able to transition into athletics, which helped me keep the weight down. I never did lose. But I do think that the part that is being reiterated over and over about lifestyle change is the most important thing, and I really appreciate that. Thank you for letting me have a call.

NEARY: OK. Thank so much for calling, Brian.

BRIAN: Uh-huh, bye-bye.

NEARY: All right. And you know, I want to ask you, Stephanie Klein, how much was exercise part of the whole routine and - because, you know - you know, don't want to feed into a stereotype here, but the kids who get overweight tend to be the kids who don't like exercise. So, what was it like?

Ms. KLEIN: It's, you know...

NEARY: Exercising...

Ms. KLEIN: It's 100-percent true.

NEARY: Yeah.

Ms. KLEIN: It's true for adults. It's true for me now.

NEARY: Right, mm-hm.

Ms. KLEIN: I didn't like exercise, and I certainly wasn't going to like more being forced to do caterpillar drills and slimnastics class at fat camp. What I have found as an adult, and now that I'm a mother of twins and I'm going to face the same thing when my children are older, is, how do we come up with good exercises that kids like? And for me, it's all about distracting yourself. So, for me, I walk around and I'll walk - and this was true as a kid, too - I would hike with a camera. So, the goal wasn't losing weight. It wasn't, OK, sweat. It was, get that great photo. Take that great photo. So, my mind wasn't on the weight loss and I could last a lot longer and enjoy it more, because it became a hobby instead of, oh, I've got to force myself to get on the treadmill.

NEARY: Right, right. Let me ask you, Sally Squires, it sounds to me, from what we're hearing, you know, both from Stephanie and some of the callers so far, that it's almost like this is, like, therapy and that it succeeds on a certain level as therapy, maybe not so much as a permanent weight-loss program.

Ms. SQUIRES: Right. And it's great that these kids, when they go - and teens, when they go these camps are seeing some success, because we know from major studies, such as the Diabetes Prevention Program, that small amounts of weight can really make - weight loss can really make some significant changes in blood pressure, cholesterol, some - the things that we want to see go in a different direction.

But you're right, you have to look at, what's the situation that these kids are in that has allowed them to gain this weight, at a time in previous generations when kids were extremely lean? I mean, this was - to be overweight as a child was very rare. And so, we have to keep looking for things that we can change in our environment and in our homes that allow these kids not to grow that size, and then, if when they do, to help them get back to a more normal size.

NEARY: Yeah. Do you think that these kinds of camps now are - Stephanie was talking about the fact that when she was going to these camps, it was all about appearance. Do you think these camps are a little more, as the rest of society is, a little more conscious about the health benefits and really concentrating on the health aspect of weight loss?

Ms. SQUIRES: I can say that from the studies that I pulled up from - I did a quick search on the - at the National Library of Medicine - it was very clear that none of these studies were looking at kids who are trying to have better appearance. They were all addressing the health issues. And we know, for example, that we are seeing kids who not only have type II diabetes, which only used to be seen in adults, but have high blood pressure, have high cholesterol. We're seeing some liver problems that are really serious and never used to occur at these young ages. And so, absolutely, this is focused on health issues.

NEARY: And it's interesting when you brought up high blood pressure and cholesterol before, I was - I was a little bit surprised to hear you talking about that in this context. They're talking about children having high blood pressure...

Ms. SQUIRES: Yes, very much so. And that's because we're seeing this kids, even overweight kids, not necessarily obese kids, but - are going to the high edges of what we consider healthy/normal. And that's not a good place to be. We want these things to come down.

NEARY: Sally Squires is the director of health and wellness at the communications firm Powell Pate, Weber...

Ms. SQUIRES: It's Powell Tate, sorry.

NEARY: Powell Tate, sorry. Powell Tate, Weber and Shandwick. And you're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. We're going to go to Barrett in Louisville, Kentucky, now. Hi, Barrett.

BARRETT (Caller): Hi. How're you doing?

NEARY: I'm good.

BARRETT: I went to a fat camp when I was younger. I'm 28 years old now, and my parents sent me between the ages of 11 and 14. I think it was three years altogether. And I kind of grew up in a small town, and I was ridiculed for being overweight, and my - I had two buddies that were overweight as well. Well, all of our parents got together and decided to send us to a camp in Indiana - I won't name it - but it was a very negative experience. Some of the counselors were prior camp - campees (ph), I guess you could call them, and they would make us - they would, you know - after hours, they would pull us out of our beds and make us get naked and just ridicule us and...

NEARY: Wow.

BARRETT: Do all kinds of horrible stuff to us.

NEARY: Did you report that back to your parents? Were your parents aware?

BARRETT: Not immediately. We didn't - we made a pact not to say anything for about - I don't think anybody said anything until we were over the age of 18.

NEARY: Wow.

BARRETT: And we kind of - one of my friends told his mom and his mom called up, you know, the other two parents and they didn't know anything about it. But the kids said that that had been done to them and that they were just - they were paying it forward.

NEARY: I would guess it didn't, then, help you very much with whatever issues you were dealing with, with weight.

BARRETT: I'm sorry?

NEARY: It didn't help you very much, then, with the weight issues that you had, I would...

BARRETT: I mean, the camp was good. I mean, during the daytime it was good, but there was a lot of stress to put on, you know, an 11-, 12-year-old kid. I'm older now and I realize that, you know, I didn't do anything wrong. None of that was my fault. But you know, at the time, it was an immense amount of stress.

NEARY: Yeah.

BARRETT: I've got a kid now, and I don't think I would ever send him to any camp setting, much less a camp setting where there's a type of goal like that, to lose weight or anything like that. I mean, they - it was a bad...

NEARY: You had a bad experience with it, and I just want to get a response from both Stephanie and Sally to this experience that you had. Thanks so much for calling, Barrett.

BARRETT: OK.

Ms. KLEIN: First of all, that's awful, and I feel really sorry that that happened to you. I know that I've been to three different fat camps - this is Stephanie Klein - and a counselor again at one of them, and nothing like that has ever happened to me personally. But there were...

NEARY: So you think that's kind of unusual.

Ms. KLEIN: I do think it's unusual, and of course, I would recommend any child going through anything like that, whether they were a witness to it or was it themselves, to definitely speak up. The worst I ever had was a counselor smelling my breath before I went to bed at night to make sure I wasn't cheating.

NEARY: And Sally Squires, do you think that's unusual, too?

Ms. SQUIRES: Well, I think it's unusual, too. But I also think it is a slight reflection of the fat stigma that is in society, and that unfortunately, I mean, this is obviously a very extreme example, and who knows? Kids will be kids, and that sometimes they're not so great at all. But I think that we do see fat stigma is a real, real issue for a lot of people, and those who are overweight and obese are seen as, you know, somehow being flawed. And I'm not saying that there isn't personal responsibility here, but this is a growing problem and one that, in terms of how we deal with people who have this issue and treat them well and help them towards healthier weight, is going to be really important whether you're 10 or you're 50.

NEARY: And Stephanie Klein, just as we're wrapping up here, you're a mother now. What's your attitude towards weight and your children?

Ms. KLEIN: I think it starts with me, and that I am their role model and I have to be comfortable with who I am, and that means not being overly harsh. It means not being obsessed with it. It really is saying, OK, my body is a vehicle for who I am inside. And so, I need to reward my body here and there by taking it out and exercising it once in awhile to keep me around for a long time, and to eat when only I'm hungry, which is really hard. If you could do that, that's enough.

NEARY: Great. So, good to have you with us today, Stephanie. Stephanie Klein is the author of "Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp." We were also joined by Sally Squires. You can see more of her work at sallysquires.com. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.

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