Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fat camp champ: why adolescence never leaves us

199 pounds
If you feel like ANY of the things you have ever done to lose weight—or to feel better about your body—are at all messed up, then you have simply got to read Stephanie Klein's Moose. I just finished it a few weeks ago, and I'm not exaggerating when I say it it might be one of the best books I've ever read.

It's definitely one of the most important.

Moose is a memoir about Klein's experience growing up "fat" and being shipped off to fat camp by her somewhat unsympathetic parents.

I put the word "fat" in quotation marks because, as I mentioned in my "Fat is off the list" post, I don't think that word is productive, but also because Klein was never really fat.

Chubby, yes. But not fat.

If you don't believe me, here are some pictures to prove it:

The image on the left shows Klein as a plump teen around the time the book takes place, and the picture on the right is the one that appears on the back of her book: the author as a successful, gorgeous, and obviously thin adult woman.

Though the book doesn't exactly chronicle how Klein finally kicks the fat habit, it does beautifully narrate her horrific experiences trying to lose weight any way she could while growing up in a world that does not accept people who struggle with weight. Ironically, when Klein goes to fat camp, she is one of the thinnest people there, and as a result, becomes popular and sought-after. As it turns out, even at fat camp, skinny wins.

But what's so moving about this book is that Klein goes through what we all—fat or not—went through when we were young: feeling unattractive, struggling to fit in, and just wanting to be normal.

Sadly, Klein's parents offer little understanding of her situation. At one point, the whole family goes to a "pay what you weigh" dinner, and when Klein refuses to get on the scale, rather than empathize, they tell her that the whole world is prejudiced against fat people and that she'll be much happier if she loses weight.


It's to Klein's credit that she doesn't shy away from painting her mother and father as imperfect—if ultimately loving—parents.

As a result, it's hard not to be completely moved by how challenging it is for Klein to experience adolescence with an extra thirty pounds to lug around and parents who are pushing her to eat lighter fare while scooping out the scalloped potatoes for themselves. And this is why you can't help but walk away from the book with a better understanding of the fact that your own adolescence—no matter how awkward—wasn't that bad by comparison. This is because when young Stephanie suffers from the taunts of her peers or—worse yet—her parents and teachers (one of whom insists she admit she's "gorda"—or fat—in Spanish class), so do you, and the book is obviously better for it.

This is a must-read for any woman who has ever struggled with weight or body issues.

In other words, it's a must-read for all of us.


  1. Hi Molly,
    I'll add it to my reading list.
    Currently, I'm reading:
    Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things. As you may know, for the past few years, I’ve been freaked out by Bisphenol A (BPA). This book has a chapter on it. BPA is a hormone disruptor. The book sited many studies showing that even a small amount of BPA can cause problems, including weight issues.

    I think you should do an experiment on yourself (I’m into this idea. In Slow Death, the authors experimented on themselves by exposing themselves to certain toxins in common everyday usage, then they had their blood tested).

    My challenge to you is to eliminate BPA, actually, that is neigh near impossible since it is everywhere, but you can decrease the amount that you are exposed to by:

    -Not consuming canned food or drinks. This is a hard but all cans (except Eden’s bean) are lined with BPA. Choose frozen over can if you can’t buy fresh. Bottles over cans.

    -Avoid reusable plastic water and baby bottles.

    -Avoid polycarbonate plastic food containers. Plastic code #7 (office water coolers).

    -I don’t know how you avoid this, but BPA coats most carbonless store recipes.

    Anyway let me know what you think! Maybe you already shun BPA. If you don’t, I’d be curious to know if one could loose weight by avoiding it.

    I avoid it like the plague! Since I use to ingest it daily (canned tomatoes, Nalgene bottles, water coolers with #7 bottles), I think it played a big part in my fibroids. Just a theory…


  2. Molly,
    I'm so glad that Moose spoke to you, made you think, made you laugh?, made you want to write about it. I'm currently working on adapting it for the big screen, figuring out which scenes from the book MUST go in there. So it's helpful to read your review. Now I know I should probably figure out a way to work that Pay What You Way moment into the film. If there's anything else you think HAS to go in there, I'm all ears. *Sometimes it helps to hear from people who aren't so close to the source material, you know?
    All my best,