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.