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Fat and Children

Why Strong4Life is bad for fat kids

I'm guessing that most people who read BFB are aware of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's crap anti-childhood obesity ad campaign, ironically called "Strong4Life." There's been a lot of talk and a lot of action going on in the fatophere and in the social media opposing this campaign. Regan of Dances with Fat is creating an ad counter-campaign. Marilyn Wann has made it possible to Stand visibly against the campaign and for more positive values, and Atchka of Fierce, Freethinking Fatties has been opposing the campaign on the ground, with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and its donors. There's also a central site with up to date information called It is really been an incredible show of community power and cooperation.

However, the majority of people still don't seem to get it. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, when challenged, keeps citing undisclosed market research which they claim proves that only a small percentage of people find the Strong4Life campaign offensive. In a recent poll, 80% of respondents seemed to think that Disney's "Habit Heroes" exhibit at Epcot, which depicted fat people as embodiments of bad habits, was just hunky-dorey.

So, as a former fat kid, I'm going to talk about the specific reactions I think this type of campaign will trigger in fat kids and the communities surrounding them.

Fat children will respond to these ads in two ways, and it won't be either/or. They will disassociate, but they will not be able to avoid feelings of shame and lowered self worth. Additionally, the campaign will affect their peers and the adults in their lives, encouraging bullying and lowering expectations.

  1. Disassociation

    If they know deep down that they are healthy - they are strong and active and the doctor tells them all their numbers are fine except their BMI - fat children will think that they're exceptions to the rules. They'll think (and this is one place my mind went as a kid), "None of the things they say about fat kids seem to apply to me. I don't get winded easily. I'm not sweaty. I don't eat a lot of junk food. I can keep up with my thin friends. The doctor must be wrong. I must not really be a fat kid, or being fat is not the same for me as it is for other kids."

    The thing is, I wasn't an exception. The vast majority of fat kids are healthy and have normal lives; the vast majority are exceptions to the stereotypes in these ads*. Notably, the child actors in the ads are all healthy, normal kids who happen to be larger than average. I suspect that most fat kids won't be able to relate to the ads and will disassociate themselves as much as possible. However, they won't be able to escape the fact that the ads are about them; that they are being singled out.

  2. Shame and lowered self worth

    If you tell children that they're unhealthy, they won't think of themselves as healthy. They won't play as hard. They won't push their limits. They'll start to avoid physical activity. Believing that you're unhealthy is not neutral. Just as there's a clinically significant placebo effect that kicks in when people are given an ineffective treatment that they believe is real, there is a "nocebo effect." If healthy people are made to believe they're sick, then they tend to get sick.

    This works psychologically as well. If you tell kids that they're pathetic, then they may start to believe it. They may pull away from their friends. They may get depressed. With their self respect and their support systems under attack, they will get bullied.

Teachers and thinner children will be looking at these ads too, and the fat kids will get bullied more than ever and will have to deal with increased prejudice and lowered expectations. As the expectations of their peers and teachers increasingly match the stereotypes in the ads, how many fat kids will be able to maintain the feelings of competence and social normalcy they need to be successful in their lives? Even if they're able to maintain equilibrium in their own minds, they are going to be treated like damaged goods. Prejudice toward fat children has existed for a long time; at least since the fifties. But never has a respected organization so clearly told fat kids, their peers, and their mentors "Fat children are pathetic and diseased. They bring shame on their families. Fat kids: your bodies are unacceptable."

It will become clear to these children what others - even adults - think of their bodies. They will start wondering if it might not be worth it to starve themselves so that their bodies won't cause others to make negative assumptions about them and their parents. Alternatively, they may rebel or stonewall. Healthier habits are frankly the least likely thing to result from this.

*Oh, and fat kids who actually do have health problems associated with their size? They deserve respect and privacy, not public humiliation and condescending pity.

You might want to read this.

First they came for your fat kids..., by Katharhynn Heidelberg,

Did Dr. David Ludwig of Harvard go all Jonathan Swift on us, when he suggested fat kids should be removed from their parents’ care?

Not quite. As it turns out, the media blew out of proportion his and researcher Lyndsey Murtagh’s commentary advocating government intervention in extreme cases. No “Modest Proposal,” this; apparently, the good doctor does not want to create and unleash the Fat Police — nor even satirically suggest doing so to make a point.

But the fact that he could raise the possibility for the media to run with should be cause for concern. Not because parents are trying their best, or need help, or because being labeled fat stigmatizes kids, as pundits have suggested. Rather, it’s cause for concern because parents do not “make” their children fat.

Repeat: Parents. Do. Not. Make. Their. Children. Fat. Not anymore than they can “make” their children brunette, or tall, male, or female simply by changing “habits” and “getting with the (government) program.”

Just follow the link above to read the rest.

This is a great, well-researched article, and it's as timely now as it was last month. I cannot believe that the idea of taking kids out of their homes because they're fat is being taken seriously in so many places. I think I've been hesitant to write about it, because I'm pretty sure that the press is in effect pushing this preposterous idea by publicizing it. In my opinion, it's such an insane idea that it shouldn't even be discussed. But it's being discussed. More than that, it's happened both in the US and in the UK.

Canadians debate denying fat women fertility treatments

Earlier this week, the Globe and Mail, arguably Canada's newpaper of record, published an article called Canadian MDs consider denying fertility treatments to obese women.

Canadian doctors are considering a policy that would bar obese women from trying to have babies through fertility treatments – provoking debate over whether the fat have the same reproductive rights as the thin.

One obvious issue is, of course, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which according to Wikipedia, affects 5-10% of women of reproductive age. PCOS is associated with fatness and also tends to make women infertile. As is the case with every health concern associated with fatness, many people assume that fatness causes PCOS. Having known several women with PCOS, I think it's pretty clear that the causation runs in the other direction; PCOS causes women to gain weight and makes weight loss extremely difficult.

We have a discriminatory (and proud of it!) jerk in Ottawa:

“We’ve had many angry patients say to us, ‘This is discriminatory’ and I say, ‘Yes, it is’ But I still won’t do it,” said Arthur Leader, co-founder of the Ottawa Fertility Centre. The facility where he works will not treat women with a Body Mass Index (a measurement of weight relative to height) of more than 35. A BMI of 30 meets the clinical definition of obese.

...and we have a voice of reason in BC:

“You’d be denying half the reproductive population access to fertility treatment,” said Anthony Cheung, a fertility expert at the University of British Columbia and Grace Fertility Centre. “These people already know they have a problem – are you going to make it worse, add to feelings of social injustice, low self-worth, depression?”
“We don’t say, ‘Oh sorry you smoke, so we can’t treat you – it could result in pre-eclampsia, or small babies.’ It doesn’t mean we have this blanket policy where we say we can’t treat (smokers)”
Dr. Cheung says it makes him wonder about the “biases of our own society around treating women with high BMI…if it reflects a paternalistic view around obesity.”

Ya think?

Evidently, this is a worldwide debate:

The Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, which recommends practice standards for the country’s fertility doctors, is not the first professional body to consider a treatment ban based on weight. The British Fertility Society recommended a ban in 2006, as has New Zealand, and it was the hot topic of debate at the European meeting on assisted reproduction in Sweden this summer.

Wow. A treatment ban. No exceptions. No case-by-case evaluation. Instead, a BMI cutoff for fertility treatments.

Arya Sharma, Canada's obesity czar, is with us on this one. However, he doesn't mention PCOS in his short post on the topic.

I think that one thing we can do to fight this is to tell our stories. I changed my mind about whether or not fertility treatments should be considered basic health care (for anyone) because a friend of mine shared the story of her and her mother's struggle with PCOS and fertility, and the fact that she wouldn't have been conceived without fertility treatments. Maybe we can change others' minds, too.

Daily Mail publishes good article, well camouflaged by title.

The Daily Mail Online recently posted an informative article on Epigenetics, Is Audrey Hepburn the key to stopping the obesity epidemic?, by John Naish. Yes, the title makes it sound like the article is about how thin celebrities and role models will surely inspire everyone to get thin! Fortunately, that's not what it's about at all.

Audrey Hepburn experienced the Hunger Winter as a teenager during WWII.

Hepburn’s slight figure — her waist was only 20in — came not from any celeb-style fad diet. It was a legacy of the jaundice, anaemia, respiratory problems and chronic blood disorders she contracted in those desperate days. After a lifetime of quietly suffering frail health, she died in 1993, two months after undergoing an operation for colon cancer. She said of her privations: ‘After living for years under the Germans, you swore you would never complain about anything again.’

Now Dr Carey, a British biology expert and former senior lecturer at Imperial College, London, has written a book in which she suggests Hepburn’s poor health was the result of genetic changes caused by her terrible childhood diet. Such changes are being revealed by the new science of epigenetics.

We are beginning to understand how we are not simply born with genes that are pre-set for life.

The Hunger Winter left adults who survived it with chronic ill health and people who were fetuses at the time with a tendency to store fat and a high risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The most worrying finding is that parents’ poor nutrition can seriously affect the health of their unborn children. This is particularly true of mothers who are malnourished in the first three months of pregnancy. While the hunger winter survivors’ babies tended to be born at a normal size, they often inherited a lifetime problem: their obesity rates are much higher than normal.

Some theories suggest that when a baby suffers malnutrition in the womb, a survival mechanism kicks in that pre-sets its metabolism in preparation for being born into a world of famine and starvation...

Some of these effects even seem to be present in the children of this group — the grandchildren of the original hunger winter survivors. Not only were the children’s genes changed epigenetically, but those harmful changes have been passed on through two generations.

Dr. Carey's book: The Epigenetics Revolution, subtitled "How modern biology is rewriting our understanding of genetics, disease and inheritance." isn't focused on the genetics of obesity, and there's a more conventional review of it here, in the Guardian.

However, Mr. Naish comments intelligently on the material that concerns body size, restates some things that have been kicking around the fatosphere for a while, and offers some insight on the mutability of our genetic inheritance.

In light of this, I'm amazed that fat women are still being advised to avoid weight gain during pregnancy, when attempting to do so could effectively expose their fetuses to famine conditions. Why are medical recommendations based on an assumption that well nourished fetuses, babies and children become fat, while the opposite appears to be the case?

South Park Skewers School BMI Testing

Mandatory South Park disclaimer: Many people find South Park offensive and juvenile in a way that is disturbingly unfit for children. If you are lacking a rude, insensitive, irreverent and sexually precocious inner 12 year old, then you are quite possibly a better person than I am, and be warned!

Phew. So let's talk about South Park's "T.M.I." episode. You can find the full episode here if you live in North America and you can view an excerpt here if you live in the UK or Ireland. If you can't watch it (or can't stand to watch it), there's a summery of it and some good analysis here, at More of Me to Love. And obviously, it's available elsewhere for those who are not strictly legal in their on-line viewing.

Most people will be aware that TMI is short for "too much information," and in this episode, it refers to an arcane method for classifying penis size. Obviously, it's also one letter away from BMI. Fat character Cartman, through a misunderstanding, makes the information on the boys' penis length available to the whole school, and is also the one with the smallest measurement. However, it tuns out that scientists and the Surgeon General support classification by TMI, but are willing to redefine their very judgmental categories ('small, 'medium' and 'nice') when it turns out that telling men and boys that they have small penises gives them problems with anger management.

The idea of measuring BMI in school and making it public information and/or treating it as something appropriate to put on a "report card" is ripe for parody. Hopefully we'll see it ridiculed even more in the future, perhaps even without anti-fat digs being added in for balance.

Do parents discriminate against their fat kids?

This seems like such an obvious concept to me. After all, parents are people who grew up in our fat-hating society, so of course that will have some effect on how they treat their fat children. This video from the Today show touches on these issues but despite my gut feeling that discrimination is obviously happening with parents and fat kids, the study they're discussing seems a little problematic. I'm not entirely convinced that you can determine special treatment based on one factor, like how much money the parents gave their kids to buy a car. It makes me wonder if the study took into account money the parents had spent (as my parents did) on therapists, nutritionists, diet plans and fat camp to correct their child's fatness. Maybe they already spent the car fund on the very important cause of shrinking little Susie's fat ass. Or maybe they don't want her skinny siblings to think that they care about Susie more because they keep spending wads of cash on her. So Susie gets to go to ridiculously expensive fat camp and her sister gets to buy a nicer car.

Anyway, it would have been nice if they allowed more time at the end of the segment for the experts to talk (Dear Today show, here's a tip: don't book two experts if you don't have time for an actual discussion), because some solid points were being made about parenting fat kids. Take a look...what do you think?

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Nothing Has Changed

Sociological images has posted a British PSA from 1967, in three parts.

In the PSA, it's assumed that fat people just need to be educated. However, even in the 1960s, the idea that any fat woman didn't know the common wisdom about nutrition - chapter and verse - must have been laughable.

Heritability is mentioned and confirmed, yet the PSA continues to imply that being fat is entirely due to poor eating habits and inactivity. In fact, it actually shows a fat woman eating sweets while talking about heritability. Am I sick for finding that hilarious? So transparent!

Of course, the most pathetic figure of all is the fat girl from the single parent home. Clearly, she's doomed to a life of shame and isolation.

The worst thing about this PSA is that, in 2010 - more than 40 years later! - most people, including doctors, don't have a more sophisticated understanding of weight regulation in the human body. It's still "eat a healthy diet and exercise, and you'll be thin!"

Since watching these can be depressing, try playing a game of "spot the stereotype." I know there's a lot to talk about here that I haven't touched on.

Fat Kids Targeted

Let's start with a basic fact. Build is as heritable as height; obesity is predominantly hereditary. Many fat parents have fat children. Why? Is it because fat parents are teaching their innocent children their lazy, gluttonous habits? Not so much. It's mostly because fat parents are passing on their genes. Here's a short article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that discusses the evidence: "Obesity: still highly heritable after all these years"

The First Lady thinks that encouraging Americans to eat healthy diets and be physically active will eliminate obesity. This is because, as everyone knows, fat people (and especially fat kids) sit on their asses eating all the time, while thin people follow the food pyramid and recommended caloric intake while exercising for at least an hour a day. Also, back when people ate less and were more active (do we have proof of that? No?), there were no fat children. Remember "Our Gang" and "Little Rascals" from the 1920s - 1940s? No fat kids there! Oh wait...

Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative... the front page of the web site looks so positive and harmless. Encouraging kids to be active is a fine idea. However, click on any of the tabs and you'll find some questionable stuff. Weight is equated to health. Nowhere is it acknowledged that people can be active, eat a healthy diet and still have a BMI in the obese range. Nowhere does it mention the fact that some fat kids grow up into thin adults, or that some fat kids grow up into healthy, fat adults with long, productive, joyful lives.

Finally, the stated goal of the program is "solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight." Trying to eliminate obesity from the population by encouraging children to exercise and eat less? Given the heritability of body size, that's just not going to work. People naturally come in a variety of sizes. Why would anyone want to eliminate an aspect of human diversity? And of course, trying to wipe out the defining characteristic of an culturally denigrated group of people... it's not pretty.

All of this tsk tsking and oh-so-magnaminous concern about the size of children will rightly be interpreted by fat children and their families as more unjustified shaming, bullies will take it as encouragement, and thin kids will be even more likely to shun fat kids. Speaking as a former fat kid, if there's a reason to hide inside in front of a screen while eating comfort food, then being bullied and shunned by your peers is it. And, while being active and eating a healthy diet may not make most fat people thin, it is true that comfort eating and hiding indoors tend to make us a bigger. Nice.

And if parents refuse to take part in the shaming and fail to treat their higher-than-average BMI children as if their bodies are unacceptable? If they dare to believe that their healthy, active child is all right in spite of population-level statistical tools saying that they're at the large end of the bell curve? They're considered incompetent. It's assumed that BMI means more than the knowledge that parents have about the health and habits of their specific, individual children.

If the government were really interested in helping fat kids, they'd have a program encouraging all children to do well in school, live balanced lives, develop self respect and respect for others, and take care of their bodies. They wouldn't call attention to kids' size, but they would be aware of things that are more physically challenging for heavier kids and offer help in accomplishing them, if it's wanted. Fat kids should learn to listen to their bodies - to trust them and to push their limits - just like other kids. They shouldn't be taught that their bodies are inherently wrong and unhealthy. Being a fat kid who grows into a fat adult shouldn't be viewed as a horrible fate. A lot of fat kids do grow into fat adults, and that's fine. It is not a guarantee of poor health, underachievement, and loneliness, but targeting fat kids with the kind of attention that's bound to worsen bullying and social isolation certainly makes those outcomes more likely.

Lesley Kinzel has written probably the best material I've read on this topic on Newsweek's site and on Fatshionista. If you only read two of the links in this post, read these.

There's also an excellent article at Huffington Post that's full of good points and good links.

Even We Are the Real Deal agrees that there are problems with this approach.

BFB members: What do you think? What were your experiences as a kid? What kind of experiences are your kids having? What's really best for kids, fat and thin?

Oh, and if you've posted about this topic on your blog or know of a good post on another blog, feel free to share the link in the comments.

Exploiting Fat Kids -or- Style Network is Despicable.

In the wake of my hopeful optimism about Huge comes a link in my e-mail that counters all of that joy.

But it wasn't some let down about Huge. Instead, it was a link to the site for the new show on the Style Network called Too Fat for Fifteen: Fighting Back, a reality show about teenagers trying to lose weight at a fat camp called Wellspring Academy (a giant, international weight loss school chain, apparently). The video posted in the blog doesn't seem to be working, but I can imagine how it's going to go based on the tagline, "Being fifteen is hard enough. It shouldn't be life and death," which is placed over the shoulder of a faceless fat girl viewed from the back. It's next to a picture put in for flare, good measure, or simplistic illustration, since there's no link or text attached, of fat kids' legs. Naturally, they have centered the darker-skinned kid who is seemingly bustin out his/her crapily made shoes. Y'all didn't know it was a shoe-bustin epidemic, did you? Fear, my friends, the busting of the shoes. Too fat for footwear????  Or maybe it's supposed to illustrate the unbearable, ankle-busting weight of obesity.  Anyway, we get the point.

The website resources include a "Teen BMI Calculator," an article entitled "Effects of Childhood Obesity," and another called, "Think YOU are ready to get fit?" The show debuts August 9th.

From a minor Google search, this seems to be based on a New Zealand documentary about a fat girl at a similar Wellspring Academy.

I am pretty sure I remember a few people being confused and thinking Huge was a reality show; and I was relieved to think/say, "No, no, no it's not that"--in the back of my mind thinking, "Who would do that?!?" Style network, my friends, and Wellspring Academy, would exploit kids in such a know, for fun and profit!

Just what we need, a Biggest Loser for kids. My optimism for this week is officially blown.

PS--What are they "fighting back"? Love how they make it sound empowering.

More on School Lunches

I know many of you have been following the Fed Up With Lunch blog by anonymous teacher Mrs. Q. The original idea of the project was to eat school lunch with the kids every day and document the foods that were offered, but the site has turned into a bit of a phenomenon, and, like the Jamie Oliver business, is making people really start to think about the nature of the food we are providing to our kids. Anyway, Mrs. Q recently posted an entry about obesity that I found interesting. It sounds like she already has some fat acceptance-versed commenters, but I still think it's a good opportunity for us to participate in a discussion about fat kids and fat adults from the perspective of trying to provide better nutrition overall. So have a look and join in, if you're so inclined.

Geez America, why can't you be more like your sister Japan?

Check out this article on Japanese attitudes towards weight. I feel almost like the author is saying "Gee, if Japanese women can lose weight and keep it off, what's wrong with Americans?"
They say the rates of anorexia and bulimia aren't any higher over there than they are here, but I have to wonder if that's because the idea of an average-sized woman not eating because she wants to be thinner is so widely accepted as normal. Certainly the act of specifically not eating or eating only vegetables when you are hungry for more is something of a disorder, whether it's officially anorexia or not.
Anyone have any other ideas about what might cause the disparity between our attitudes toward weight and that of Japanese women?

What to do about your fat kid sneaking food?

This video over at just makes me crazy. Dr. Richard Besser is attempting to give advice to a parent on how to deal with her eleven-year-old child sneaking food and instead of addressing the underlying causes and mentioning the potential for eating disorders, he recommends that the parent sit down with his or her kid and draw up a contract for changing her behavior. This is horrible, terrible advice, and I know because it's what my parents did with me. Did I mention I weigh around 400 pounds now?

Here's the thing: a child is not an adult. There's a reason we don't let children sign contracts, and it's because they're busy making mistakes and dropping the ball and acting on impulse...things that aren't really conducive to setting a goal and following it through. Why would you want to put your child in a position where she is likely to fail over and over? Furthermore, Dr. Besser makes a fuss about how the parents shouldn't be the food police, but that's the exact relationship you are fostering with this contract business, because someone has to be the enforcer and make sure the terms of the contract are being followed. Even if you're not being 'the food police', per se, you're at least being the food prosecutor. Is that really better? The bottom line is that it enforces the adversarial relationship that is already developing because she clearly feels like she has to hide her eating from you.

I swear, that letter could have been written by my parents. The part about "she wants to lose weight", is especially accurate because when I was a kid all I wanted in the world was to make my parents happy,and it was abundantly clear that all they wanted was for me to be thin. I have no doubt that there were loving reasons behind it, like wanting me to fit in socially, but all their campaign did was drive a wedge between us and eff up my relationship with food and exercise.

Here's the advice I wish my parents had gotten when I was a kid sneaking food into my room: listen to your daughter. Talk to her about what's going on and try to figure out what might be bothering her. Hug her...a lot. Remind her that you love her no matter what, and that you will always be there for her. That kind of thing will go a long, long way. In the end, the most important thing to remember is that your job here is about providing unconditional love and support. Leave the contracts out of it.

Child obesity gene discovery may cut fat-related child protection cases

{Promoted from the forums - CarrieP}

The BBC is reporting that a group of Cambridge researchers have discovered a genetic factor common to a number of children and teens labelled as 'severely obese'. They also seem to have identified further links between these 'copy number variants' and the regulation of blood sugar levels and appetite, concerns frequently discussed over the years on these very boards (far be it for me to suggest that people in the FA movement have long known what others have persistently refused even to attempt to demonstrate). Worryingly, several of the study's young participants had already been placed on local authority child protection registers 'on the assumption that their parents were deliberately overfeeding them'; the research findings are apparently sufficiently robust that those participants who were previously slated for intervention or removal by the social services have now been deleted from the database and their parents presumably exonerated.

I give this news a cautious welcome, for the 'may' of the headline is not by any means a 'will' and the enormous moral panic and incessant misinformation of the last decade have left us with a metaphorical supertanker of ignorance and prejudice to stop and turn around before the social work and child health professions begin to realise that a child's size may be as natural as their height and entirely unrelated to parental immorality, abuse or neglect. After all, last month's effective admission by a major obesity research institute that their initial apocalyptic predictions, on which much of the policy and media overreaction seen since in the UK have been based, were way off the mark has so far failed to have much by way impact on those policy makers and the government approach to the 'issue' and indeed was quickly shunted from the front pages.

However it is an important step forward which I am hoping that, given the esteem in which the University of Cambridge is held, will maybe encourage more researchers to break from the consensus and have the courage to challenge the assumptions about over-eating and lack of exercise (and perhaps even the scale of the 'epidemic' itself) without fear of censure and dismissal. Most importantly, tonight maybe Britain's fat children and their entirely blameless parents can sleep that little bit easier in their beds as a result of this good work by Dr. Farooqi and her team. I hope that David Rogers, the Local Government Association public health spokesman who called for a nationwide policy of taking obese children into care a couple of years back, sees this and eats his words, and that lawyers acting for the Dundee family, whose teenage son and daughter remain in the hands of the local authority, are paying attention.

ETA: more about the story here, from AOL via the NAAFA blog (whatever you do, don't read the comments on the AOL link!).

MeMe Roth is Made of Crazy

Look at this poor woman. Doesn't it look like maybe she needs a big ol' fat hug? I concur.

The thing I like about MeMe Roth is that she is such an easy target. She wears her hatred and her bigotry on her sleeve, has no good advice to give, and 99% of the time comes across to even fat-phobic reporters as bat sh*t crazypants. Aside from the fact that she is all about the fat hatred, there are two things I don't like about MeMe:

1. She gets a lot of attention from the media for her anti-fat blather
2. I am starting to really feel sorry for her

I mean, how could you not? She's so delusional! She insists she's not anorexic, in fact says she's "never been on a diet", but then in the next breath talks about how she doesn't eat breakfast, forces herself to work out before eating during the day, and finally admits that, the day of the interview, which occurred at 3:30 PM, she hadn't eaten at all! Sounds like disordered eating to me.

The article says her (fat) family finds her crusade to be hurtful, so I can imagine that family get-togethers are probably strained and uncomfortable for everyone involved. On second thought, I really feel sorry for her kids. MeMe comes across as so cold and controlled that I can't imagine she's all that warm of a mom. Not to mention what hell it must be to grow up in a house where no one eats. I hope I'm wrong about that, but I bet I'm not.

She just seems so intensely unhappy, so rigid, so devoid of joy that I can't help but feel empathy about the lifetime of hurtful experiences she must have gone through to get to this place. That woman does NOT like herself. Not even a little bit. Sure, I absolutely hate everything she stands for and most of the time I really wish she would just stuff a sock in it, but the sad little fat girl inside me recognizes that the sad little fat girl inside her really just needs some love. I hope one day she finally gets it.

Thanks Jenny!

Thoughts on Fat Camp?

Hey folks! withoutscene gave me a heads up to this article over at Sociological Images regarding fat camp. I had some experiences with fat camp when I was younger so I figured I'd post a comment:

I went to fat camp for three years in my mid-teens. I enjoyed being there a whole lot more than I enjoyed being in the outside world but there was definitely a hierarchy of fatness and there was plenty of fat shaming and unhealthy food behavior perpetuated. The camp I went to inexplicably also allowed girls with restricting eating disorders to attend, only they had to come up to the kitchen and eat extra snacks before bed to keep their calorie count up. I can imagine being in an environment where everyone is pushing eating less and exercising more could be a serious triggering thing for an anorexic or bulimic person.

My camp was pretty much the same as the previous commenter described, low calorie meals and exercise all day long. I definitely lost weight by the end of the summer and was happy about it because my parents were happy, but once I got back to reality the weight came right back on and it was back to the dysfunctional power struggle between my parents and my fat. They ended up sending me back two more summers but finally we just couldn’t afford it anymore. It’s not a cheap way to spend a summer, which is another sociological consideration because most of the kids there had pretty rich parents.

So. I can’t speak for every kid who has had a fat camp experience, but I knew I was there because my parents thought there was something wrong with me that needed to be fixed. It was not just a fun time. To an extent it felt like camp was my atonement for not fitting the mold. The fact that I enjoyed interacting with other kids like me at camp didn’t really ever make up for that.

As I was writing I became curious about the rest of the fat community out there. Did you go to fat camp? Were your experiences similar to mine or totally different? Do you think your experiences shaped you in a positive or negative way? If you never went to fat camp, did you ever want to? Other thoughts?

I went to Kingsmont, by the way. Anyone else?

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