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Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp
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Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp

by Stephanie Klein
 

With her signature acerbic wit and captivating insight, the author of the wildly popular Straight Up and Dirty offers a powerful and beautifully stark portrait of adolescence

While she is pregnant with twins, one sentence uttered by her doctor sends Stephanie Klein reeling: "You need to gain fifty pounds." Instantly, an

Overview

With her signature acerbic wit and captivating insight, the author of the wildly popular Straight Up and Dirty offers a powerful and beautifully stark portrait of adolescence

While she is pregnant with twins, one sentence uttered by her doctor sends Stephanie Klein reeling: "You need to gain fifty pounds." Instantly, an adolescence filled with insecurity and embarrassment comes flooding back. Though she is determined to gain the weight for the health of her babies—even if it means she'll "weigh more than a Honda"—she can only express her deep fear by telling her doctor simply, "I used to be fat."

Klein was an eighth grader with a weight problem. It was a problem at school, where the boys called her "Moose," and it was a problem at home, where her father reminded her, "No one likes fat girls." After many frustrating sessions with a nutritionist known as the fat doctor of Roslyn Heights, Long Island, Klein's parents enrolled her for a summer at fat camp. Determined to return to school thin and popular, without her "lard arms" and "puckered ham," Stephanie embarked on a memorable journey that would shape more than just her body. It would shape her life.

In the ever-shifting terrain between fat and thin, adulthood and childhood, cellulite and starvation, Klein shares the cutting details of what it truly feels like to be an overweight child, from the stinging taunts of classmates, to the off-color remarks of her own father, to her thin mother's compulsive dissatisfaction with her own body. Calling upon her childhood diary entries, Klein reveals her deepest thoughts and feelings from that turbulent, hopeful time, baring her soul and making her heartache palpable.

Whether Klein is describing her life as a chubby adolescent camper—getting weighed on a meat scale, petting past curfew, and "chunky dunking" in the lake—or what it's like now as a fit mother, having one-sided conversations with her newborn twins about the therapy they'll one day need, this hilarious yet grippingly vulnerable book will remind you what it was like to feel like an outsider, to desperately seek the right outfit, the right slang, the best comeback, or whatever that unattainable something was that would finally make you fit in.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times
“The memoir, which mixes painful revelations with amusing anecdotes, teems with details, like the sixth-grade Spanish class in which the teacher told students to identify themselves as fat or thin.”
hungry-girl.com
“A candid, touching memoir . . . It’ll make you laugh—and cry.”
Publishers Weekly

When Klein (Straight Up and Dirty) becomes pregnant and is instructed to gain weight, she flashes back to the years of trying to reduce. As an overweight eight-year-old, she was told, "You will struggle with this for the rest of your life." Eventually, she got fed up with what she calls "fatnalysis" and her only concern was how to get thin. Yet the emotional distance of her mother, the cutting remarks of her father and a severe beating by her aunt explain why she felt her body was "too big to hold the nothing that was in me." In school, "fat meant unpopular, not unhealthy." Even her father laughs when hearing Klein's nickname, "Moose." At 13, she attended fat camp, where girls holding their own rolls of fat "made me feel less alone." Klein movingly relates the humiliation she endured from other campers and her flirtation with bulimia. But in the end, the narrative is less of a journey than a slog. While capturing the agonies of the unpopular, Klein succinctly sums up society's attitude to overweight women. But the insights are obvious: society is cruel to fat kids, and kind to thin ones. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal

Adult/High School

Klein's memoir of her fight with food is brutally and painfully honest. It begins with irony-the soon-to-be mother of twins who has battled weight issues all her life was told by her obstetrician to gain 50 pounds-and ends with acceptance that "no matter the grief I endure, I will always care what I weigh." The author's remote and self-absorbed mother, who has her own image issues, and her successful businessman father, whose insensitive remarks contributed to her lack of self-esteem, sent their 13-year-old daughter to a camp known to help children lose weight. Having suffered bullying at school and nicknamed Moose, the girl hoped to remake her image at camp. Her attempts were undermined, however, by the unkindness of cliques, the ineptitude of staff, and her own excessive behavior, which ranged from eating binges and purging to promiscuity. Her stash of pornography earned her the new nickname of Porno Queen. Two meaningful relationships did develop, however. Bunkmate Kate, irrepressible, irreverent, and sardonic, offered genuine friendship, and boyfriend Adam offered the exhilaration of first love. There are no easy answers here for ways to lose weight or become popular, but teens who battle weight issues will find a kindred spirit, and campers will laugh and grimace over some universal experiences.-Jackie Gropman, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA

Kirkus Reviews
A candid memoir of the author's struggle with her weight. When Klein (Straight Up and Dirty: A Memoir, 2006), a self-professed rotund adolescent turned nicely shaped adult, was told by her pre-term labor specialist that she must gain 50 pounds before giving birth, the author understandably balked. "If I gained 50 pounds, I'd weigh more than a Honda," she notes, "and certainly more than my husband, which was worse." Her doctor's edict transported her back to childhood, which was filled with taunts, unrequited crushes and unhealthy processed food. Klein recalls when she hit "156 pounds and change" despite numerous trips to a local nutritionist, after which she was sent off to Camp Yanisin, an overnight camp where overweight children learn how to eat and exercise properly. The most important lessons came not from the counselors, but from fellow campers, who all battled the same demons. A popular blogger, Klein is occasionally honest to the point of discomfort, but her sense of humor and appreciation of the absurd temper her periodic self-pity and make her sophomore outing at once readable and inspiring. When things get too heavy (no pun intended), there's a childhood diary entry to lighten the mood: "I'm considered ‘hot' at this camp. I'm going to get so much booty when I get home-don't get me wrong, I'm not a slut. I just have a hard time saying ‘no.' "With vivid characterizations, spot-on locale descriptions and sly jokes at her own expense, Klein offers an original and touching take on the all-too-common problem of childhood obesity. Agent: Joe Veltre/Artists Literary Group

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060843298
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/27/2008
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Moose
A Memoir of Fat Camp

Chapter One

Baby fat

"you need to gain fifty pounds," Mimi said as she plotted my weight on her medical chart. Certainly, I'd heard the words "need" and "gain" cobbled together in a sentence about my weight before. Though they were usually words in my own head and were always assembled a bit differently: "You gain any more weight and you'll need to hire someone to help you find your vagina." Mimi's new arrangement of the verbs was far more distressing.

I was standing on a scale in the medical offices of the Texas Perinatal Group. It was one of many appointments with Mimi, my preventa­tive preterm labor specialist. My obstetrician had mandated these weekly visits upon learning I was pregnant with twins. Multiples tend to be in a hurry, he'd said as he scrawled Mimi's contact information on his prescription pad.

If I gained fifty pounds I'd weigh more than a Honda. And certainly more than my husband, which was worse.

"You're just not gaining enough," Mimi continued as she leafed through papers on her clipboard.

"Yeah, but I've got time," I said, shooing away her concern with my hand. "And I hear it all comes on in the last month anyway."

"Stephanie," she whispered, in an alarmingly real way that made my name sound like an object, "you're nearly six months pregnant. With twins. And you've only gained thirteen pounds."

I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to hurt my sweet babies, but I was frightened of getting any fatter. As it was, prepregnancy, I'd been twenty pounds heavier than my "happy weight"—that brilliant place where clothes shopping wasenjoyable, reunion events were eagerly anticipated, and thin white pants seemed to be my most flattering choice. Medically speaking, before there were two pink lines, I'd been just seven pounds shy of being classified as overweight. And now I was being asked to play patty-cake with the idea of smearing on some excess plump.

Please. I might have been bordering overweight, but my dimpled ass was far from dumb. Pregnancy-brain hadn't rendered me completely useless. I'd done my research, relying on my proficient medical expert (ahem, Google), so I knew if a woman began her pregnancy overweight, as I nearly had, she should restrict her calories and gain little to no weight during pregnancy.

Despite this, I was being urged to pack on the pounds, and I was downright leery.

"Oh, yeah, sure. Eat all you want," Mimi would say now, and once I was accustomed to eating donut pudding for breakfast, I was sure she'd say, "Mmm, yeah, about that. You didn't think I was serious?"

"I'm trying," I said, stepping from the scale and returning to the chair where I'd set my clothes. With her back still turned, Mimi slid open the white drawers beside the chrome sink, peeking through each one. I faced a wall of baby announcements and hiked up my shorts. Ordinarily she left the room while I changed, but I wanted to save time and get the hell out.

When I turned around, she was still foraging. I yanked a thin shred of skin from my lip and felt calmer now that I tasted blood.

"Here it is," she said of a pamphlet outlining dietary guidelines for women carrying multiples.

"You gave it to me last week," I said, taking it anyway. "And I really am trying." Mimi glared at me as if to say the thirteen pounds I'd gained wasn't all placenta, amniotic fluid, and baby weight; it was thirteen pounds of bullshit.

"Is that what you think skim milk is? That's not trying. You need the extra calories from higher-fat dairy."

I hoped to be one of those chic pregnant women who could pull off cap sleeves and pencil skirts, ruched camisoles, or a tube dress. But my arms looked like tubers, and everything I wore made me look like a Mallomar. I figured the babies would take what they needed from my body, so the only one who'd suffer would be me. And I didn't care if my health was compromised if it meant my lard arms might make it out leaner. I refused to fall into that I can gorge now mind-set just because I was pregnant. "You're eating for three now" was a myth I wasn't about to choke down with my DHA and prenatal vitamins.

"It's not like I'm starving myself. I'm full all the time." I never skipped breakfast, drank far too many protein shakes, and layered my salads with white meat, low-fat pasteurized cheeses, and chopped egg whites. I ate healthier than I ever had on any diet.

"You have to force yourself to eat more."

"But I'm not hungry," I said, stretching open the nutritional accordion she'd handed me.

"It doesn't matter if you're hungry or not." I couldn't believe someone in the medical community was instructing me to ignore my body's signals and force myself to eat, even if I was full. "Are you exercising?" she asked as she watched me scoot into my sneakers.

"No, you'll be happy to know that I'm still a lazy piece of shit."

"Well, good. That's what I want to hear. The more rest the better."

I'd read articles warning women against gaining too much during pregnancy, how overindulging would make it harder to shed the excess weight after birth. Overweight mothers were at an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Articles with titles like "Preparing for the Marathon of Labor" emphasized the importance of keeping fit. And here was Mimi emphasizing rest. Actual lying down, feet-elevated rest, not just taking it easy.

"Mimi, you have no idea how hard this is for me." I'm fat as it is, I was about to say aloud, but I knew she'd start in about my distorted body image. She couldn't understand. Instead, almost apologetically, I lamented, "I used to be fat."

"Well, to look at you no one would ever know it."

No, I thought, I will never forget it.

Moose
A Memoir of Fat Camp
. Copyright © by Stephanie Klein. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Blogger and author Stephanie Klein was born and raised in New York. She now lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and children.

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