I read this article today, and it took me back in time. Back to a time when I was a fat little girl who wanted people to like her. Back to a time when I had skinny siblings that were always very kind to me, but who I wasn't very nice to much of the time, because being nice to strangers took every bit of energy I had all day long, so why the HELL should I have to be nice to people that were programmed to love me no matter what? Back to a time when I constantly worried about whether I would ever be pretty, or thin, or have a boyfriend.
When I was 12, I think it was, my mother came to me with an option for my summer vacation. The family would be going to Hawaii, as usual (actually, we had skipped a year or two, due to our move to the mountain community of Lake Arrowhead when the Twin and I were 10, but I digress...), and I could either join them in Oahu, or I could go to a weight loss camp called "Camp La Jolla". We discussed both options in a very mature and mellow way. I knew I was fat, and I knew I wanted to be thin as much as my mother wanted me to be a happy-go-lucky kid that didn't have to try so hard to get people to see herself for who she really was. I didn't cry and bellow about the fact that my mother thought I was FAT, and wanted to send me elsewhere to get help for my "problem"...rather, I knew I had the problem, didn't know how to get rid of it, and wanted desperately to be thin and pretty like the other girls (including the Twin) at my school.
So I decided to go to Camp La Jolla. Or, the Fat Farm, as all of the attendees lovingly refered to it. Contrary to the name of the camp, the one I went to was actually in Santa Barbara. (They had several locations, as I recall...one of them being in La Jolla, and another one in Arizona, I think? I can't remember exactly...) My parents drove me up the night before I had to check in, we had a yummy dinner at a restaurant on the coast, and then they left me to become the skinny girl I desired to be, leaving a few days later on their own trip to Hawaii with the rest of the family. I spent the next 6 weeks running a mile every morning before breakfast, joining activities such as mini-trampoline aerobics, sand volleyball (which SUCKED!), bike riding, hiking, and the like, watching movies once a week in the common hall, living with 5 girls I'd never seen before, and who I bonded with for the duration of the time we were spending together (some were only there for 4 weeks, some would be there for 8 weeks...), and generally learning that being skinny meant that eating teeny, tiny meals for the rest of my life would have to be the norm. (The food was really very good...and they gave us a cookbook when we went home, so we could continue to eat some of the meals we'd become so familiar with during our transition in our fat lives...)
I had always been a pretty active kid, really. The Twin and I were involved in gymnastics and swimming before we moved to the mountains when we were 10. We couldn't swim any more up there (not for a team, anyway...), but we replaced our normal pool antics with roaming the forest that surrounded our home. We also tried to get into gymnastics as well, but the school in the mountains was WAAAAYYY smaller than the one we had previously been a part of, and then the Twin hurt her back doing some maneuver or another, and when she stopped going, I stopped going. No biggy...we still wandered the forest regularly, and swam in the lake when it was seasonally allowable. But I started eating when we moved up there. I ate, and I ate, and I ate. And the CRAP I ate! Jeezy. I would have a Stouffer's pepperoni pizza (one of those french bread toaster types...) for a SNACK after school. Sometimes, that wouldn't be enough, and I'd have 2. My mom also discovered these little cheese puff things that were basically bits of phylo that we could heat in the toaster oven as well. I ate those like they were going out of style. I think that I had somehow convinced myself that if you could heat it in the toaster oven, then it wasn't really a meal. Or something. Actually, I'm pretty sure that it wasn't anything like that...I just didn't think about shit like calories or fat content or whether I was eating too much food throughout the day. It wasn't on my mind.
So I got fat. I think I weighed about 140 when I went to the Fat Farm. I was about 5' tall. So I was a big girl. I lost 20 pounds while I was at the Fat Farm, and went down to a size 8. I felt skinny, finally. I worked on continuing my new eating habits, and started going to Jazzercize with my mom 3 times a week. I learned more about healthy living in those 6 weeks than I ever could have imagined would be helpful to a 12 or 13 year old. But it really has stuck with me. I've also gained weight back over the years, and have continued on my fat/skinny/fat/skinny routine ever since. I've lost weight as an adult (starting at age 15) with Jenny Craig, and have been relatively successful each time I've tackled it. The last time was not successful...they've made the plan too loose for me (I need LOTS of structure when it comes to that sort of thing...), and it was too expensive for me to be able to stick with it. But that's when I turned to the 6-Week Body Makeover and realized that I can get really healthy just by cutting back on my sodium intake, and hopping on the treadmill for a half hour walk at least 3 times a week. I also realized at that point that certain types of protein are no longer compatible with my body...I stick to turkey, chicken, and fish now.
Anyway, all I'm saying is that I was a Fat Farm girl. It was a positive experience in my life for me. And even though I've continued to struggle with my weight for most of my life, I still remember what I learned all those years ago when I passed up a trip to Hawaii with the fam to go try to hoof it out with a bunch of other fat chicks for a few weeks by the beach. And I'm not perfect now...not by a long shot. But I have a healthy way of objectively viewing myself, and seeing that it's MY choices that make me the way I am. Giving myself that control to begin with is a big part of being happy with myself, even though I'm at a size 16, weighing 180 pounds these days. I know that this is the tippy-top of where I will be weight-wise in my life. I can't imagine being bigger than this, and won't allow it. And I'm grateful that I was given that opportunity to learn about my health, and my control over it, way back when I was a pre-teen. Thank you mom. Thank you Camp La Jolla. Thank you all you grown-ups that know that sometimes, a kid needs to be treated like an adult in just the smallest way...so that they can learn to be themselves for the rest of their lives.