I believe everyone should go to fat camp — but only fat campers can say that. Everyone else has to call it “weight loss camp.”
I love the reactions I get when I tell people “Heavyweights” was based off my camp. You’d think I told them I have herpes or something. “But, you’re not fat!” they exclaim all do-eyes. No shit, I think, rolling my eyes to the back of my head. “I guess it worked,” I always say. I love to see them squirm.
I was 14 when my mom shipped me off to fat camp. My sweet tooth hadn’t fallen out, and she was nervous I would develop type 2- diabetes. I was just nervous I’d never be kissed. Going to MTVs “Fat Camp” was like my dirty little secret. I knew I was fat, but I didn’t know want anyone to know that I knew. Gradually, I realized my mom’s executive decision was in my best interest. Losing my overdue “baby weight” would subsequently rid me of my insecurities. I was tired of readjusting my clothing to hide any rolls that might revolt my crush.
I lost 16 pounds my first summer at Camp Pocono Trails and found 17 over the year. The fluctuating cycle continued for five summers until my sweet tooth cracked.
I miraculously kept the weight off and wasn’t sure anymore if nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. Feeling sexy when I look at my naked body is pretty fucking awesome, but chocolate molten lava cake from Chili’s also taste pretty fucking good.
After doing the math, it took five summers at CPT to lose 25 pounds. Most campers fall prey to the same routine that I did — gaining weight over 10 months to lose it over two. No matter how many Twinkies I shoved down my throat, I always got a clean slate every summer. Soon enough, losing weight became just the icing on the cake.
For seven consecutive summers, I spent eight weeks in an alternate dimension — the “fat camp bubble.” From early June until late August —when the grounds were reserved for a nudist colony— counselors and campers of all shapes, sizes, races and ethnicities inhabited Pocono Valley Resort. In this melting pot, you could be massively obese, hideously disgusting and still be popular—just as long as you were funny.
Weighing 500 pounds, Harry Bates held title as the fattest person at fat camp. He was better known for exclusively dating the coolest girls. Yes, I made out with him. For once, I was an It Girl. I was popular. Not because I shopped at Bloomingdales and wore a size two jeans. I was cool because I shamelessly ate the contraband pasta my bunkmates and I cooked in a shaving bucket using hot water shower.
I'll never forget that first summer at CPT. The pounds melted off and my self-esteem soared. I stopped fidgeting with my clothes. I got my first kiss. I learned how to use a tampon. I found people who didn't judge me for eating cake out of the garbage.
At fat camp, judging someone for their exterior is not even in the realm of thought. Thigh gaps, Supreme hoodies, six packs and a beautiful face won’t get you anywhere. Personality, and how many Splenda packets you can steal, is all that matters. It might’ve taken me five summers to keep the weight off, but just one to get into the best mental shape of my life.