In early 2003, I saw an MTV True Life documentary about kids at a weight loss camp in upstate New York. This episode, unlike all the RW/RR Challenges, changed my life. Witnessing their transformations and the fun they had that summer made me want to go. I marched downstairs, went to my parents and said, “Ma’, I want to go to fat camp.” A few months, and thousands of dollars, later I was on my first solo plane ride bound for NY. I didn’t appreciate it then but I wholeheartedly do now and want to thank my parents for any sacrifices they made in order to ship me to Camp Shane for those 6 weeks. It’s hard to put it into words but I went away one person and came back another, 30 lbs. lighter, too! They confiscated my gum and did a contraband sweep the second I stepped off the gangway. The cute Australian camp counselor who greeted me was talking a mile a minute. I couldn’t tell if I was more distracted by his accent or my nerves. Then, at 16 years old, it was probably the accent.
I met some amazing girls at Camp Shane, some of who I am still Facebook friends with today. I don’t think I would have made it through without their support and laughter. A normal camp day was breakfast, bunk clean up, stretching, activity, lunch, rest, activity, swimming, shower hour, dinner and free play. On the first day, they take your picture in your bathing suit, your weight and head-to-toe measurements. I can’t remember exactly now but I think we repeated this process every two weeks, minus the picture part. In addition to sports, arts and crafts, and water activities there were weekly nutritional and rap sessions we had to attend. In nutrition class, we would sometimes have cooking demonstrations, go over the food guide pyramid and talk about portion control. The real breakthrough for me was the rap sessions. This is where we’d sit around with a therapist type and talk about our feelings. Doesn’t sound so great, does it? But it was there in that room with the hideous couches that I learned I was not alone. These girls had the same feelings as I did. We were bullied, we were ridiculed and we were shamed for the way we were. I had always felt alone at home surrounded by skinny friends who didn’t understand. At fat camp, these were my people! I could finally share clothes with friends, we bonded over our love for fried food and sweets, and we supported each other through the bad days. These were some of the funniest and most carefree girls I had ever met. They didn’t let their outward selves hold back who they were on the inside.
I 100% came out of my shell at camp. I wasn’t afraid to be myself anymore because I learned that I was pretty great and there were other pretty great people out there just like me. Camp is where I fell in love with lacrosse and learned that I could actually be good at a sport. I joined the lacrosse team for the final two years of high school, which is another great experience of my life, and it gave me something to bond with my dad over as he played in high school and college.
At the end of the 6 weeks, I packed my bags and headed back home. I had lost 30 lbs. and 2 dress sizes. Sure, I eventually gained the weight back (over the course of the last 11 years) but the person I became during camp never went away. I was more confident, outgoing and not afraid to try new things. It was also a whole lot of fun! Just thinking about it makes me want to have a color war.