Teenage Waistland

“Abby Ellin’s “Teenage Waistland” addresses a different but no less serious health problem, teenage obesity. When she was a teenager, Ellin’s parents shipped her off to fat camp, but her weight issues (a mere 30 or so pounds of heft) pale when compared with those of her subjects, all morbidly obese. Ellin interviews a host of teenagers and their parents in an attempt to discover what might help these kids lose weight. She takes a look at fat camps, boarding schools, weight-loss programs, parent workshops, support groups, and surgical procedures. The interviews with her teenage subjects are poignant, and, to her credit, Ellin avoids easy answers.”

Boston Globe

Abby Ellin, a journalist and former fat-camper whose parents’ attempts to “save her” from fatness proved counterproductive, has had a lifelong interest in figuring out how they might have done it better, and an abiding compassion for overweight kids. In Teenage Waistland she shares the story of her own adolescent struggle with food and weight, and journeys with hope, skepticism, and humor through the landscape of today’s diet culture.

She visits camps and community programs, and talks to experts, kids and their parents, seeking to answer these questions: What can parents say that kids will hear? Why don’t kids exercise more and eat less when they’re dying to be thinner? What treatment methods actually work? Willpower, or surrender? Shame, or inspiration? Teenage Waistland is ultimately clarifying and provocative for anyone who’s ever wrestled with weight issues. One size does not fit all when it comes to weight loss, and the better we understand that, the more likely we are to be able to help our kids.

Excerpt: Ho-ho’s in paradise