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Teenage Waistland: A Former Fat Kid Weighs in on Living Large, Losing Weight, and How Parents Can (and Can't) Help Hardcover – June 14, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ellin, a freelance journalist and former fat-camper, wants parents of obese teens to understand a few essential points. First, there's no single answer to the obesity problem—what's right for one kid may be useless for another. Don't shame obese children by calling them fat or out of control, or by putting them on highly restricted diets while other family members munch on fried chicken. Respect "nutritionally challenged" children, and focus on the many things to love about them. Teach them about living healthy, which involves more than just knowing which foods to pick. Ellin has researched fat camps (expensive but a relief from real-world struggles), behavior modification programs (difficult to keep up), gastric bypass surgery (effective but fairly dangerous), drugs (largely ineffective) and the "size acceptance" approach (theoretically fine, but maybe they're kidding themselves). The problem with this book may be that it's a little too honest—teenage obesity is not easily solved with a Frenchwoman's recipes for diuretic leek soup. Yet the author's compassion and her willingness to share her personal life, along with the book's appendix listing helpful resources, may bring comfort to many distraught parents. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"A thoughtful, provocative and valuable account of subject that is too often beset by prejudice and hysteria." -- Paul Campos, Professor, University of Colorado and author of The Diet Myth

"Abby Ellin has written a necessary road map for parents and their children who struggle with eating issues." -- Betsy Lerner, author of Food and Loathing

"Ellin's funny, intimate and unblinkingly honest book is sure to help parents and kids wrestling with this issue." -- Alissa Quart, author of Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers

"Its straight-forward perspective challenges our current views about weight loss, body image, and the manipulative societal pressures on our children." -- Emme

"Teenage Wasteland is not just about Ellin's personal experiences...It's about the emotional effects of the various solutions." -- Los Angeles Times, June 14, 2005

"Written with candor, curiosity, and compassion... [and]reflects our own grown-up and insecurities around body and beauty, health and happiness." -- Wendy Shanker, author of The Fat Girl's Guide to Life

"[Ellin] addresses the situation from a psychological, medical, cultural, and most important, understanding standpoint." -- Gotham Magazine, August, 2005

"A unique, empathetic perspective on this issue [Ellin] writes with compassion and humor about the trials of overweight kids." -- Bookpage, August 2005

"An honest, grimly funny report from a world that's lost all sense of proportion about fat." -- Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 6, 2005

"One part investigative journalism, one part self-help, and one part personal narrative, Waistland is intriguing...both eloquent and moving." -- The Boston Globe, September 18, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (June 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586482289
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586482282
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,806,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kathy on June 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This deft blend of memoir, sociology, and sharp cultural observation makes for a fascinating and at times heartbreaking read. Teenage Waistland will appeal to anybody who has ever had a distorted or even just complicated relationship to food, eating, and body image...which is just about everybody I know. Really took me back to the high school cafeteria. The book is well written and moves quickly, with plenty of humor along the way. A five-star read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
Prepare to laugh, cry and cringe --- but also to learn --- as Abby Ellin leads us through the landscape of obese teen life. First, though, a confession: When I volunteered to read this book, I feared that I was facing a hard, long slog through a dry tome packed with scientific studies on how to help an overweight kid drop a few pounds. Instead, I could barely put down this lively read. Ellin keeps a page-turning pace as she skillfully weaves her own story as a heavy, weight-obsessed teenager through the stories of other such adolescents.

Ellin begins with her own family, who courageously support her by not challenging her right to tell the unvarnished truth about the ways in which her home contributed to her weight problems and food fixations. Interestingly, the family's attitudes toward weight resulted in the author's sister becoming anorexic. Even as Ellin grew larger and larger, her sister began dieting by third grade.

Ellin's grandmother was a major influence on her self-image, withholding affections when Ellin gained weight. On visits to Grandma's house in Florida, Grandma weighed Ellin daily. At home, Ellin's mother obsessed over her own weight, restricted her diet and exercised before stepping on the scales each morning. She taped a photo of an obese woman on the refrigerator door. Both grandmother and mother repeatedly drilled into Ellin and her sister the dangers of gaining weight. As a child, Ellin was devastated when her grandmother told her she couldn't come to Florida for a visit at Christmastime unless she lost 15 pounds. The ploy didn't work. Nothing really did, for many long, sad years.

Ellin spent six years at weight-loss camps.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer on July 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Finally someone had the courage to write a book that is honest, compassionate, sensitive, funny and REAL! Enough with the How To Miracle Diets and Seven Habits of Highly Effective Dieters. We are such a country of lemmings! There is no miracle cure. No one loses weight until they are ready, and it's time we wake up to that fact so we can begin to really try to solve the problem.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jimmy Smith on October 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book was extremely helpful to me and my family. As the parent of an overweight child, Abby Ellin's insight as a "former fat kid" is a hands-on "what to do/"what not to do" primer for any parents dealing with these sensitive issues. You're never really sure what to do until you're faced with it head on and Ellin's book showed that it's the sensible approach that makes the most sense. Don't panic; don't over react (as is the most instant impulse). Just act sensibly. Well done!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Feller on July 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I work in public health and struggle to find resources that are useful. This is a great book for everyone. There is no magic pill and there is no easy fix - but there are LOTS of ways to make things worse. Until we have changed our social norms, our environment, and the availability and ease to make healthy choices, it's going to be a long, tough road. This book is a great read that describes what it's like to struggle with weight - good for those of us who are lucky and think our 5-8 pound struggle is horrible, as well as those who struggle with real weight challenges and are ready to hear the painful truth of a child's experience. Well done, Abby.
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