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Making + Taking Space: Why I Created a Fat-Positive Adult Summer Camp

by Annette Richmond
26 May 2023

I grew up in a single-parent home, so my summers always included camp. I attended a variety of camps, including a horseback riding day camp, but my favorite was sleepaway camp. Sleepaway camp would take me away from the city, to places where I could hear the crickets and smell the sweetness of the trees. It would take me out of my reality and immerse me in an unfamiliar world of nature, wildlife, and new people.

I created Fat Camp for a multitude of reasons

In 2015 I started working as an office assistant at a summer camp, and during breaks and on days off I was allowed to visit the pool or lake and go on field trips with campers. Sharing that content online resulted in people asking if I hosted a camp for adults which sparked the idea for fat-positive adult summer camp.
Since 2017, the Fat Girls Traveling community has been highlighting the beauty and diversity of marginalized bodies exploring the world. My goal in creating Fat Girls Traveling was to empower fat womxn to live their best lives in the bodies they have now and to challenge societal norms that promote harmful beauty standards. Statistics show that 70% of Americans and over 60% of Canadians, Brits, and Australians are considered plus size or overweight. Anti-fatness is at an all-time high and there are still a lack of fat-positive spaces and events.
Although I’ve never attended a weight loss camp, I started dieting in my teens. I watched shows like Huge and Fat Camp: An MTV Docs Movie Presentation and could instantly relate to the experience of feeling different than my thinner peers. I created Fat Camp for a multitude of reasons, one of them being to give those who were forced to attend weight loss camp an opportunity to experience the community building and nostalgia of camp without the guilt and shame of diet culture. Fat Camp is far from the food-restrictive programs associated with the name. On the contrary, Fat Campers will enjoy delicious meals catered by a celebrity chef.

Two people stomping grapes in a vineyard while holding wineglasses and cheering.

The word fat has a stigma

Language is a connector and words have as much power as you give them. Some words have a negative association, for example, the word fat has a stigma and a sense of shame associated with it. But in reality, it’s just a descriptor. In the same way that tall and short are descriptors. I chose Fat Camp because Fat Camp is another thing that has a negative association. I want to flip that on its head by creating a camp experience that will help change the association to a positive one.
I hosted the first Fat Camp in 2018 at the summer camp for kids that I worked at. That year there were just over a handful of campers. In 2018 over 40 campers attended and we decided it was best to create a more intimate atmosphere. In 2021 I hosted a Fat Camp Retreat that was attended by Whitney Way Thore and featured on her reality show, My Big Fat Fabulous Life. Over the years, Fat Camp has developed into a more elevated experience with private cabins, a private chef, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. One of the reasons for the event development is that fat people are worthy of comfort, and pampering, and deserve the finer things in life. Plus, as the majority of the population, we can afford it!

Representation matters

One thing that has remained the same is that this event is exclusively for fat and plus-size womxn and non-binary people. Representation matters and all people, regardless of size, race, ability, sexual orientation, and gender identity should be allowed to follow their dreams of traveling fabulously. Fat Camp is a safe space for plus-size people to connect, reflect, and explore.
For many campers, Fat Camp is the first time they’ve been in an environment with only fat people, something that often makes them more comfortable. Creating an instant safe space for open and honest fat-positive conversations. Not only do we talk about the difficulties of dating and shopping as plus-size people, but we also discuss the medical discrimination and social othering we’ve all experienced. 

Fat Camp 2023

Fat Camp 2023 will lean into those nostalgic camp activities like rock painting, friendship bracelets, campfires, and exploring nature. In addition to wine tasting, massages, and waterfall chasing, campers will also enjoy a private charter on a sailboat with a Hollywood history, and so much more. Each camper has also been invited to participate in the 2023 Fat Camp Lip Sync Battle. Where the winner will receive an Intrepid Travel vacation valued at $2,000!
Fat Camp is a way for people to rewrite their camp history, have fun with other travel lovers, verbalize some of the ways they’ve felt marginalized, and share ways and resources to minimize those feelings. It’s perfect for those who always wanted to attend summer camp and those who want a re-do. Fat people deserve to live full, rich lives. We deserve to see ourselves represented and celebrated. We are the main characters in our own lives and now refuse to play anything but that role.
Sponsors for Fat Camp Spring 2023 include Eddie Bauer, Intrepid Travel, The Fat Girls Guide, and Finger Lakes Wine Country. Fat Camp in Finger Lakes Wine Country is no longer accepting campers. However, the Fat Girls Traveling team will be taking Fat Camp across the pond in August for the first-ever Fat Camp UK. Fat Camp UK will include pub crawls, photoshoots, and scavenger hunts.

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