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Fat-Haters Club: Eating disorders and teens

Eating disorders primarily impact teenagers and early 20-somethings (though women – and men – of any age can develop disordered eating patterns and body image issues). Tanya Attebery’s book Fat-Haters Club gives you insight into what it’s like to be a teen bent on losing weight and living up to “thin is in” standards. Whether you are a teen or adult suffering from an eating disorder or you are worried that your teen may develop one, Attebery’s book can be a jumping off point for fostering introspection as well as opening the lines of communication to approach the topic. Read on for Attebery’s inspiration for Fat-Haters Club and how the book can be a valuable resource for people with eating disorders and their loved ones.

Pensive Teen

Graphic and honest details

While there are books abound on eating disorders and body image, few launch into the graphic and honest details of a binge and purge from chapter one. But Tanya Attebery’s Fat-Haters Club isn’t your average book on weight struggles. Written from the perspective of four high school girls united in a mutual vow to shed pounds, Fat-Haters Club shuns any formulaic standards typical of its genre. With one book already under her belt (What If written under the name Tanya Mras), Attebery hits her stride with Fat-Haters Club, merging her professional life as a high school counselor and her personal past as an eating disorder sufferer. Hoping to reach women of all ages, Attebery writes in a style that is accessible, without being simplistic, cautionary, but never preachy, and consistently realistic without reaching for shock value. In addition to her work as a counselor, Attebery is a mother of one, and has developed a website with her husband, Robert, that showcases their passions for writing, photography and storytelling. Look for more from the couple at

Interview with Tanya Attebery, author of Fat-Haters Club

SheKnows: What inspired you to write Fat-Haters Club?
Tanya Attebery: I think basically because I was overweight as a teenager and a lot of the stories in the book did happen to me. I just wanted to split myself into four different personalities instead [of having only] one. I am a high school counselor, so I deal a lot with self-esteem. I was a teacher for 12 years, and I see it all the time — these poor kids striving to be something they don’t need to be, physically. Hopefully, academically and psychologically they develop better. I went through it, and I see kids going through it now. And the media perpetuates it — even Oprah! Her success isn’t enough? That’s basically where it came from. I wanted to write it from different perspective — it doesn’t matter your race or size — you can see yourself in one of the kids. SheKnows: Did you see something lacking in other books on the market?
Tanya Attebery: I think basically every book I read where girls are overweight, there was always a happy ending. There were no realistic stories. I wanted a happy ending, and I did have one for three of the girls. But for one, I wanted it to be real. Not everyone loses all the weight, and not everyone becomes perfect after. Some become angry, some become successful, some develop eating disorders — there are so many ways to get caught up. I wanted a real ending, and I hope readers will see that it’s different. SheKnows: Who do you hope to reach with this book? Is it specifically for young girls?
Tanya Attebery: I think it’s for women in general. One of my friends — she and her daughter both read it. And they started talking about self-image. It opened up a communication line between a young person and an adult. The adult can say, “I went through it. How can I help you work through it better than I did?” We’re trying to follow it up on our website with [a forum called] “Join the Club” where people can talk about their struggles, give advice, and just open the communication lines. It will be a message board, and we’re working on it right now. It will probably be up by the end of the month.
(Note: the “Join the Club” section is now up, and is accessible from the main page of SheKnows: What overall message do you hope readers take away from this book?
Tanya Attebery: Your life is what you do, not necessarily what you look like. Of course, you want to be healthy. But at the same time, what you do and how people see you come through no matter what size you are. If you’re kind, if you do good, if you’re a good friend, a good daughter — those things shine more. SheKnows: Are there plans to continue writing about body image and self-esteem?
Tanya Attebery: We’re working on getting the book on “Join the Club,” and maybe get a supplemental with questions, about how you overcome issues — and it may not be about weight. It’s just opening the door for, “I feel I get judged because of my hair color,” or “because I’m a goth girl,” or “I’m not as muscular as all the other guys.” It’s a doorway to lot of other self-image issues. SheKnows: How do you plan to follow up Fat-Haters Club?
Tanya Attebery: Right now we’re in the middle of writing a different type of book. The one after this is about the idea of the father, called He’s My Daddy. It’s kind of book in which girls are talking about their fathers, but at the end of book, you realize these are not their biological fathers. It’s the idea of looking for a mentor. And just because a man is not your biological father doesn’t mean he can’t love you that way. We’ve looked at girls, and now we’re looking at how a man can come in to a girl’s life and change it. A lot of girls may not have a biological father type, but can cling to someone else. SheKnows: Do you think the book can be used as a resource in schools?
Tanya Attebery: Yes, actually. With all the struggles I had, and the pain and sort of torture can be rough. So I wanted to do something in life where I could talk to kids. I love hanging out with kids and listening to their stories. It’s fun to get them to college, and see them be successful. Eating disorders, body image distortion and struggles with self-esteem are daunting facets of growing up, but they can be successfully overcome with guidance, insight and effort. The Fat-Hater’s Club is just one resource. Here are a few more to help you on your journey to wellness.

More on eating disorders

The American body image and weight-loss struggle
Eating disorders and pregnancy
Healthy eating may be hazardous for your health
Eating disorders: A mom and daughter let us inside
Thin not “in” — possibly even illegal — for France
Yoga takes a bite out of eating disorders
Raising a daughter with high self-esteem
Eating disorders: Truth, reality and lies

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