By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOKDieting has become the great American pastime. Ladies Who Lunch have been replaced by Ladies Who Do Pilates. It's nearly impossible to run into another woman and not hear some permutation of "You look great! Have you lost weight?" So I sadly wasn't surprised to see Dara-Lynn Weiss' essay in Vogue this month (text not online) about how she put her "obese" 7-year-old daughter Bea on a strict diet. Weight Watchers, in this case, was the precursor to the mommy-daughter fashion show.
Related: 17 5-Minute Marriage MakeoversI also wasn't surprised to see the backlash against Weiss. While I think she was going for "honest" in her story, she sounded entitled, narcissistic and stunningly oblivious to Bea's plight. After Bea loses 16 pounds-just in time for her Vogue photo shoot-Weiss writes, "Only time will tell whether my early intervention saved her from a life of preoccupation with her weight, or drove her to it."
I'm not sure she needs time to tell that. This mother-daughter pep talk says it all: "That's still me," little Bea says of her former self. "I'm not a different person because I lost 16 pounds." A tear rolls down her cheek past the glued-in feather. "Just because [my weight]'s in the past doesn't mean it didn't happen."
Related: 50 Under $50 Frugal Finds for SpringWhile the essay horrified me, I appreciated it in a bizarre way because of how Weiss is the perfect example of society's mixed-up relationship with food. Why did nobody ask Bea why she overate in the first place? Barring the rare illness or disorder, 7-year-olds usually overeat for a reason, such as loneliness, boredom, or not knowing how to deal with difficult feelings. Considering Weiss writes about how Bea was taunted for her weight at school, I think the girl needed someone to talk to more than someone to hold her nose to the dietary grindstone. She still does, probably. And why did Bea's pediatrician simply tell Weiss to "do something" about the girl's weight when it's clear most adults don't know how to properly diet themselves? Finally, it's been my experience that kids generally grow out before they grow up. Girls especially are known to put on weight right before a growth spurt.
The question raised by this essay can't be ignored. It's one many parents face. What do you do with a child who has eating issues? I don't have all the answers, but I'm pretty sure it starts with spending more time with them, setting a good example-Weiss writes about denying her daughter a cupcake and then sneakily eating two herself-and letting them know your love has nothing to do with how they look or weigh. And, probably, not writing about their experience in a magazine. But considering Weiss got offered a book deal to write about her daughter's diet dilemma, as one NY Mag writer put it: "There's only one possible bright side to this maternal travesty: Years from now, when Bea is in therapy, she won't have to waste those early sessions explaining herself because she'll just be able to hand over that article [and book] and say, 'See what I had to deal with?'"
Related: 25 Snacks Under 150 CaloriesWhat do you think about this essay? Is this just a case of good intentions gone awry or is Weiss our generation's Mommy Dearest? Do you have any advice for helping children with eating issues?
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