Vogue Writer Forces 7-Year-Old Daughter on Diet of Humiliation and Derision
Dara-Lynn Weiss is topping many people's Worst Mom of the Year lists (including mine) and it is only March.
In this month's Vogue body issue, Weiss writes in excruciating detail how she put her 7-year-old on a diet and got her to lose 16 pounds. She took her from medically obese to slim and is now so proud of how she looks - she bought the pre-teen hair extensions as a reward.
The loss to her daughter's self-esteem by putting such extreme focus on her weight privately and publicly has yet to be tallied, but if emotional weight could be measured my guess is that it weighs more than 16 pounds.
In the article (which is not online), Weiss gives examples of standing between her daughter and a Nicoise salad being offered by a friend, dumping out a full hot chocolate and insulting the 7-year-old for choosing the wrong snacks. She became the food police and her daughter was the criminal.
Weiss laments having to manage her daughter's intake while juggling her family and having to listen to the "whining" of someone who is hungry. But in the end she triumphs as Bea loses weight and grows two inches, taking her from schoolyard embarrassment to the pages of a fashion magazine. What a lucky child.
The issue of child obesity is no joke in North America and it is one that needs to be taken seriously. But along with dealing with the junk food and inactivity we also have to keep in mind that we are trying to promote healthy attitudes about food. A person's relationship to food and their access to whole foods is what determines their weight and that takes education - not humiliation.
she [Dr. Dologoff] "wasn't thrilled" by the article, especially since it somewhat misleadingly portrayed her program, which focuses on empowering children, stresses that parents refrain from embarrassing their kids in public, and allows kids a number of indulgences to enjoy with friends. "The program has to be run by the child," she said, "and the truth is that making a child feel bad only causes problems. It's not going to help with weight loss, and it's definitely not going to help the child emotionally."
Sure, Weiss was able to force her daughter to lose weight, but the lessons she taught her will not hold her in good stead in the future. What are the chances that little Bea will look at salad, hot chocolate or cake without fear, guilt or vengeful feelings?
But self-loathing is a family tradition, her mother freely admits to a lifetime of bodily self-hatred. She says:
"I have not ingested any food, looked at a restaurant menu, or been sick to the point of vomiting without silently launching a complicated mental algorithm about how it will affect my weight"
She asks herself this question: "Who was I to teach a little girl how to maintain a healthy weight and body image?"
Instead of teaching her daughter the joy of enjoying delicious, healthy food and of inhabiting a strong and healthy body, she has taught her that starvation and humiliation will get you into the pages of Vogue.
But an expose in a magazine isn't enough - Dara-Lynn Weiss just got a book deal with Random House. Gawker notes in a post called One Way To Get A Book Deal These Days Is To Starve And Humiliate Your Child: The publisher says that the memoir, tentatively titled The Heavy, is about "an experience that epitomizes the modern parenting ‘damned if you do/damned if you don't' predicament."
What a simple premise - there are only two ways to deal with child obesity: ignore it or humiliation. I don't think Weiss would have been damned if she helped her daughter lose weight in a consistent, food-positive way. She is only damned because she justifies humiliating her, teaching her to hate herself, and then writing about it in a magazine that promotes extreme thinness as a beauty ideal.
The good news is, as the Cut says, that Bea will be able to save on therapist's bills. She can just toss the book into the lap of her analyst and say: This is why I'm here.
Bea's response at the end of the article shows her own inner turmoil and request to her mother to be loved no matter what her weight:
"'That's still me,' she [Bea] says of her former self. 'I'm not a different person just because I lost sixteen pounds.' I protest that indeed she is different. At this moment, that fat girl is a thing of the past. A tear rolls down her beautiful cheek, past the glued-in feather. 'Just because it's in the past,' she says, 'doesn't mean it didn't happen.'"
Helping a child (or anyone) lose weight is a difficult process. Weiss, by showing off her Draconian method,s exposes her own dysfunctional relationship with her body and her daughter. Will her daughter be able to escape a lifetime of food issues?
I doubt it.
What do you think about the Weiss article? Do you think Vogue should have published it?
Want more chaos? Last year, I said I would let my teens drink at home.