Mom Puts 7-Year-Old on a Diet

March 25, 2012 · 16 comments

While I was being lazy last week, an article published in Vogue Magazine caused quite a stir online. I am not a Vogue reader but apparently New York socialites write guest posts and this month’s is just another PR gaffe in the world of beauty magazine thinspiration. A mother shares her ridiculous approach to helping her 7-year-old daughter lose 16 pounds.

Not only is it hard to believe Dara-Lynn Weiss could treat her own daughter this way, but its mind-boggling that she decided to embarrass herself by sharing her “accomplishment.” The initial idea of the post is interesting in that is attempts to discuss what a parent is supposed to do after a pediatrician diagnoses that your child is overweight. The selfish methods that Weiss demonstrates in the article is like a road map for other parents who want their children to develop an eating disorder.

At 4’4″ inches tall, Weiss’ daughter Bea weighed in at 93 lbs which put her BMI in the ninety-ninth percentile for American children. According to the CDC, approximately 17 percent of American children are obese and Bea was one of them. While all she really had to do was give Bea less to eat, she instead took the following actions:

I once reproachfully deprived Bea of her dinner after learning that her observation of French Heritage Day at school involved nearly 800 calories of Brie, filet mignon, baguette, and chocolate. I stopped letting her enjoy Pizza Fridays when she admitted to adding a corn salad as a side dish one week. I dressed down a Starbucks barista when he professed ignorance of the nutrition content of the kids’ hot chocolate whose calories are listed as “120-210″ on the menu board: Well, which is it? When he couldn’t provide an answer, I dramatically grabbed the drink out of my daughter’s hands, poured it into the garbage, and stormed out.

I cringe when I recall the many times I had it out with Bea over a snack given to her by a friend’s parent or caregiver … rather than direct my irritation at the grown-up, I often derided Bea for not refusing the inappropriate snack. And there have been many awkward moments at parties, when Bea has wanted to eat, say, both cookies and cake, and I’ve engaged in a heated public discussion about why she can’t.

It is grating to have someone constantly complain of being hungry, or refuse to eat what she’s supposed to, month after month… [It was also] exhausting managing someone’s diet, especially when her brother has completely different nutritional needs… No one likes to see a child or her mother humiliated over something as trivial as a few dozen calories.

I highly recommend reading more about the article on Jezebel.com and an editorial piece from the New Yorker.

I remember the moment I lost my innocent relationship with food in High School, but I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if that moment came at 7 years old.  “Only time will tell whether my early intervention saved her from a life of preoccupation with her weight, or drove her to it,” she writes.

If there was a publication to print an article like this, I would expect it to be Vogue where the skinny and fit are photoshopped to unrealistic levels. Take for instance this photograph of Jennifer Lopez that also appears in the same issue. I bet she wishes she a had waist this tiny (she probably doesn’t but you get my point.)

What I don’t understand is the purpose the article is supposed to serve? Is this suppose to be piece where we learn “What Not To Do” like in How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days? Is it suppose to be helpful for mothers?

In High School, I had a friend whose mother would not keep unhealthy food in the house. I later found out she would throw up “unhealthy” meals. I don’t know the extent of her issue but she did have disordered eating habits in hind sight. Back then you were either anorexic or bulimic, and if you weren’t hospitalization-thin, you dealt with it on your own.

Since 17% of children are obese, how do you help them lose weight without causing an inevitable eating disorder? Were you put on a diet a child? Were you able to have a normal relationship with food as your got older?

Jezebel.com called this the worst Vogue article of all time.

The New Yorker concludes that, “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 say, “SEE WHAT I HAD TO DEAL WITH?” ”

What do you think about this article? I have to agree with Jezebel and The New Yorker. My heart literally aches for this 7-year-old. I’d like to personally slap Weiss across the face. Parents should be better advised on helping their children lose weight. This is just cruel.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Leanne March 25, 2012 at 11:06 pm

OMG I HATE this SOOO MUCH! I’ve had an eating disorder in my late teens, and it has screwed up my relationship with food for too many years (and almost killed me along the way). It took me a long time to make food my friend (as it now is) again. This mother is not having her daughter’s best interest at heart, I think. It’s one thing to want your child as healthy as possible by eating a clean diet (great!) but it’s a whole other thing to get it to diet by the age of 7 (horrific!). When will we learn?!?!

Thanks for making us aware Sarah!
Love, Leanne

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2 Olivia March 26, 2012 at 12:34 am

As someone who had always struggled with weight, and dealt with my mother’s pressure of how I should eat and be, I totally find this story disgusting. But I guess it goes to show that some people really don’t get it. How could you do that to your child?! Promoting eating healthy is something I understand, but fights and not letting her eat dinner?! That kid is going to have a very bad relationship with her mother, food, and her self image. Yikes!

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3 Helen March 26, 2012 at 1:40 am

This is truly horrifying. The recommended way to deal with children who are overweight isn’t to restrict their calories (as they’re still growing) but to up their physical activity, and let them grow up and into a healthier range. At 7, there was no doubt that she would have done so.

So many of us grapple with our body image. We shouldn’t be forced to grapple with it at 7.

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4 Pet March 26, 2012 at 8:54 am

A parent projecting her eating disorders onto her daughter. It’s sad but very common. The book A Healthfood Junkie is one of the places you can read about this. Like you, my heart aches for this girl and any other child in a similar situation. Encouraging good choices is one thing. Humiliating her in front of friends and family because she wanted a cookie is a completely different story. They are so fragile at that age..

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5 Nyla March 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Wow, I’m really out of words! This women is insaine!! But the worst part is, that I don’t think she is the only one doing this…

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6 Ashley @ The North Carolina Cowgirl March 26, 2012 at 1:25 pm

It breaks my heart to read that mother’s story. What is she thinking doing that to her daughter? How could she and does she not care what message she is giving her by depriving her of food. Why not teach her healthy ways of loosing weight instead of teaching her to starve herself. It just makes me so sad to read this..

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7 Brittany March 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm

This is awful, are parents not supposed to support children instead of beating them down. This is just such a huge self esteem squasher. With TV, ads and magazines out there as the 7year old gets older she will have her own image issues to deal with but to have to start dealing with all of this at age 7 is unimaginable to me. It seems to me that the reasonable and loving thing to do would have been to start promoting healthy options and to encourage them to be more active.

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8 Callie March 26, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Notice that exercise wasn’t mentioned once? What is wrong with these people!?? I know, that losing weight is more about food choices than exercise but this child is SO YOUNG. Show her how HAPPY being fit can be, and she’ll naturally shed those pounds…instead of ending the whole process with this lil gem:

“That’s still me,” she 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.”

Words of wisdom some of us will NEVER be able to accept…

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9 Stephanie March 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm

The part that absolutely broke me was this quote from the Jezebel article – “For Bea, the achievement is bittersweet. When I ask her if she likes how she looks now, if she’s proud of what she’s accomplished, she says yes…Even so, the person she used to be still weighs on her. Tears of pain fill her eyes as she reflects on her yearlong journey. “That’s still me,” she 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.”"

That poor little girl. She’s already hitting the mental crap I went through in junior high and high school, and now she basically gets “oh your a different girl than you were a year ago because you’re SKINNY!”

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10 Courtney March 27, 2012 at 12:47 am

this is absolutely terrible…instead of humiliating her daughter she should gradually replace her usual foods with healthier alternatives, cut down on portion sizes, and encourage her to join a sport. one of the main reasons people eat excessively is because it is a way for them to deal with their problems. i’m sure getting yelled at, especially in front of her friends, is only making things worse for this poor girl :(
i’m not ‘overweight’ but my sister was always skinnier than me and my whole life it made me self conscious, mainly because my mom would always comment on how skinny she was. every time people made the slightest comment about my size, even if it wasn’t negative, it would make me extremely self conscious. in 7th grade i was mostly anorexic (i still ate dinner) and lost a lot of weight. even though i was irritable, tired, and extremely unhealthy, because my mom kept commenting on how skinny i was it made me happy.
i don’t even get along well with my mom and her opinion on a lot of things don’t phase me but i believe 100% that body image is something that all parents should ALWAYS be aware of for their children, especially daughters. there is so much pressure on girls to be skinny that it’s almost completely unbearable even without the stress at home.
I’m not a mom so I don’t know that I’m necessarily in a place to judge someone’s parenting abilities but what she’s doing to her daughter is sad, selfish, and wrong, and i hope that one day bea will realize that and be happy with herself

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11 Doug Millington March 27, 2012 at 1:33 am

I guess mom’s not always right. What a horrid role model and parent. I agree with Helen the best way to help your child is to encourage them to get active every day. And not just structured exercise but time to play. This kinda reminds me of those mothers who have their 5 year olds in beauty pageants.

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12 StoriesAndSweetPotatoes March 27, 2012 at 2:25 am

I hadn’t heard about this yet! This poor girl now has a 99% of developing an ED as a teen or adult..or now! I really believe that. Kids grow out and up and all over the place. Their bodies do not behave the same as adults because they are still developing. Encouraging physical activity is one thing but this girl probably would have evened out on her own over the next few years or maybe her natural healthy weight is higher than average. I’m pretty horrified, obviously by the content of the article and also the fact that it got published. There has to be a line somewhere.

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13 Somebody March 27, 2012 at 3:03 am

My mother loved me just like I was, she never pressured me to lose weight, She supported my efforts, but she was never hands on. At 15 I was 248 pounds. Today I have lost about over 100 pounds and I battle bulimia to keep it off.

I wish my mother would have pushed me as my aunt did with my cousin and as this lady did with her daughter.

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14 Natasha March 27, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Wow that is literally horrible that a mother would deprive her young child of food just for vanity. I’m pretty positive that she will grow up and have some sort of eating disorder, which is very sad if you ask me!

Also, I was wondering if you could maybe answer my question, seeing as you have your trainers license and have probably worked with different types of client because I can’t seem to figure out what to do in terms of my diet, but I don’t mean I need a personalized plan, but I think that this question could help people out there NOT trying to lose weight but still trying to be healthy. I’m a runner and I weight train a lot (on top of walking to all my classes), so I have an active lifestyle. However, I am pretty underweight, and I have really struggled with gaining weight in a healthy way. For some reason, I find the more I eat, the LESS weight I gain, and the less I eat, I just feel like crap.
I think it would be interesting to give diet advice to people trying to gain healthy weight without over stuffing ourselves, because sometimes I feel like I just eat and eat and eat, and honestly I hate it hahah. I mean ya I like food, but it is just too much sometimes!
The hardest thing is finding good healthy foods for weight gain especially since I was a vegetarian, but just started adding in meat for calories!
But ya, sorry this was a long comment, but I would really love to hear your thoughts on weight gain for runners/active individuals!

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15 Jay March 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm

This is as good as child abuse. She humiliated her child, and she’s made a real fool of herself. As the child is only 7 years of age, surely her mother should have been more aware of what foods she was eating in the first place (to have become overweight), and been teaching her with age appropriate guidance, the benefits of eating fresh fruits and veggies.

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16 Nescett @ bananaoats March 28, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I read this Monday while I was waiting for my 9 year old daughter to finish up at
ballet. I’m appalled that this woman is a mother! I feel so terrible for that poor little girl.

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