Heavy Issues

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dara-Lynn Weiss, freelance writer and mother, started a firestorm with her Vogue essay about putting her 7-year-old daughter on a diet.  She adds to the story in her new book, The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet--A Memoir


Dara-Lynn Weiss

Comments [22]

Ann_Kjellberg from Greenwich Village

So much missing here. (1) Is there an important distinction to be drawn between the social idea of a proper shape and what is really healthy? Is there a medical consensus for appropriate weight at different ages, given different rates of growth & development etc? I have heard that nutritionists and psychologists have challenged how pediatricians respond to children's weight; (2) Is there a consensus on how best to manage childhood overeating? Calorie-centric dieting can ignore children's nutritional needs and also the psychological importance of learning to recognize satiety. Many nutritionists feel children need access to some sweets in order to manage their response to them, see the wonderful Ellyn Satter. I often feel the PR addressed to children on obesity and body image are completely at odds. Feminist gains in rejecting media-generated anxiety about the body are being set back by the anti-obesity movement. I see lots of kids who seem proto-anorexic with no nutritional knowledge at all. This show didn't address at all whether these supposedly overweight kids are actually unhealthy and how exactly we should be caring for them.

Jan. 19 2013 09:51 AM
Noach (Independent) from Brooklyn

A discussion of child obesity without a single mention of the culpability of profiteering corporations?

Children from the youngest age are bombarded with commercials slickly-crafted to condition them to crave and demand unhealthful, calorie-dense, nutrient-poor products.

(Such products, compared to wholesome foods, are also a terrible value, making them an especially bad choice for any of the many families who are struggling financially. This is yet another aspect of the corporate predation and exploitation here.)

Oh, wait... this is _Vogue_ we're talking about? If you would take exploitive corporate profiteering and predation out of the mix, what would be left?

Jan. 16 2013 11:51 AM

So many things! you think a plump two year old is a problem??? I fear for that child!

Also any doctor who professes to have any understanding of food or nutrition is either seriously delusional or fibbing! (There are now Functional Medicine practitioners - that's a new nutrition thing and looks to be more about supplements than food.) I personally trust real food and ancient traditions with millennia of trial and error behind them before i trust any of today's science!

Also there is so much unstudied yet approved stuff going on in our world, environment, that was really only gearing up before we had so many obese children. Food additives (incl GMOs - who knows what they do,) EMFs - hormone disrupting plastics - just a few nobody understands.

I think we are all barking up the wrong (reductionist) tree.

One interesting and absolutely FREE (well they have written books and made DVDs) approach to overweight (or anything!) for whatever the reason is found in Energy Medicine (healer Donna Eden/psychologist David Feinstein) -simple movements that are instinctual and that we do anyway, like holding one's forehead after unsettling news, can balance hormones AND de-stress. (Also helps kids learn and adults focus)

A few years ago I did Donna's "Spleen-Triple Warmer (adrenal) Balancing Sequence" every day, some days twice for two months and lost weight but most impressively in the right places, indicating hormone balance. In two mos. I lost 17 lbs. Nothing has ever been and easier goal to achieve - or more pleasurable, it's a stress buster. And the words food and diet never came into it.

They have written 3 books together. Donna Eden was told in the 70s by 5 specialists that she needed to find a mother for her girls because they were unable to help her MS etc. - So she figured it out for herself - this process led her to ways to handle environmental toxins, stress, - she's also very joyous. Doctors sent her patients with MS they couldn't help. A healing practice grew out of that, initially with autoimmune issues but then started teaching everybody - Her simple exercises have been an inestimable complement to the barbaric and soul-killing chemo and radiation treatments I've been enduring for 18 months. Much of the time I have managed to feel high as a kite. I do look forward to regaining more and more energy. This stuff helps everything, even pets - and it costs nothing but your effort to learn which is so well worth it.

Jan. 16 2013 11:41 AM
Weighing In from Brooklyn

As a woman who was obese as a child, and now a (thin) practicing psychotherapist, I am appalled by Ms. Weiss' comments. So, she is teaching her nine year old daughter how to self-regulate by dramatically dumping out a hot chocolate because it contains whipped cream? No, over-regulating one's child does not teach healthy self-regulation. It creates confusion, fear, and anger. This child has not internalized healthy eating habits; instead she has probably internalized a sense of shame.
And just in case private shaming isn't enough, the author has now exposed her child to the world's eye. Now it is public shaming.

Perhaps, Ms. Weiss should consider the possibility that her daughter was overeating to deal with her feelings. Of course, a good parent is concerned about this. But she should have sought some professional assistance: nutritionist, therapist, etc...

Hopefully Ms. Weiss will use some of the money she is making off of this to truly help her daughter, and bring her to a therapist so she can express some of the rage she is undoubtedly feeling. Or, she can just tell herself that she knows better, let the process unfold, and maybe her daughter can write a book fifteen years from now, letting the world know that her mother's folly resulted in her picking up other bad habits to quell her feelings.

Jan. 16 2013 11:17 AM

sburgernutr says "My son has a friend who is just really a fun kid. He is now 13 and obese and can't control his diet at all. Constantly eating".

You just proved one of the points in my post. These kids have nothing else to do except eat. When most of us adults grew up (pre Internet and I-Phones) we went outside, we played sports, we played instruments. We did lots of things that didn't involve food.

But I think the constant eating by children also has to do with the stresses we know put on kids. We expect them to be everything except children. The standardized tests. The arduous process to be accepted into decent schools. The pressure to have "things" in order to fit in. Its become too much.

Jan. 16 2013 11:04 AM
John A

Was an overweight child. Up to age 35 and beyond the magic solution was to get outside and play / exercise. Sorry to say this woman sounds obsessive and her child may be reacting to that by seeking solace in comfort foods. And I do speak from experience.

Jan. 16 2013 11:01 AM

Exploiting her daughter for a career maneuver?


Jan. 16 2013 11:00 AM

Why do you dignify self-absorbed, publicity-seekering opportunists like her?

Jan. 16 2013 11:00 AM

I actually read the original article in Vogue. The backlash wasn't about the diet; it was about the mother's reactions to her child's weight. Her consistent negativity towards her daughter because she was overweight (and by the way, she wasn't that overweight), the fact that the mother never really understood why she was overweight and the fact that the article was in Vogue magazine - not very well known for promoting healthy weight images. What I don't understand about any of these parents who obsess about their child's weight is the fact that they never involve their children into any out-of-the-house activities - no sports, no art programs, etc. And I think these "diets" are a fact of the insecurities that these parents possess.

Jan. 16 2013 10:58 AM
Gwen from Tribeca

I don't think she would have experienced the backlash had she written in Mother Jones or the New Yorker as opposed to Vogue. When I heard about the controversy and saw the photo I thought "UGH!". However, listening to her now, I think she has done the right thing. It's difficult to parent and the hardest part is being the heavy however that is what we are here to do - guide and teach our kids not baby and befriend them. Fat kids become fat adults and I know some of those adults and it is far more difficult for them to lose weight and keep it off.

Jan. 16 2013 10:57 AM
sue from brooklyn

I don't understand the controversy. Lucky kid. My mom was in denial about my weight and, at 8 years old, I signed up with weight watchers to deal with my problem. I lost the weight, continue to eat right/exercise and in the end my mom came to terms with my weight problem, which I work on to this age 56.

Jan. 16 2013 10:56 AM

Brian, there is a lot of research on how when babies initially fail to thrive and then are overstuffed -- that it increases the tendency towards overweight later in life. The research comes from developing areas of the world. Both situations throw the metabolism out of homeostasis.

Jan. 16 2013 10:56 AM
The Truth from Becky

Ugggh caller Dad, hopefully you don't refer to her as the "plumper, heavier" one in her presence

Jan. 16 2013 10:56 AM
Mary from Connecticut

My sister's kids were breast-fed and very plump... but once they started walking the weight came off. Now they're teens and super fit. They do exercise a lot, though, and maybe that is a gap for a lot of city kids.

Jan. 16 2013 10:55 AM
RWriter from Manhattan

I was an overweight child. My mother was very neurotic about it.
I'm not overweight as an adult. I got into vegetarianism and exercise. But I bear psychological scars. I struggle with low self worth.

I think the most important issue is that the child doesn't feel bad about herself, NO MATTER WHAT HER SIZE. We're all going to gain and lose over the years.

We need to love ourselves. This is essential for women.

Jan. 16 2013 10:53 AM

With the childhood obesity epidemic, I applaud the efforts that she made for her daughter and the fact that she is openly discussing this. No parent ever does everything perfectly. I can understanding pouring out a drink because in weak moments I have resorted to similar tactics -- like dumping my son's cloths in the waste basket when he won't pick them up off the floor.

My son has a friend who is just really a fun kid. He is now 13 and obese and can't control his diet at all. Constantly eating. When my son had a sleepover he ate half the birthday cake in the middle of the night. I feel bad for him, but since I'm not his parent I don't feel like I can say anything.

Jan. 16 2013 10:52 AM
john from office

We live in such an attention starved time. This "mom" should leave her kid alone, get her the help she needs and not have a book written about her. Wow, wait for the book by the kid in a few years about "mom".

Jan. 16 2013 10:51 AM
rob from queens

Good on you Mrs Weiss for being an active parent as opposed to blaming everyone else and society, you pulled your socks up and did something to help your child's health

Jan. 16 2013 10:51 AM

A 9-year old has "internalized" life lessons already?

Jan. 16 2013 10:50 AM

No junk/industrial food?? Just "healthy" foods??


I know parents that SAY the EXACT same thing but, the reality is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

Jan. 16 2013 10:50 AM
Bonn from East Village

The earlier, the better to curb obesity and get her daughter on the right track by eating healthy. When I lived in Spain, one of my teenage students spent a semester in America and came back fat from eating all the junk food and large portions. Her mother took her to a doctor and got her back to a healthy weight for her age and size. The daughter was quite happy to do that and be part of the healthy Spanish eating lifestyle.

Jan. 16 2013 10:50 AM
Brian from nyc

Lifestyle changes? Since when do 7 year olds have lifestyles?

Jan. 16 2013 10:47 AM

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