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Memo to Dara-Lynn Weiss: Living Through Your Daughter Isn’t “Brave”

FATLASH! Food Police & the Fear of ThinI’ve never met Dara-Lynn Weiss but a few things about her are certainly familiar to me.   Weiss is the “diet mom” who wrote a piece for Vogue about putting her seven-year-old daughter on a diet.  The piece was reviled and roundly criticized.  What happened after that?  She got a book deal.

Ms. Weiss’ unapologetic book, ” The Heavy,” came out last week. In some corners, some of the old criticism has turned to praise.  Some have even called her “brave” to dare put her daughter on a diet.

What has happened that a growing number of people accept the idea of food police in their everyday lives and the lives of others?  I could write a book.  Oh, wait a minute…

There’s so much to say here but just to begin: Mothers don’t have to put their daughters in beauty pageants to suffer from “Princess by Proxy” syndrome.  Weiss’ book, the tour and the praise is clearly all about Weiss herself.  But who speaks for the children?  Just as with extreme pageant moms, we may have to wait a few more decades to find out.  In the meantime, Weiss is being rewarded with exactly the kind of national recognition that “Honey Boo Boo”‘s mother Mama June is enjoying.  Who would have thunk such different moms had so much in common?

No matter how much a child may say that it doesn’t bother her to be scrutinized and displayed,  she cannot answer the question for the same reason that it is inappropriate to thrust her into adulthood in the first place.

By the time these kids can speak out, it’ll be much too late. Finding one’s way to a healthy adulthood is challenging enough.  Such unnecessary stumbling blocks of body and boundary violation must not become an accepted part of the popular culture. If they do, who will speak out for children then?

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  1. I did meet Dara-Lynn Weiss. In fact, I taped Anderson Live with her (it airs Tuesday). She is clueless. She thinks what she did to her daughter is akin to what a parent of a kid with a nut allergy or diabetes has to do. What she doesn’t get is those issues aren’t related to body image. What she doesn’t get is those parents don’t shame those kids in public. Those parents don’t make their kids obsess about food and weight and calories.

    She doesn’t get that Bea thinks her mom won’t love her if she’s not thin. And that is so utterly sad. And even when I told her that to her face, she couldn’t hear it.

    I feel so sorry for Bea…..

    1. Dear Wendy, Thank you for taking the time to comment here. I will be very interested to see your interview. Does it amaze you as it sometimes does me, that so many people do not see how utterly wrong and damaging this is. It’s so unnecessary with a little education.

      As I speak for more groups on this and the beauty pageant issue, I have begun to see how prevalent it is for people to suspend all tolerance and reason when it comes to weight and appearance.

      1. Curious if you caught the show yesterday. I was really disappointed. They cut out so much of our conversation and in my opinion, made it look like we were going easy on her when that is in fact, not the case.

        What I couldn’t believe about Dara-Lynn was how she just couldn’t see any other point of view. She was too busy defending, deflecting and minimizing. I honestly don’t think that even with education, she would change how she views what she did, nor would she not do it again if faced with the same issues.

  2. I read “The Heavy” and found it informative and honest. What astonished me is how much food is constantly around kids nowadays — snacks at school, snacks on the way home, snacks at sports events, snacks at parties, snacks at home, snacks in between meals, snacks late at night, etc. etc. For some kids and adults, the temptation to be constantly eating may be too hard to resist. I think it’s great that Ms. Weiss was trying to teach her daughter to be mindful of her eating habits. That’s a parents’ job. I actually think Ms. Weiss did a disservice to her daughter when, for many years, she allowed her daughter to graze, graze, graze on dessert items any time of the day or night. What is so wrong with telling your child that after dinner/dessert and perhaps a light snack, that’s it — no more eating, the kitchen is closed! Anyone who thinks that is “mean” is deluding themselves. I think this daughter and her family will be better off dealing with these issues now, when the child is more malleable, then later during the more emotional and tension-filled adolescent years.

    1. Thanks so much for your comments. No matter how much you attempt to control another person’s eating, be they young or old, it will still be up to them to make those choices. Wouldn’t it be more logical to foster the recognition of choices in your child and encourage them to make conscious choices about when and what they eat? Won’t their always be snacks around? Will there always be food cops around? (I fear so.)

      The line as I see it is between suggestion and force. (Nagging doesn’t work either) Kids aren’t as malleable as you think. Those seeds are being planted now and sometimes flower into full-blown weight problems in adolescence. Kids who have been managed and monitored are much more likely to develop issues with food and weight. It’s easy to telegraph to a kid that their appearance and their weight are more important than anything else. The culture does this just as much as with “snacks, snacks, snacks.”

      1. This is what I tried to explain to Dara-Lynn (most of which you didn’t see on the show). I talked to her about flying under the radar with changing her child’s eating patterns. Clearly she was committed to cutting down on portions, so why not cut down on them without calling attention to anything? Or, if the child notices, “We’re changing the way we eat as a family so we can be healthier.” Limit the amount of snacks. Talk about making healthy choices, an apple is healthier than a piece of cake, although a piece of cake is okay every once in a while. Why not engage the entire family in exercise – go for hikes, go for bike rides, etc. Talk to her about why she’s eating – is she bored? I’m sorry, but a child does not come back 5 times after dinner for a snack! She’s not hungry, she’s emotional! But Dara-Lynn refused to hear it.

      2. “Kids who have been managed and monitored are much more likely to develop issues with food and weight.”? What is your source for that? I work clinically with children from troubled homes and in my personal experience, the children from homes with few limits / monitoring are the children with the greatest difficulties with food, weight, and body image. I’d be very interested to know how you got your information.

        1. First we have to identify what “managed and monitored” means. Offering nutritional information and structure is not the kind of monitoring to which I am refer, which is not the same as “banning and restricting.” There is a current and troubling trend of applying broad brush, one-size-fits-all “solutions” to unique and different people and problems. The notion for example, that sugared soda authomatically creates weight problems is to ignore individual choices and metabolisms. Children must be supported in learning to make their own choices, rather than to become more and more dependent on having them made for them.

    2. I’m sad that you found the book informative. It’s not. Not on any level. I don’t even think it’s honest. My opinion is this story is exaggerated to an extreme so mom can get more attention.

      You can’t read the book and not see that it’s all about mom. She claims to the contrary, but where is Bea in that book other than an object to exploit?

      I fear that more people like you will read the book and find it “informative” and actually think that’s a good way to address a child’s weight issues … which is exactly why Kimora and I were horrified at the end of the show that Anderson was giving out a copy to everyone in the studio audience. As I said to her, “Oh great. So now a bunch more parents will actually think this is an acceptable thing to do to a child?!!?”

      1. My sentiments, exactly Wendy. I remember much too well how it felt to me to have a mother who was much more concerned with my weight and appearance than whether I did well in school, had any friends or was happy. The more hysterical people become (bureacrats, parents and ‘unhinged’ bioethicists) the more outrageous are the “fixes” which exacerbate and even create the problem. The people who are cheering Dara-Lynn Weiss’ narcissistic projections simply haven’t heard, don’t know or don’t want to know how this feels to a child. Ms. Weiss is oh so sure that her now, nine-year-old is “doing well.” When she isn’t doing so well, the public will have moved on and “Bea” will have been left with the damage.

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