In the April Shape issue of Vogue, a Manhattanite (Manhattan + socialite) mother writes a detailed account on the extreme measures she takes to regulate her then six-year-old daughter’s diet. Dubbed the “worst Vogue article ever” by Jezebel, “Weight Watchers” by Dara-Lynn Weiss has not only landed the mother with a gargantuan pile of parental feedback and criticism, but also a book deal.
The agreement, which was negotiated between David Kuhn and Marnie Cochran according to Media Bisto, gives Weiss the green light to pen a memoir for Random House’s Ballantine sector. The book will provide a detailed account on how Weiss helped her daughter Bea fight obesity and lose weight. Speaking of traffic lights, Bea’s diet was based on a childhood weight loss program called Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right by Dr. Joanna Dolgoff.
The actual program itself is not an issue. If you take a look at the sample nutrition plan, each child is given a specialized, personalized breakdown on what he or she is to eat per week. The purpose of Red Light, Green Light is to empower children, and Dolgoff specifically emphasizes to parents that reminding a child of his or her diet in public will have detrimental effects on the child. However, in Weiss’ case, this is exactly the route she took.
As much as I revere Vogue as a fashion and lifestyle publication, after reading the story, I agree with Jezebel that this article was a self-glorified account of a vain, self-absorbed, image-conscious woman who thought she was doing what was best for her child. The fact is Bea was overweight, and any good parent would have addressed her health immediately if the pediatrician said her diet was of concern. Unlike many critics, I don't think it was wrong for Weiss to place Bea on a specialized diet. However, that sympathetic stride ends there. Despite her intentions, Weiss approached Bea's diet in entirely the wrong way.
Yes, I accept that as a 24-year-old, non-parent myself, I have no background or understanding of what it means to rear a child. However, I have seen friends- marred by comments made by their parents on issues of weight and image. In turn, these beautiful, young women have retained terrible levels of self-confidence and I’ve seen them resort to extreme measures of fitness, dieting, even succumbing to eating disorders for some level of control over their physiques. The obsession with being thin permeates their every thought, and they take for granted their health, clouding them from what’s truly important in life.
So, does it upset me that as the most influential figure in her daughter’s life, Weiss did not guide her daughter through her diet in a more cautious, supportive and nurturing manner? Yes, it does!
Take for example the following excerpts:
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.
“I stepped between my daughter and a bowl of salad nicoise my friend was handing her, raising my palm like a traffic cop. “Thanks,” I said, “but she already ate dinner.”
“But she said she’s still hungry,” my friend replied, bewildered.
I forced a smile. “Yeah, but it’s got a lot of dressing on it and we’re trying–”
“Just olive oil!” my friend interrupted. “It’s superhealthy!”
My smile faded and my voice grew tense. “I know. She can’t.”
My friend’s eyes moved to my daughter, whose gaze held the dish in the crosshairs: a Frisbee-size bowl bursting with oil, tuna, eggs, potatoes, olives.”
In the end, Bea sheds 16 pounds and mom pats herself on the back. Good for Bea and good for mom! However, at what cost? Perhaps the lesson society could take away from this woman's success is what not to do when your young girl is dieting. Because the emotional and longterm psychological toll of public humiliation is just not worth it.