This is a heartbreaking story of a little girl subjected to public humiliation by her mother’s obsession with weight loss. Warning – this story may make you very angry.
Writing in the April issue of Vogue, their ‘Shape’ edition, Dara-Lynn Weiss tells how she restricted the calorie intake of Bea, who at 4ft 4in and 93lbs was deemed ‘clinically obese’ by her pediatrician.
So far so good: Weiss has to decide what to do when her pediatrician tells her her child is clinically obese. According to the CDC, approximately 17 percent of American children are obese, which means their BMI lies in the ninety-fifth percentile or higher for their age and height. Weiss’ daughter, Bea, fell in the ninety-ninth percentile at 93 lbs and 4’4” inches tall, therefore putting her at risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type two diabetes.
Public Humiliation Of 7-Year-Old Bea
But as Weiss justifies the weight-loss strategies she put her daughter through, I started wondering about her fitness to be a mother. It seems that she is projecting her hatred of her own body onto her daughter through this year-long diet: the author admits to having had issues with food her whole life, including obsessive dieting, fasting and using laxatives.
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.
Other passages describe ‘awkward moments at parties’ when Bea is told she cannot have both cookies and cake, and ‘the many times I had it out with Bea over a snack given to her by a friend’s parent or caregiver.’ She also admits to depriving her child of dinner. Shaming your child in public? What kind of parenting is this?
Like Mother, Like Daughter
Instead of this draconian approach, why didn’t Weiss focus on positive messages about eating healthy foods, rather than calorie-counting and deprivation? Did she recognize that her approach might be related to her own unhealthy attitudes to food? And hasn’t she heard of the importance of both exercise and diet? In reading the entire article, I didn’t see one mention of activity, play, even walking. Why didn’t she choose to Get Out with her child? How about exploring nature, walking, running? Or riding a bike together?
How did Bea feel at the end of this? From Vogue:
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.”
Weiss’s approach to her daughter’s weight probably means that Bea will be stuck with weight issues for the rest of her life.
What do you think?
Photo Credit: istock