The Fat Daughter’s Diet

The Fat Daughter’s Diet

Many of you probably heard about the controversial Vogue article by Dara-Lynn Weiss about how she forced her 7-year-old daughter, Bea, to go on a diet after her pediatrician said Bea was 17 pounds overweight and therefore technically “obese.”

Weiss attracted a ton of enraged comments from readers who felt that her strict enforcement of the diet was highly problematic and even cruel. Weiss, for example, told her daughter she could no longer participate in her school’s “Pizza Fridays” after finding out that Bea had eaten corn, a forbidden starch, as a side dish, and at times wouldn’t even allow her to eat dinner.

My first reaction to this story was to remember that ONE in FIVE American girls suffers from an eating disorder. That means that if your daughter is in a class with 25 girls, 5 of them are likely to have eating disorders.

And as someone who grew up in America, I know why these stats are so insanely high. As a child, the societal pressure I felt to be thin was off the charts, and for my entire childhood I thought I was a big, worthless fatso. I remember sitting in a chair at the tender age of 7, just like Bea, and literally hitting my own thighs with self-hatred, since I thought they were flabby.

Today, when I see photos of myself as a child, I want to cry since I see that I really wasn’t fat at all. I was just a normal weight kid. But for my entire childhood I was so obsessed with weight, with eating, with dieting that I ended up adopting seriously self-destructive habits that I didn’t manage to fully free myself of until adulthood.

But the real reason I’m writing this post is because Dara-Lynn Weiss is a fellow JewishMOM. And I’m just wondering what happened to the stereotypical loving, nurturing, food-pushing “Ess ess mein kind” Yiddish mama. Because over recent decades, the more common model for the Yiddishe Mama seems to be the critical, calorie-counting “diet, diet mein kind” Yiddishe mama.

On the one hand, I see what Weiss was trying to do. Her doctor said her daughter was obese. And she was trying to do something about it.

But as a childhood victim of the atomic societal pressure on American girls to be thin, fat kids aren’t what scare me the most. What really scares me is girls, like Bea, who have endured so much pressure to be thin that one day they will be willing to endanger their own health to be thin, just like I did.

Watch this news report about the Dara-Lynn Weiss controversy.

Mother Who Forces Daughter to Lose Weight is Heavily Criticized : MyFoxCHICAGO.com

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21 comments

  1. Israeli Eema

    I think that this mother was doing the right thing. There is a huge difference between a little girl thinking [erroneously] that she is not thin enough and a girl who is actually obese needing to lose weight.

    This mother is doing her daughter a huge favor by helping her to understand that being obese is not desirable, not healthy, and will not win her friends. Again, a child who is of normal weight and not skinny should be told that they are wonderful just the way [or the weight] that they are and that being too skinny is also unhealthy and undesirable, but we are talking about a girl who is obese by the age of 7!

    Instead of calling it a diet, it should indeed be called “eating healthy” and the mother of this little girl could let her eat corn on Fridays and cut out something else somewhere else in order to let her daughter feel like any of the other girls in the class, but her intentions are right on.

    • Obese?! 17 lb more than the chart has decided is appropriate for her age?!

      EVERYONE, EVERY WEIGHT should be eating healthy.

  2. Daniella

    My sister is an anorexia survivor, and this type of thing makes me sick.

    There’s helping your child eat healthier, and there’s being a diet Nazi. You cannot expect your 7-year-old to have the self-control to not eat a side dish that is on the table or even in the house. If you want your daughter to be eating better, the entire family should be eating better too. If you want your daughter to exercise, you should take her jogging with you and be a personal example, instead of punishing her for indulging. She is SEVEN YEARS OLD. Many ADULTS don’t have the self-control to stick to a diet!

  3. many children eat too much and bad food to make up for a lack of something! maybe mrs weiss should go into introspection…and take time with her daughter instead of telling her personal story to the whole world…intimacy can replace compulsive eating!
    Please jewish moms,focus on the causes rather than the consequences!

    • Hadassah

      The fact that this story has become a focus in the national and international media has done more potential damage to the little girl’s self esteem and mental health than any 17 pounds of overweight is concerned. We also have to realize that 17 pounds is lots more on a little girl whose average weight might be 60-70 pounds than on an adult who might weigh upwards of 110. I am not familiar with how this story gained attention but you are so right that the underlying issue of ‘why’ is much more important to be addressed then the weight issue can resolve itself.

  4. To my understanding, Weiss’s enforcement of this so-called diet or healthy lifestyle was incredibly inconsistent. How in the world can you take your child to Starbucks and somehow think that you’re getting them anything healthy? How can you call it “eating healthy” when you allow your child a gyro or a slice of pizza as a “snack”? That’s not eating healthy. And it’s not healthy self-image building when you publicly shame your daughter or make a huge deal about your daughter needing to eat less / lower fat foods in front of total strangers. That’s damaging. Severely so.

    I would love to say I support her, but if she truly wanted to help her daughter, it would’ve been a whole family lifestyle change. The attitude toward food and physical activity needs to change. The approach toward food and physical activity needs to change. Instead of it being forcible, it needs to be explainable. It needs to be something in which her daughter can participate. We overhauled our diet, and instead of freaking out over the stupidest of things (seriously, if you’re ordering a gyro, are you really concerned about calories? and asking the calorie count of pizza must surely be a joke) we made different choices. Opted for different restaurants, encouraged different menu choices, and made more at home. Of the things we make at home, I encourage the girls to help me in the kitchen, and especially so when it’s a new food. “Taste testing” of asparagus from fresh to roasted gave my girls a love of the vegetable when my husband outright detests it.

    There’s a much better way she could have gone about this, and I’m left more sad for her daughter than anything else, when I came into reading about this thinking I’d be cheering for the mom who wants a healthier child.

  5. It concerns me that anyone would think this behaviour is acceptable. It goes without saying that part of parenting is keeping your kid’s healthy–but that includes emotionally and mentally! This is setting up a kid for emotional pain in her adulthood. It’s sad.

    • JewishMom

      that’s some impressive research there!! I’ll change the article…

  6. The term “obese” is meaningless, as it fails to take into account bone size and structure, muscle tone, metabolism, and general family history.

    The Size Acceptance Movement is one I think we would do well to join. In short, the philosophy is that if you eat healthy food and exercise regularly, you are at a healthy weight for your body.

    Dieting, especially yo-yo dieting, is far worse for your health than weight.

    There are many very healthy people who are called “morbidly obese” because some random doctor decided that all people their height MUST weigh less than X lb. Ridiculous!

    • that is not true. If you eat healthy and exercise and you are in the obese category you are obese either because you weren’t doing that before, or you are eating way to much “healthy food” or its the unhealthy additions. Honesty, begets honesty and unhealthy is unhealthy, a high BMI is a risk assessment of serious disease it is not a joke. That does not mean that this mother had her daughter’s health in mind. It seems to me she had other people’s opinions of her daughter motivating her as if the 17 pounds is her embarrassment and not a simple healthy concern and handled as such.

      • If you look at the research, BMI when adjusted for healthy eating and exercise habits is relatively meaningless. BMI OFTEN (but not always) correlates with poor eating and exercising, which are a far greater indication of likelihood for health problems.

        Excessive dieting is far more unhealthy than a person who naturally falls into the 200 lb range when eating and exercising.

  7. אשרינו מה טוב חלקנו to have our beloved doughters in אולפנות where the pressure to be “Barbie” size is reduced. young girls may be chubby – it’s time to enjoy this stage and regard their spiritual grouth with more respect. let them grow self confident, genetics and love are the best ingredients for healthy souls and bodies

    • absolutely. We have to teach our children to respect themselves and value their health it is a gift from G-d. When eating is about doing good to oneself that is when we stop dieting and just start living healthy active lives.

  8. I stopped overeating at the age of 46 and that was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I lost 30 lb in 6 months and with them a whole coctail of maladies: migraine headaches, reflux, IBS, chronic fatigue to name just a few. In my childhood I was fed a traditional diet full of lovingly baked goods and that misguided kindness caused me much ridicule in school. I wrote a detailed account of my weight loss efforts and will be very happy to share it with other Jewish moms and daughters:
    http://eshet-lapidot.blogspot.com/2012/01/weight-loss-and-spiritual-dimension.html
    http://eshet-lapidot.blogspot.com/search/label/Weight%20Loss

  9. I think people here are missing the point that this girl only has 7 years of her life behind her, and IY”H another 113 left to go…from my personal experience with a mother who tried enforcing un-child-like diets on us, it backfires as soon as the kid can make their own food choices. They rebel and overeat–and we all ended up fighting our bad (over)eating habits to this day. My daughter has received several warnings from doctors, the school nurse–and I explained healthy eating to her, and the problems with being overweight, and how I was running out of clothing options for her. None of it helped so far, since she just loves food. Every once in a while she’ll come home and tell me proudly how someone offered her sweets and she only had one. Baby steps. But I know as soon as she hits her teenage years, the world will take care of ruining her body image and instilling a deep self-hatred, as this is what the world does to every girl. So why do I need to bring that on any earlier?

    • Maybe because excessive weight is unhealthy and brings lots of illnesses and shortens people’s lives! I would not advocate starving kids or severely restricting their food choices, but for parents to promote sports, healthy lifestyle and make healthy food available and prominent in the house instead of offering lots of baked goods.

      • but that’s my point–this mother isn’t promoting, she’s forcing. Her daughter will end up eating unhealthy as soon as she can get out from under her mother’s thumb, so how healthy is she going to be?

  10. I read this article in the April issue of Vogue and It was not nearly as bad as the media made it out to be. Dara -Lynn’s daughter was an obese 7 year old and she did something about it. Maybe she could have handled things better occasionally but hey, don’t we all over react? I think that she was being honest and I applaud her for that.

    She made many excellent points such as why does there have to be a 350 calorie cupcake for each child’s birthday? In a class with 25 kids that means an extra 8750 calories a year! I believe that 3500 over the amount of calories you need is an extra pond so that equals almost 3 pounds each year. I once figured out that at my kids’ school with each grade having about 90 kids that over the 2 year period that the kids celebrate their Bar or Bat Mitzvahs they will consume 22,500 calories of donuts. That’s almost 6 1/2 pounds of weight and that’s not to mention how bad doughnuts are for you.

    Dara-Lynn used a very sensible system of green light, yellow light and red light foods very much like Weight Watchers a pretty sensible way to lose weight and a great way to eat for the rest of your life. She also enrolled her child in a karate class 2 times a week.

    Yes anorexia is a problem but obesity is a bigger one and one that many more children suffer from especially in the frum community. Obesity is a serious medical condition that calls for serious intervention. Just “eating right” is often not enough.

  11. By the way I just reread the article and it said that her daughter weighed 93 lbs and was 4’4″ before she went on the diet. I have a daughter who is 4’4″ with a medium build. She weighs 64lbs. I imagine that with an additional almost 30lbs on her frame she would look obese. I can’t imagine letting that happen but if it did I would most definitely put her on a diet.

  12. I only recently heard about this story as I was busy writing my book, not so ironically titled, “FATLASH! Food Police & the Fear of Thin –A Cautionary Tale. I lived this story. Further, I am a mental health professional and I know the consequences. It stuns me that so many have so little understanding of the fallout from such measures. Please, this is not just shameless self promotion: Read my book!

    PS: I breaks my heart that Dara-Lynn Weiss is Jewish and so am I. While this is endemic to the culture, this obsession with appearance is certainly EPidemic in the Jewish Community.

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