Photo Credit: Vogue
"I have not ingested any food, looked at a restaurant menu, or been sick to the point of vomiting without silently launching a complicated mental algorithm about how it will affect my weight," Socialite Dara-Lynn Weiss admits in the “Shape” issue of Vogue. She’s spent the last 3 decades"[hating] how my body looked and [devoting] an inordinate amount of time trying to change it." And now, she asks, "Who was I to teach a little girl how to maintain a healthy weight and body image?"
Who indeed? When Weiss’s pediatrician told her that her 7 year old daughter was clinically obese and should go on a diet, she did the only thing that she knew -- she shared her algorithm with her daughter.
“I once reproachfully deprived Bea of her dinner after learning that her observation of French Heritage Day at school involved nearly 800 calories... I stopped letting her enjoy Pizza Fridays when she admitted to adding a corn salad as a side dish.” And, when a Starbucks Barista didn’t know the exact number of calories in her daughters hot chocolate she, “dramatically grabbed the drink out of my daughter's hands, poured it into the garbage, and stormed out.”
She also laments about how difficult this whole diet was…for her: "It is grating to have someone constantly complain of being hungry, or refuse to eat what she's supposed to, month after month." Sadly for us, it seems as though she will get to keep lamenting in a new book! Yes, she got a book deal out of this! The Ballantine publisher who signed her wanted her to shed some more light on the “modern parenting ‘damned if you do/damned if you don’t’ predicament.” Um, was that really the problem here?
Bea made her mother’s goal for her -- losing 16 pounds in a year -- just in time for the Vogue shoot! Bea says to Vogue, "I'm not a different person just because I lost sixteen pounds." Her mother immediately jumps in, telling her “that fat girl is a thing of the past”. With wisdom beyond her years and a tear on her cheek, Bea tells her mother that, "Just because it's in the past doesn't mean it didn't happen."
It’s heartbreaking that a culture that chooses to focus on weight instead of health, often with the complete exclusion of mental health, creates mothers who pass their unhealthy obsessions down to their daughters.
Worse, it doesn’t work. In the last decade the rate of hospitalizations for eating disorders in kids under 12 has risen by 119%. Research from the University of Minnesota found that “None of the behaviors being used by adolescents for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss [7 years later]. Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting including significant weight gain. These findings demonstrate that these behaviors should not be viewed as innocuous.” And even the National Institutes of Health issued a statement that shaming kids about weight “can reinforce unhealthy behaviors... A number of research studies over the last decade have supported this concern.“
It’s time to put the focus back on healthy behaviors that develop a lifelong love of healthy foods and movement rather than a lifelong hatred of their bodies. For more suggestions you can check out Support All Kids. Weiss’s book is one no mother needs on her shelf.