Last year, in a piece for Vogue magazine, Dara-Lynn Weiss wrote about putting her 7-year-old daughter (pseudonym: Bea) on a diet, and how hard that was. For Weiss:
It is grating to have someone constantly complain of being hungry, or refuse to eat what she's supposed to, month after month…
This morning, Weiss was on Today, talking about her memoir, The Heavy. The blurb:
When a doctor pronounced Dara-Lynn Weiss's daughter Bea obese at age seven, the mother of two knew she had to take action. But how could a woman with her own food and body issues-not to mention spotty eating habits-successfully parent a little girl around the issue of obesity?
Her own food issues aren't the only thing about this situation that should be questioned: Weiss's method of keeping Bea's diet on track included "heated public discussions" about why her daughter could not have cookies and cake. Today, when Matt Lauer asked Weiss about the public manner in which she would talk to her child about food, Weiss explained: "To me, every parent is saying, hey, don't eat that, you're allergic to that… Every parent is controlling their children's diet to some extent."
But warning a child not to eat something because he is allergic to it is a lot different from demanding a kid not consume something because you don't want that child to gain weight. Only Bea's doctor knows what kind of health risks she faces, but doesn't it seem like publicly getting upset with your kid for accepting a slice of birthday cake or a cookie at a bake sale creates a really unhealthy psychological outlook?
Later on the show, when she was speaking with Kathie Lee and Hoda, Weiss said that while it was true she once took a hot chocolate from Bea and threw it in the garbage, it was in a "loving and protective way."
"It was not like, 'You picked the wrong thing, you're eating the wrong thing.' It was, 'Someone gave you something that you're not able to have. In the same way that a parent whose kid had a nut allergy — if [someone] was like, oh, I threw some peanuts in there, you'd grab that away and say, I'm sorry, there's nothing you did wrong, but this is not something you can eat."
Again with the allergy comparison. Not buying it. A cookie is not going to instantly create weight on that kid. Plus, Weiss's message is not about exercise, or moderation, or give a little/take a little, but about making fun foods the enemy. (Also, one study claims overweight children eat less than their peers.)
Compounding this idea is this passage from the book, about Bea and her younger-by-one-year brother:
When it came to food, both were good eaters but, again, different. David had clear ideas about what he wanted. A less diplomatic way to say this: he had (has) very precise, narrow tastes in food that, while fortunately incorporating all food groups, were (are still) dauntingly specific. While Bea would happily eat whatever we fed her, David had to have one of the exact vegetables he would tolerate (broccoli, carrots, corn, or Brussels sprouts), one of the two proteins he liked (chicken or beef), and definitely lots of pasta. He would rather starve than eat something he didn't like.
And here's Weiss writing about Bea as a baby:
Bea was born an alert, happy, beautiful little girl […] My only disappointment when she was a baby was that she wasn't a bit chunkier. The first grandchild born to my parents was my niece, at that point the single fattest baby I'd ever seen. And she was scrumptious! Giant eyes with never-ending lashes blinking languidly onto tumescent cheeks. Her sausage-link arms and gargantuan thighs were a total delight. We all wanted to bite her rotund belly, which no shirt seemed able to contain, and on which she rested her chubby hands with Buddha-like calm. Then she grew into a healthy-weight child, and her infant deliciousness was just a cute little footnote. So I'll admit that at first I was the tiniest bit let down that Bea's limbs didn't wrinkle with excess adipose tissue and that her stomach was flat.
Emphasis mine. Because Weiss is not just "the mom who put her 7-year-old on a diet." She is "the food-obsessed mom whose two children both have food issues." Wait, strike that: She is "the food-obsessed mom using her children's and her own food issues to make money from magazine and book deals."