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Mom Puts 7-Year-Old on a Diet, Details for Vogue


Anyone raising a daughter knows what a difficult task it can be, from navigating a cultural landscape where princessification and sexualization of young girls is increasingly common to equipping them with healthy self-esteems. So when your pediatrician tells you that you have a clinically-obese child, is it possible to help her reach a healthy weight and also maintain a positive body image?

An article entitled “Weight Watchers” in Vogue’s April issue tries to tackle this issue and—if the controversy surrounding the article is anything to measure by—falls short. Dara-Lynn Weiss writes about putting her 7-year-old daughter on a diet and describes some pretty extreme (okay, very extreme) tactics. Weiss laments that although everyone was supportive of her attempts to get her daughter, Bea, to a healthy weight, they did not approve of her methods, which included:

Plus: 3 Tips for When Your Child Asks Whether They Look Fat

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.

Plus: Guide to Childhood Obesity

Weiss confesses that she often derided Bea for not refusing a snack given to her by a friend’s parent or caregiver, when her irritation would have been better directed at the adults. She wavered between forbidding Bea from eating cupcakes at parties, allowing her to have “just one,” and telling her daughter to “stop eating like crap” because she was getting “too heavy,” while turning around and eating two herself when Bea wasn’t looking. "It is grating to have someone constantly complain of being hungry, or refuse to eat what she's supposed to, month after month," she writes. It was "exhausting managing someone's diet, especially when her brother has completely different nutritional needs."

Plus: Good Parenting May Lower Childhood Obesity Risk

Not surprisingly, Weiss admits to having her own body issues and hating the way she looks. "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," she writes.

Plus: Should Parents Lose Custody of Extremely Obese Kids?

In the end, Bea loses 16 pounds and grows two inches taller—a feat that is rewarded with new dresses and a feather hair extension. But she wells up in tears at the memory of the person she used to be. Weiss, meanwhile, has landed a book deal for a memoir about the “experience that epitomizes the modern parenting 'damned if you do/damned if you don't' predicament," according to New York Magazine.

Have you ever put your child on a diet? How did you enforce it? Do you think this mom went too far?