Dara-Lynn Weiss On 7-Year-Old Daughter's Diet In Vogue Body Issue Raises Controversy

 @cavanshays
on March 26 2012 9:14 AM

Dara-Lynn Weiss' article in Vogue's April Body Issue has been dubbed one of the fashion magazine's worst ever. The mother of 7-year-old Bea took to the pages of Vogue to discuss her daughter's childhood obesity and their fight to combat it. Weiss' article has received fiery criticism for its new levels of pathos.

Dara-Lynn Weiss' narrative about her 7-year-old daughter, Bea, begins with the following: As Bea grew I was relieved to cross several items off my mental checklist of possible issues she might develop. She was not colicky. She was not autistic. She was not dyslexic. However, after a trip to the pediatrician, Weiss realized her daughter was overweight. The doctor reportedly suggested Bea, who stood at 4-feet, 4-inches and weighed 93 pounds, be placed on a diet because she was considered clinically obese and could be at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Bea was 6-years-old at the time.

But, Weiss was most moved to action after a boy at school called Bea fat. One day Bea came home from school in tears, confessing that a boy at school had called her fat. The incident crushed me, but it was a wake-up call. Being overweight is not a private struggle. Everyone can see it, wrote the mother.

After that, Dara-Lynn Weiss put her then 6-year-old daughter on the Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right diet, a form of Weight Watchers for children. Though her push towards a more healthful diet could be considered a beneficial effort, Weiss' description of her approach and demeanor in the Vogue essay proved truly disturbing.

Here are some of the most irrational and erratic things Dara-Lynn Weiss admitted to putting her 7-year-old daughter through:

  •  Making Bea go without dinner after learning that her observation of French Heritage Day at school involved nearly 800 calories of Brie, filet mignon, baguette, and chocolate
  •  Ending Pizza Fridays when Bea admitted to adding a corn salad as a side dish one week
  •  When Bea pleaded for snacks, Weiss responded with one of the following: Let's not eat that, it's not good for you; Okay, fine, go ahead, but just one; and Bea, you have to stop eating crap like that, you're getting too heavy depending on her mood
  •  Throwing an untouched children's hot chocolate in the trash at a Starbucks after the barista admitted he/she did not know the specific calorie count

Ultimately, Weiss delves into her own diet struggles, which involved bouts with Weight Watchers, Atkins, juice fasts, laxatives and even dangerous appetite suppressants.

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, Weiss admitted. Who was I to teach a little girl how to maintain a healthy weight and body image?

Little 7-year-old Bea wound up losing 16 pounds, meeting her mother's weight-loss goal before the Vogue photo shoot. Weiss wrote about her daughter's post-diet self as well. 'That's still me,' she [Bea] 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 insists in her Vogue essay, entitled Weight Watcher, that she has established a solid base upon which her daughter can develop a lifetime of healthy eating.

She will probably always want to eat more than she is supposed to. She will be tempted to make bad choices. But now she has the foundation to make these choices in an educated and conscious way. Only time will tell whether my early intervention saved her from a life of preoccupation with her weight, or drove her to it.

Others disagree.

Vogue Article Receives Fiery Criticism

Dara-Lynn Weiss' article in Vogue has not only received heaps of feedback, but also fiery, angry criticism dubbing her article the worst Vogue article ever.

One of the most problematic aspects of Weiss' method many pointed to was the flagrantly humiliating way in which she enforced the diet.

I stepped between my daughter and a bowl of salad nicoise my friend was handing her, raising my palm like a traffic cop. 'Thanks,' I said, 'but she already ate dinner,' Weiss wrote about one particular encounter. 'But she said she's still hungry,' my friend replied, bewildered. I forced a smile. 'Yeah, but it's got a lot of dressing on it and we're trying--' 'Just olive oil!' my friend interrupted. 'It's superhealthy!' My smile faded and my voice grew tense. 'I know. She can't.' My friend's eyes moved to my daughter, whose gaze held the dish in the crosshairs: a Frisbee-size bowl bursting with oil, tuna, eggs, potatoes, olives.

This carelessness for her daughter's self-esteem and self-worth all on a public stage was most off-putting. Publishing an article in Vogue's Body Issue went one step further.

The socialites who write personal essays for Vogue aren't known for their kindness and humility, but Dara-Lynn Weiss, who opened up about putting her 7-year-old daughter on a Weight Watchers-style diet in Vogue's April issue, has to go down in history as the one of the most f---ed up, selfish women to ever grace the magazine's pages, wrote Jezebel writer Katie J.M Baker. The justifications to which Weiss clings as she describes the abrasive, often irrational weight-loss strategies she imposed upon her young daughter are truly disgusting, as is the obvious fact that Weiss was projecting her hatred of her own body onto her child throughout her year-long diet.

Jezebel even contacted the founder of the Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right diet, Dr. Dolgoff. Dr. Dolgoff said that while Weiss clearly loved and wanted the best for her daughter, she wasn't thrilled by the article. Her main concern was the public humiliation Weiss' exposed her daughter to. The program has to be run by the child, Dolgoff told Jezebel, and the truth is that making a child feel bad only causes problems. It's not going to help with weight loss, and it's definitely not going to help the child emotionally.

The parents aren't supposed to react in public, Dolgoff said. They're supposed to be on their child's team. Another parent in [Weiss'] situation may have seen that, while weight loss was progressing, there were some emotional issues. But she chose to continue dieting in her own way. I believe that if she had continued coming, the end result would have been more than just weight loss: she'd have weight loss and a happy child.

Some devil's advocates said that it is a sticky situation that is difficult to wade through if one has not experienced it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  17 percent of American children are considered obese. This means that their BMI lies in the 95th percentile or higher for their height and age. The CDC recommends healthy eating in childhood and adolescence for proper growth and development and to prevent health problems later in life. A healthy diet should include fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fat-free, low-dairy products for those two-years-old and older.

However, Jezebel noted that this is not exactly what Weiss did. Weiss writes that everyone supported her long-term mission to get Bea to a healthy weight, but that 'no one seems to approve of my methods.' Perhaps that's because Weiss' 'methods' were draconian, immature, and affected by her own dysfunctional attitude toward food. Her physical state might have improved at the sacrifice of her mental state.

This is the sort of horror story that makes everyone afraid to help their children lose weight for fear of landing them in therapy-or an eating disorder clinic-by the time they're eight. Vogue isn't known for its incredible work at improving women's body image, but does it have to start hacking away at seven year old girls, too? wrote BlissTree.

What do you think of Dara-Lynn Weiss' Weight Watcher essay for Vogue's Body Issue. Do you feel for her and Bea's struggle? Or do you think her methods were wholly inappropriate, demeaning and cruel?

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