Dara-Lynn Weiss poses with her then 7-year-old daughter Bea in Vogue magazine last March.
It's been almost a year now since the notorious article in American Vogue was published - the one in which a woman chronicled her struggle with her daughter's weight. Depending on your point of view, Dara-Lynn Weiss was either a concerned mother determined to help improve her 7-year-old daughter, Bea's health, or a shallow, image-obsessed pariah, determined to project all of her hang-ups about body image onto her offspring.
Given that childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions, both here as well as the US, the fixation on our children's weight is no considered longer the taboo topic it once was.
At the time, Weiss kept her mouth firmly shut but she's now decided to talk about the experience. Also, because, she has a book out. Called The Heavy, it documents in detail Weiss's struggle with her daughter's weight. Weiss says she was made to feel bad for doing the right thing but she also admits to making a lot of mistakes. Ultimately, however, sees herself as a good parent, albeit one with her own body image and weight issues. And it's these, not so much the child's weight loss or gain, that people have been so critical of. Weiss spoke to New York Magazine about the aftermath of the Vogue article and the book. Excerpts below.
[The Vogue story] was about parenting and dieting, everyone’s two favorite things to be judgmental about.
I was expecting a certain level of interest and controversy based on aspects of my approach — my attitudes towards organic versus processed foods, the very idea of telling a child they have a medical problem instead of just trying to fix it subtly. I lived it, so I knew that was something that people are sort of shocked by. And I accept a lot of the criticism. I am strict. I was abrasive at times. I made a million mistakes. But the idea that I embarrassed or humiliated my child, that’s just wrong. It was painful to hear. The whole journey was full of self-doubt and questioning, but I was honest about it. So then to have this wave of people confirming my worst fears …
What’s the difference between shaming a child for being fat and disciplining a child for breaking dietary rules?
Parents of obese children have this extra standard that’s very uncomfortable: If you tell your child he can’t have a piece of cake you’re embarrassing him by drawing attention to his problem; the same limit-setting would be considered fine for parents of normal-weight children. That I think is part of the problem.
Did that awkwardness contribute to Bea becoming overweight in the first place?
Oh, definitely. I was like, I’m not going to tell her that food is making her too heavy, because of my own discomfort with the topic. I was afraid of giving her some kind of complex. I was absolutely underparenting around the issue of food for the first few years of her becoming overweight, until the pediatrician said, “This is something that requires your attention.”
For the full interview go to NYMag.com