Home The Op-Eds Vogue Shows Us How Not To Manage Our Children’s Weight… Or Project Our Insecurities Onto Them

Vogue Shows Us How Not To Manage Our Children’s Weight… Or Project Our Insecurities Onto Them

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Last week, the Internet was all abuzz over the “Weight Watcher” article penned by a Dara-Lynn Weiss, who wrote about the story of making her seven year old daughter – lovingly referred to as Bea – lose 16lbs (going from 93lbs at 4’4″ down to 77lbs) through a pretty heinous diet. There was moderate exercise involved – the child apparently had taken a liking to karate and swimming – but, as it should’ve been, the focus was on her eating habits.

I don’t think anyone finds it irrational for a parent to be mindful of their child’s weight, especially when this happens:

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.

Far too many of us know what it’s like to be called that horrid word, or disparaged because of our weight. We don’t want those kinds of pains for our children. No, I genuinely don’t think there’s anything wrong with considering this a call to action.

It’s the kinds of actions taken that are the damn problem, here:

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.

I cringe when I recall the many times I had it out with Bea over a snack given to her by a friend’s parent or caregiver … rather than direct my irritation at the grown-up, I often derided Bea for not refusing the inappropriate snack. And there have been many awkward moments at parties, when Bea has wanted to eat, say, both cookies and cake, and I’ve engaged in a heated public discussion about why she can’t.

But why wouldn’t she? Why wouldn’t she feel justified in her fight against her daughter’s impending doom… er, fatness? Every message she’s gotten about being fat, being overweight, being unhealthy has been so convoluted and conflated with industry-promoting pitches that it’s a wonder how any women are not treating their children so poorly.

Weiss weaves a tale of bystanders noticing little Bea’s weight increasing, and showering Dara with unsolicited advice on how to manage it, a pediatrician who suggests that Weiss put her daughter on a diet – ostensibly with no suggestion of which diet, no explanation of healthy or safe parameters for said diet for a seven-year-old – and loved ones insisting that Bea eat food while Weiss leaps over tables and slides under bannisters to head the plate off at the pass. I mean, this joint is wild:

I stepped between my daughter and a bowl of salad niçoise my friend was handing her, raising my palm like a traffic cop. “Thanks, I said, “but she already ate dinner.”

“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-sized bowl bursting with oil, tuna, eggs, potatoes, olives.

“But it’s salad!” she ventured.

“Sorry,” I said, my voice rising.

“Oh, just a little!” my friend insisted, and pushed the bowl into my daughter’s eager hands, to my undisguised frustration.

I didn’t originally write on this story at first, because I wanted to wait, sit back and see what everyone else had to say first. I watched outlet after outlet after outlet question this woman’s parenting ability, call her names, mock her for caring about her child’s weight at all… but the most peculiar of these was Jezebel. Arguably one of the most fat-acceptance spouting, anti media-imagery, presumptuously pro-woman venues on the Internet, Jezebel managed to avoid laying the blame where [at least I think] it should’ve been laid (at the feet of a culture hyper-obsessed with thinness of women right down to their adolescence), but instead curled over and took a dump on this woman! Not once, not twice, but multiple times! With the announcement that Weiss has actually potentially scored a book deal for her story, Jezebel announced it – leaving me to assume they were planning on making Weiss their personal whipping girl – with a post dripping with so much sarcasm, it left me in need of a tissue to wipe my screen after I’d finished with it.

Every day, women are beaten over the head with the “reality” that it’s not important to be smart, successful, or even a go-getter – that “go-getterism” is instantaneously stunted by use of the word “b-tch;” as in, we love hard nosed bosses, so long as they’re not women… because then, we have to call her that beloved b-word. No, no.. it’s most important for a woman’s body to look the way society thinks it should look, lest we deny her favors like… I don’t know, the same wage as her thinner counterparts?

Every message in society tells us that being fat is wrong and bad. Having a body that doesn’t look like what we think is ideal… is bad. Wrong. Unacceptable. What mother, hyper-aware of the consequences that have befallen heftier women in her community, wouldn’t fight that for her child? Especially if she knows being overweight is a struggle, considering her own body image issues:

Growing up in an affluent, achievement-driven suburb, I had suffered through my own issues with food, eating, and weight. Though the rest of my family had a seemingly healthy relationship with food, I was constantly battling weight gain and asking my mother to lock up the peanut butter jar and the omnipresent box of Entenmann’s Pecan Danish Ring. Whether I weighed in at 105 pounds or 145 pounds hardly mattered – I hated how my body looked and devoted an inordinate amount of time to trying to change it.

Over the last 30 years, I’ve been on and off weight watchers, Atkins, Slim Fast, LA Weight Loss, Jenny Craig, juice diets and raw food diets. In my teenage years, I dabbled in the occasional laxative or emetic, and once fainted at a summer program in Vermont after three days of fasting. In my 20s, I begged a doctor friend to score me the prescription appetite suppressant fen-phen even after it was found to cause heart-valve defects and pulmonary hypertension. 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.


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

If this lifestyle is all you know – if thinking and living like this is all you see in terms of how people handle weight issues… do you truly think there is any other way to handle [what your pediatrician describes as] your daughter’s weight problem? If all you know is to “secretly make fun of moms who were overly concerned with the organic lineage of their kids’ meals,” while also presuming that parents with “fat kids? Well, clearly, something about their child-rearing was deficient — a form of neglect, or a failure to set limits.” I mean, really – how many options do you see?

And, before we start to talk about how relevant this is to Black girls, I’d caution anyone to remember that as more Blacks move up in social class, more of us will face these issues and will, ostensibly, be forced to address their children’s weight and eating habits. If your friend’s don’t say anything (like Weiss’ did), then your doctor will (like Weiss’ did.)

There are so many questions to ask, but so, so little time. Let me get to the point.

We create, cultivate and perpetuate the culture in America that not only says this is the way to handle your weight; not only that this is an acceptable way to manage a child’s weight and pass down sensible and healthy body image to a young girl who was called fat by her peer, but also that this woman and her methods should be cheered and given a platform in the form of a book deal. We do this. Media does this. We consume this. We perpetuate this. Weiss is not acting alone in this.

I’m not willing to crap on this woman for her response to a problem. No one bothered to tell her how dire Bea’s situation truly was (or if it was dire at all.) No one bothered to explain to her how to handle the situation without traumatizing her child. No one even bothered to help Weiss, herself, develop sensible self-image… her child was a long shot before the game even started.

Alas, there is pride in this story:

As a result of her amazing efforts over the past year, Bea showed up at her doctor’s office for her eight-year checkup sixteen pounds lighter and almost two inches taller. She is now at a healthy weight. She looks great, and she seems to take enormous pride in her appearance. Incredibly, she has not yet exhibited symptoms of intense psychological damage.”

…but what happens when the next little boy who becomes angry with Bea decides to call her fat? You’ve already taught her that one little boy calling her fat was grounds for her to go on a year-long diet… what is she going to do when the next happens? She refers to the words “fat” and “diet” as being painful, but still puts her daughter on a diet and reacts to her being called “fat” like it was World War III.

But really, what is Weiss doing that isn’t “expected?” She was praised for what she did. It’s acceptable. Rewarded with a book that will, without question, be the Tiger Mom of the diet book industry.

Gross, yes. Her fault? Not entirely.We question her parenting, but don’t dare question ourselves and what, in us as a country, makes this something worth celebrating. They sit in their Vogue portrait like proud lionesses, satisfied with themselves. It’s not a story of a young girl losing weight and fighting her environment to survive – it’s the story of a young girl who got put through the ringer because of puberty. We don’t get to find out whether, had her mother switched up her meals a bit, the young girl would’ve simply evened out – two inches makes a big difference – as she grew. We don’t find out whether or not she’s scarred because of this. As Weiss wrote, “Only time will tell whether my early intervention saved her from a life of preoccupation with her weight, or drove her to it.”

Like, wow. She’s certainly more susceptible to society’s constant bashing of women, instead of prepared for her to come out on top, that’s for sure.

Until we take a long, hard look at the messages we send to women across this country about what kinds of bodies are acceptable in certain kinds of space, we will continue to read stories and essays of how women put their children through torturous regimens and pass their ludicrous self-esteem and self-image issues onto them, and we’ll continue to point the blame elsewhere… to everyone’s detriment.

You may also like


Biolobri April 2, 2012 - 4:01 PM

Ugh. I hadn’t heard of this before now. All I can think is that a mother’s duty is to teach her daughter that she’s got to love her tree.. and part of loving your tree is nurturing it. I fear this girl is not going to love her tree.

Also, the starbucks part peeved me a bit. It’s just the wrong approach. A 120 calorie nutrition-less drink is perfectly acceptable but a 210 calorie one warrants dramatic trashing and storming out? This is how women (people) get wrapped up in 4 diet cokes a day rather than learning to live a healthy life.

max April 2, 2012 - 7:59 PM

This article was very hard to read. It’s not that I fault the writer for trying to save her daughter from a lifetime of weight issues, but I cringed when I thought about how little Bea must have felt. The scene with the Nicoise Salad just flatlined me.

As someone who has suffered with disordered eating habits my entire lifetime, I remember all too well how ashamed, worthless, and unlovable I felt as a kid when my parents got on me about my weight. Again I totally applaud Weiss’s efforts – and since I’m not a parent maybe I’m not qualified to speak on this – but I can’t help feeling that there must be a better way.

Oh! And you know what irked me most of all? At the end where she said “She is now at a healthy weight. She looks great, and she seems to take enormous pride in her appearance.”. That made me feel like this whole thing was less about her daughter’s well-being and more about her having a good-looking kid. I’d have felt so much better if she’d said “she’s healthier and she’s much more active”. But again I know I’m projecting.

Either way I congratulate Bea on her weight loss. Pretty amazing accomplishment for such a young girl.

Lily Fluffbottom April 2, 2012 - 8:39 PM

I think I would have preferred my mother to withhold food from me, while explaining in a way that made sense, than to let me have whatever I wanted, to quiet me down, to comfort me. Maybe it still would have led to a life time of issues with food, but maybe it would have taught me better coping skills. I don’t know.

KjenNu April 2, 2012 - 8:53 PM

Hmm, I think part of the outrage is how obsessive (not just how mean the mom sounds at times) the mom is about the diet. Good/sane/healthy people are suppose to be able to effortlessly attain and maintain the preferred body ideal. The fact that mommy/daughter have to fight so hard messes with that fantasy. And plus, diet mommy sounds like a dowdy downer – one of the least preferred American mother archetypes.

T.R. April 3, 2012 - 2:05 PM

Bravo Erika for pointing out how we are ALL Weiss in some way shape or form. She seems extreme because she was honest about what she did. But what about those of us who do our extremes in the dark where no one can see and judge?

A lot of food for thought.

Krystal April 3, 2012 - 2:32 PM

I know this sounds cynical, but with the mom publicly shaming her daughter for eating/drinking foods that are NOT celery sticks, this girl WILL develop the habit of eating secretly.

Which will lead to binging.

Which will lead to guilt.

Which will lead to bulimia.

But you know…at least your daughter’s thin, right?

Nicole April 3, 2012 - 4:24 PM

Reading that actually made me tear up a little. That was really sad. I’m glad that Bea isn’t showing any signs of being traumatized presently. I really hope she doesn’t get in this position again where her mother overreacts like that. It’s frightening that this woman will be writing a book encouraging other mothers to be diet bullies. 🙁

JoAnna April 3, 2012 - 7:12 PM

So let me see if I got this straight: The daughter was 7 years old and was 93lbs at 4’4″. She gains 2″ in a year, now takes karate and swimming, and now weighs 77lbs. I guess my question is why did it take the girl being hurt by being called “fat” at school for the mother to react? I mean, if the child is eating badly with no exercise, of course she’s going to put on weight. So maybe the mother wasn’t exercising either.

When I babysit and walk my dog, my niece comes with me and all three of us are exhausted by the time we come back. And then she knows I have my morning “swamp muck” (protein and fiber) and we both eat oatmeal and fruit, or whole grain toast, eggs and fruit. We tease each other about wearing out the dog before she goes to school. She also knows that I cook from scratch and that she’s expected to help prepare dinner. I’m still not “that fit bitch” but I’m getting there. That said, my nine year old niece understands about healthy eating and exercise by example, if only at my house. Her mother is naturally slim but has a range of ailments (asthma, bad back, allergies, etc)that “prevent” her from doing much of anything physical, except for working at her job and the occaissional night out.

I’m also perturbed that a child would come home in tears because another child called her “fat”. Maybe it’s a cultural difference but I can see tears because the child had a note from the principal of a need for a parent conference because she bloodied the boy’s lip for insulting her. 😀

And throwing away an overpriced Starbucks coffee just because it might have an additional 100 calories?!? It’s supposed to be a treat! So enjoy the treat!

Maybe it’s me. Just sayin’…

Lynaya May 14, 2012 - 7:49 AM

I totally agree. I think the idea of not eating everything (like both cookies AND cake at the party) is good but a healthy lifestyle is a much better approach. I don’t think this mom knew any better, so therefore she couldn’t do any better. The good thing about this story is that it can be a catalyst to discussions about how we help our children to manage their weight.

LBrooke April 4, 2012 - 3:40 AM

This is definitely a hard one. Like Erika says, the intentions were good.. but the approach? I don’t know. As a person who grew up in a household of people who were always pushing their ideal thoughts of how a person should look onto myself– I find this to be wrong. However, it’s strange, because I sort of feel like the mother (internalized) because my family’s approach sounds somewhat like what Erika said with the doctors. The, making me feel bad because I was fat, but not telling me or helping me to change it in a non-traumatizing way.

All I could say about that is, that I am traumatized. I was over weight my whole adolescent life, until I got tired of people telling me (mostly) or implying that I was fat, and then I struggled with bulimia and anorexia for a couple of years: having to be hospitalized twice (rehab wise) for it. And now, I’m obese. There’s never been a happy medium because I never know how to make things right. I mean, I do now that I’m an adult.. and this site has helped me so much. It’s helping me find myself, and realize certain things, and work through many issues (it’s taking awhile, but I’m trying to find peace in it). However, before, I wasn’t putting effort into anything. I was just pretty much doing what I witnessed about myself… feeling like an ugly fat person, and doing nothing about it.

This also is reminding me of my younger cousin– who also has issues because the weight struggle is a family affair. His father (who’s not nice and often said horrible things to me when I was younger), kind of acted the way that Bea’s mom did. Knit picking, and pointing out or critiquing anything that would go into his mouth. He was forced to join a gym, and he lost the weight– 30 pounds at age 12 or so. He’s kept it off, and is a work out fiend, now he’s just building his muscles up (plus he’s older.. this was years ago). But besides the outside view of him talking up and liking his body, he’s admitted to me before that he’s very insecure and constantly doesn’t feel good enough, and worries about his weight. I see this is Bea’s future.

I understand that it’s society that’s taught her mother to be this way, but psychology should teach her to not be so naive as to think that she hasn’t psychologically traumatized her daughter. She may not exhibit signs now.. but when she’s older, and her inner voice becomes louder and more critical?? I can see it being bad for her.

I in no way think that her mother’s intentions were wrong, but I do however believe that Bea will suffer the consequences of her mothers thoughtless approach to her daughter’s weight loss. And I don’t want to be too judgmental. I wonder often how I will raise my children, and if my inner weight fears will be burdensome on them. I never know how I would deal with my child becoming over weight. But this is why I’m choosing to be healthy now, while I’m still in my early 20’s. I want to calm my inner voice, and know what I’m doing so that it’s not even a problem- but if it did become one, I can say without a doubt, that I would never make my child feel completely ashamed of them self. I hope that I never have the problem.

And sure, it’s good that the mother realized her own internal problems, and that she’s not really fit to tell her daughter what she should be doing in that area.. but now the kid will have to suffer the consequences of what the mother did. I think it’s unfair, and she’ll probably become like the rest of this media-culture. Completely obsessed with body image, and never feeling “perfect”.

Annette April 4, 2012 - 7:43 AM

Well I have been through that at the age of 8 I started to gain weight using food to stuff my feeling. Also combined with living in an apartment building where we weren’t allowed to play outside because it wasn’t safe. My mother did the same thing, and also out and out embarrassed me in a crowd so that she wouldn’t be thought off as the problem.

Mom’s do pass on their insecurity about food and our bodies to our children if we didn’t make peace with it. I am now learning how to deal with my fears and stress. To bring up the feeling and cry to release it. Anger is so accepted, you blast someone, get angry and judge someone, eat a little extra to stuff the pain. As I work on myself it comes up again all I need to do is release it and move on. Exercise is great yet this can be used as a way to stuff the pain if you over do it.

I wonder did she talk to her daughter about why she was so anxious is she too young to do yoga. Emotional pain and loving yourself, so that you are happy and health. I believe every child should have an activity something they love. As a child I would go up and down in weight but the missing issue wasn’t diet or exercise. It was the stress of dealing with a mother who saw me as a scapegoat for everything that was wrong in her life. Having someone to talk to to express my fears and concerns. Who just loved me unconditionally and expressed it would have meant a lot. Developing self worth skills so that someone don’t come along and trigger self destructive behavior is key.

When I am less stressed I lose weight without trying, it’s just a fact for me. But loving yourself and having a strong sense of self is so important. I remember working with an anorexic her Mom and sister just told her she was fat. The anger that she had inside became directed at herself, as she got smaller everyone told her she looked fine. Yet she couldn’t turn it off the self hate program became destructive.

Self worth, loving yourself, the emotional component that most don’t like to deal with is running our lives. I understand what the Mom is going through yet maybe dealing with her issue of self worth is key.

I need to love myself no matter what point I am in my journey. Why deny myself love. When will I be good enough, I am enough. If I constantly allow other people’s judgement to determine my worth I’m lost. I think she needs to help herself in the process and hopefully pass on the lessons.

Dani December 26, 2012 - 2:18 PM

While I agree that her methods could have been better, the part of the story that REALLY struck a nerve was the pushy (albeit with good intentions) neighbor who was trying to give Bea a salad. Even if the salad is purportedly healthy, if I had a child I would expect people to recognize my authority as a parent and to respect my wishes in how I want to raise her. In a way, I dread those parents who give out candy on the playground and send the kids in with huge cupcakes for birthdays. I definitely don’t agree with Weiss’ methods, but I can 100% understand her frustration with a woman who doesn’t understand “no”.

Monique January 17, 2013 - 3:28 PM

I grew up in the hood and pretty broke. I’m Black. My mother was NEVER overweight until after she had her third baby. I, on the other hand, living with my mom, sisters and extended family, started getting chubby in 3rd grade. I don’t think my mom really knew how to handle it and put the blame on me, as this mother did. I remember my pediatrician grabbing a handful of fat from my side and saying something along the lines of, “you’re fat!” And I was not even 10 yet. I may not have even been 8. I remember going school shopping and my mom picking out what basically looked like the pants from an old lady’s leisure suit and me crying because it was ugly and her telling me that if I would lose weight then I could get better looking clothes. I WAS 10 at that point. Mind you, I lived in a house that was always stocked with snacks (as Mike Epps put it in Next Friday, all the new snacks, all the 2000 snacks!).

These things hurt to my core and made me resent my mother. But, I just don’t think she knew what else to do in the situation. My mom was not abusive or neglectful. I truly believe she wanted the best for me and NEVER wanted anyone ELSE to say trrrible things to/about me because of my weight (she almost fought an Aunt of mine because she said something incredulous about me).

I am doing thing so that my baby will never have to go through what I went through as a child. That also means not making her feel her worth is in her body BUT making sure she knows that what you put INTO your body will either make you healthy and strong or sick and weak. And she’s two, so she loves showing off her muscles!

I guess my point is that, I can maybe understand the panic this mom felt when her baby was being teased, the guilt of essentially being the one responsible for it, the desire to absolve herself of said guilt by shifting blame onto her own daughter, the disdain of picturing her daughter as herself and the failure she felt as a kid not being able to obtain her ideal…. This woman needs no excuses or anything, but no one taught her any better and I am sure all she wanted was what is beat for her baby. Isn’t true that when you know better (truly KNOW- with understanding and wisdom of a given situation) you do better? I think our society has taught us a lesson about ourselves as women that we truly need to unlearn. The few times we get FOR REAL positive messages are not enough to counter all the negativity from media, family, neighbors, etc. IDK, I feel for that baby as I was her on some levels (not that extreme AT ALL) but I think mom has major issues that need to be empathized.

nadia May 17, 2013 - 2:47 PM

I think her daughter is resilient enough to boUnce back from the whole diet thing… I applaud her mother for trying to bring her to a healthy weight. The bottom line is, instead of reading and listening to stories about women’s empowerment and how we are all beautiful no matter our size, I have started LOOKING around me. Really LOOKING and what I see is that bigger women are in fact punished for their size. Why then, do we upbraid this woman who is trying to protect her daugfhter from that? I see that when I walk down the street, they are usually alone while smaller women usually have a companion, I see that at work larger women are invisible unless they make themselves into some sort of “tough, assertive, loud” woman caricature in order to get ahead. We can’t change men’s hardwiring, which is kind of what I think we are trying to do by saying being big is okay. In teh eyes of God, maybe, but in real life, no. I live in New York, a very diverse city and one I consider to be at the vanguard of changing culture. That is, when social norma start to change, I believe they begin in big urban areas like New York and Los Angeles, etc. From what I see, smaller women are preferred across all races despite what people might SAY… Granted, working class groups still have a measure of acceptance for larger (and by that I mean size 10, 12) women but that is also changing and if you are on an upwardly mobile trajectory, will change within your own lifetime. People prefer what they prefer– SMALL and we have to make peace with that in some way. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Monique and other high profile African-American females have all slimmed down. Even Beyonce, who was laready slim, lost weight for her Dreamgirls role… It is an implcit admission of something that we have long denied or refused to admit… Either wave the red flag and lose the weight or decide to love and accept ourselves as big but then we cannot freak out when people are honest about their preference for smaller sized women. We need to also accept that although our culture tends toward the most humane methods in trying to change behaviors, it si not always the best way. In Asian societies, it is perfectly okay to tell your daughter that she is sfat and to withhold food to help her lose weight. It does not seem to have hurt Asian women. In fact, they seem to be doing quite well across the board; so this makes me believe that some stern urging tolose weight is not necesarily a bad thing. I urge women to really start LOOKING around real life society around them because then your mind will start to change.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 17, 2013 - 2:55 PM

“I have started LOOKING around me. Really LOOKING and what I see is that bigger women are in fact punished for their size. Why then, do we upbraid this woman who is trying to protect her daugfhter from that?”

We MUST think critically, here. Is it worth it to potentially run the risk of encouraging disordered eating behaviors – or, potentially, eating disorders – in a child just so that she can potentially experience benefits of thinness as an adult? Do you really think there’s either “encouraging obesity” or “THIS,” and there’s no spectrum of more appropriate methods of teaching your child healthy habits coupled with maintaining their weight for them?

Can we think critically about what I’m saying in the post? Teaching young girls that their greatest prize is their beauty at such a young age is so, so very problematic. Their bodies aren’t even at puberty yet, and you have NO idea where their bodies will go, which is why you spend their formative years giving them healthy habis and teaching why they’re necessary… not… this. This is dysfunctional. It is gross.

No one is saying don’t keep tabs on your child’s weight. We’re saying be a PARENT – not an overseer – and do it in a healthy fashion.

Kris May 17, 2013 - 7:53 PM

I read Weiss’s book and I have to say I understand in some sense where she’s coming from. Each time I take my daughter to the pediatrician I get the lecture about her “not gaining too much weight” but when you ask them what to do about it you get the “she’ll grow into it”. Now maybe that works for some kids, but give me some guidelines on how to do that without “psychologically harming” my child.

How do you teach children about healthy eating habits without it involving some form of restriction? If you give in and allow them to have a food just because it’s “a special occasion” or you didn’t want them to feel left out then how can you ever expect healthy habits to form? Sure you can teach them at home, but we can’t monitor what a child eats all day, every day. Do you know how many cupcakes my daughter consumes at school thanks to all the birthday parties (20+ students per classroom–that means at least one a month)?

Weiss makes the excellent point that for a child that has food allergies, no one complains when the parent says the child can’t have the offending food so when a child is overweight why should the parent be criticized for trying to keep their child healthy by not allowing them to have cupcakes at every social event?

Weiss admits that she made a lot of mistakes in the process (including the Starbucks incident), but I think she had good intentions overall. Even Michelle Obama indicates she had to restrict her daughters’ diets when they started gaining weight too quickly.

As moms, I think most of us do our best for our children. We often make mistakes, but how many of us would write a book detailing those mistakes to be criticized by the world? If you haven’t read the book, read it before you judge her too harshly.

Erika Nicole Kendall May 17, 2013 - 8:39 PM

“Now maybe that works for some kids, but give me some guidelines on how to do that without “psychologically harming” my child.”

I really think this deserves some exploration, as a parent who has a young girl who entered school in the era of “healthy food” and “sometimes foods” and “anti-obesity programs, because I don’t wanna be a fat kid, Mommy.”

“Weiss makes the excellent point that for a child that has food allergies, no one complains when the parent says the child can’t have the offending food so when a child is overweight why should the parent be criticized for trying to keep their child healthy by not allowing them to have cupcakes at every social event?”

I’m sorry, but this is not an “excellent point.” There’s a difference between respecting a potentially life-threatening allergy, and “Oh, I don’t want my kid to be fat.” What does it say about us that “could keel over and die” is somehow equatable to “getting fat?”

You don’t think that you lack perspective, in the slightest, here?

“Even Michelle Obama indicates she had to restrict her daughters’ diets when they started gaining weight too quickly.”

Mrs. Obama’s actions were mischaracterized by the media.

“We often make mistakes, but how many of us would write a book detailing those mistakes to be criticized by the world?”

I’m sure many of us would, if we were offered the same sizable book advance that she received.

“If you haven’t read the book, read it before you judge her too harshly.”

No. No, no, no. People love saying this, as if to imply that our judgment means we have a heaven or a hell to put her in, and that’s if you believe in those kinds of things. I judge. I judge thoroughly based on what you put in front of me, ESPECIALLY when it’s filtered through multiple editors and passed through fact-checkers and marketing execs. If you don’t view things and determine whether or not they are, in fact, acceptable – judging – how the hell do you develop your own moral compass?

This woman, who obviously has her own disordered eating ideals, is now tasked with the responsibility of managing another living being’s health and weight… and didn’t think that she should’ve sought assistance in doing so. She then puts that child through hell, profits handsomely from exploiting it, and I’m not supposed to judge. ROFL Come on.

Elle October 17, 2013 - 4:42 PM

In regards to the salad story above, omg- it’s pretty crazy that the “friend” was so set on giving this child a salad. I guess on the point of food allergies vs. anti-obesity measures, I agree with you about it not being an excellent point.

But at the same time, the whole salad story and food-allergy thing made me think of my own struggles with how the haters come out when you’re trying to get healthy. Sometimes, I lie and blame it on food allergies. I lie especially when I’m out w/ friends that want to eat cheese fries and milk shakes. I say, oh, lactose really hurts my stomach- not feeling too well, going to order salad. Because really, saying that I don’t want that stuff just goes over their heads.

“What do you mean you don’t want to get cheeseburgers? What do you mean you don’t want nutritionally void white bread?!” Sometimes the best thing is to say that I’m allergic. B/c the moment it’s about losing weight or clean eating, all the haters come out.

Karen October 18, 2013 - 4:57 PM

I blame allergies, too, for just that reason. It’s just less drama that way. But, yeah just reading about that disrespectful and pushy “friend” got my blood boiling.

Gerri T. June 29, 2013 - 1:28 PM

I’m more confused than ever reading these comments and article.. as someone who has a seven year old who is already considered overweight and is being teased and already preferring unhealthy foods… What do we do as parents without ignoring it or shaming them?

Erika Nicole Kendall June 29, 2013 - 3:50 PM

Out of curiosity, do you sincerely believe your only options are to shame or to ignore your child’s weight?

Taking it a step further, is that the only approach you take towards YOUR weight? Either ignore it, or shame yourself for it in order to enact change?

Karen July 6, 2013 - 4:22 PM

I’m not sure what the answer IS, but i AM sure letting your kids stay fat ISN’T it. It’s a handicap that that they will struggle with for their entire lives. I know. I WAS that kid. Something to do with your body having more fat cells as a result. I really have to fight to stay at a healthy weight. But what really pissed me off was the pushy friend ignoring the mom’s wishes. Reminds me of aggressively insistent cake pushers at office parties. My advice to them? MYOB and STFU.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 6, 2013 - 4:36 PM

“…i AM sure letting your kids stay fat ISN’T it.”

Did I say that? I’m almost certain I didn’t.

I need people to adequately differentiate between ‘my critique of “HOW” she chose to manage her child’s weight’ and other people’s commentary of ‘the fact that she chose to address her child’s weight at ALL. I’d been overweight since I was 9. I’d also been shamed for it by a parent who largely had no better way to “fix” it. Her shame failed; almost resulted in my developing bulimia, and instead I got the binge addiction without the purging.

Like, I need you all to understand. There are healthy ways to manage your child’s weight AND teach them how to live healthily WITHOUT shame. Because, and pardon the remark, I’m almost certain that VERY FEW parents are expressing the same grief over an overweight male child’s weight. In fact, I’m pretty certain that’s shrugged off as potential for a football scholarship. There’s really no need to concern troll our little girls like this.

Karen July 6, 2013 - 4:58 PM

Oh, no, Erika, I didn’t mean yo imply you said that. It’s just the only thing I AM sure of here. As to the hows if going so… I am pretty UN-sure. I guess keeping calm and focusing on health over weight would be a good start.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 6, 2013 - 5:04 PM

I think it’s OK to keep a watchful eye over your child’s body and how it changes, but as parents it’s our responsibility to teach them healthy habits and how to self-moderate their intake of things like sweets, juices and other delicacies while also teaching them WHY we do things this way.

Teaching a child to restrict their intake without an understanding of why they can’t have cookies 3 times a day sets them up for failure; telling them to not be fat – even in a climate where they may already be suffering through being called fat by peers – only sets them up to hate their own bodies.

I don’t purport this to be easy, but I DO think that a large chunk of parenting is about doing the hard work, and not taking out other frustrations onto our children, who are often the most powerless and most reliant on our love and support. Shame is just, really, a lazy tactic for how to manage this, which is why this woman flat out horrifies me.

Karen July 6, 2013 - 5:10 PM

Yes. That’s why I think focusing on health (over weight) is probably a good tactic. And, of course, that includes physical activity! Focus on being strong and having fun! Maybe explain different foods as different types of fuel; some better than others.

Karen July 6, 2013 - 5:00 PM

Too bad she didn’t tell her daughter to say, “yeah I’m overweight right now, but it’s temporary. Your stupid is probably permanent.” 😀

Eva October 18, 2013 - 9:05 AM

I read this post as well as all of the comments. They are interesting, but I think some people are missing the point.

It is true, we live in a looks obsessed society, yes it is true that if you are smaller, prettier, you get more cash and prizes in life.

However, if you teach a little girl that the only thing that matters are her looks, her body; you will set that child up for a lifetime of neurosis. The body is a fragile thing. Injuries, illness and age are things that can change your body in a flash. If your worth is tied in with how you look, what then? Do you hide in your home forever, become a recluse, set yourself up for more illness and anxiety?

I have a very good friend who has numerous health issues that affect how she looks. Despite all of that she has a loving, caring husband. Now according to the messages we get from this society, that should be impossible, she should be living as a recluse with the shades pulled down. The reason she’s not is because she’s had health issues all her life, she learned that her worth had to come from things other than her looks. And she cultivated those things, her brain, her cooking ability, the ability to save money, run a household, keep it clean. All of those things matter a heck of a lot more than being thin, and BTW, she does eat healthy.

The best way for children to become healthy is for parents to have healthy habits themselves. If you’re stuffing your face with cookies four times a day, you can’t push an apple in your child’s face and expect them to take you seriously.

Jessica June 16, 2014 - 3:44 PM

I agree with you. There is more to life and more to a person’s worth, than weight. I don’t have children, yet. And this is something I worry about. I am currently trying to lose weight, I gained 20 lbs between college and being engaged, now married. And from research from this site as well as books on clean eating, I am finally able to successfully lose weight and have completely changed my eating habits and I enjoy it too! As a child, my mother bought us everything. From the 24 packs of Pepsi to the honey buns to the fast food. I mean everything. She also bought healthy stuff and encouraged us to get into sports, play outside (kickball with the neighbors), ride bikes, or just go for walks sometimes. She also ate/cooked fruits and veggies around us. I was exposed to an array of foods, good and bad. My mother made it a point to have healthy foods in the home. And she also made it a point to not over indulge, even if some of the foods I ate were healthy. So, with all that being said….I think its important to teach your kids the benefits of eating healthy. And the parent should eat healthy as well. I don’t think it’s wise to say negative things like, “don’t eat that because it will make you fat.” But to say, “that’s not very healthy for you, lets eat this instead.” Something of that nature. I just think using positive connotations will work better because no one wants a fight started at school because little Jasmine told little Sarah that her cookies will make her fat, then she tells her mother about it…..and the mother feels that her parenting is being judged. So, positivity and illustration and encouragement worked for me.

Star May 23, 2014 - 3:13 PM

I was the fat one, my sister the thin one, my brothers “normal.” My parents browbeated me, shamed me, gave me prescription drugs, made me jog, said I could not go to college unless I lost weight, etc. So reading this was like signing up to watch a train wreck. Now I am 70–my sister is no longer so thin, I dumped the scale and stay the same, and my bros are heftier. We also ALL have bad joints. That turned out to be the family curse. Once our parents called me and asked had they ruined my life with the weight thing–I said my life was not ruined.

Annette May 25, 2014 - 1:58 AM

Were your parents acknowledging how difficult they made it for you at the time? I applaud them for acknowledging it. We all learn down the road. Most of those that did high impact exercises back in the 80’s and 90’s have joint issues.

I have learned it comes down to healthy balanced eating and doing exercises and activities to keep me fit.

Comments are closed.