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Vogue article about 7-year-old girl’s diet sparks outrage

Nadine Bells
Shine On
March 26, 2012
extreme dieting
extreme dieting

Childhood obesity: we know it's a legitimate concern.

But while Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver are trying to make healthy choices fun for kids, some parents are taking matters into their own hands with kid-unfriendly approaches.

And one of those parents, socialite Dara-Lynn Weiss, submitted her method to Vogue — and made no fans in the process.

Weiss put her 7-year-old daughter, Bea, on a strict diet after a pediatrician suggested that Bea lose weight. At just 4-feet, 4-inches tall, Bea weighed 93 pounds making her clinically obese.

"It wasn't the diagnosis that readers railed against, but Weiss' management of Bea's subsequent year-long diet," writes The Cutline's Dylan Stableford.

Yes, Bea lost 16 pounds over the course of the diet — her mother's goal for her — but only at the expense of a seemingly on-a-whim diet plan in which her mother would publicly criticize her choices, and deprive and reward her randomly.

[See also: The best breakfast foods for weight loss]

From the article (not available online):

"Sometimes Bea's after-school snack was a slice of pizza or a gyro from the snack vendor. Other days I forced her to choose a low fat vegetable soup or a single hard-boiled egg. Occasionally I'd give in to her pleas for a square of coffee cake, mainly because I wanted to eat half of it. When she was given access to cupcakes at a party, I alternated between saying, '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 my mood. Then I'd secretly eat two when she wasn't looking."

Weiss recalls a disturbing incident at a Starbucks: she tossed Bea's hot chocolate in the trash after the barista failed to give her an accurate calorie count.

Weiss eventually admits she was ill-equipped to teach her daughter about cultivating a healthy relationship with food:

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

Most unsettling is the acknowledgment that her harsh weight intervention may be setting Bea up for a lifetime of misery:

"Only time will tell whether my early intervention saved her from a life of preoccupation with her weight, or drove her to it."

Bea's own tearful interview with Vogue indicates the later will likely be the case:

"'That's still me,' she 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.'"

Bea's diet was based on Weight Watchers' "Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right" program. Dr. Dolgoff, founder of the program, wasn't exactly thrilled with Weiss' interpretation of the eating plan:

"The parents aren't supposed to react in public," Dolgoff told Jezebel's Katie J.M. Baker. "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."

How do you encourage healthy eating — and healthy body image — at home?

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