Dara-Lynn Weiss wrote an article in Vogue magazine about putting her 8 year old daughter on a diet and has come under heavy fire. Now she’s talking to my publisher, Ballantine about a book deal on parenting.
So is she setting her daughter up for some serious psychological issues or is she a mother who’s had enough our food obsessed culture’s influence on her daughter? I think, a little of both.
What’s wrong with her tactic is publicizing her daughter’s personal business. She can write all she wants about her own food struggles, but, as a pediatrician, publicizing kids’ issues is completely off limits. I was once contacted by 60 Minutes asking me to come on the show and discuss problems associated with teen sexual activity. The producers asked me to find some teens who had terrible sexually transmitted infections so that they could put them on the air. I flatly told them that I was fair game, never my patients. Same is true with Dara-Lynn’s daughter. Children’s issues should never be aired publicly.
Second, was she right to put her daughter on a diet? If her daughter really was 4 ft 4 in and 93 pounds at age 7, then she was in the 90% for height and about 115% ile for weight. She did have a weight issue that threatened her health. So, clearly, she needed help with her weight.
But here’s the problem. Food, weight and dieting are loaded issues for girls (and women of all ages) in the United States. We have an obesity epidemic among children and at the same time we have a nation full of girls who are starving, binge eating and inducing vomiting daily. When it comes to food consumption, or lack of food consumption, we are genuinely obsessed. Add to that our obsession with body image and how that affects a young girl’s sense of self worth and we have a mess on our hands. So what’s a mother to do? Risk her daughter being taunted by school kids because she is chubby, getting diabetes and all the other health problems that go along with obesity or risk humiliating her daughter and setting her up for an eating disorder by forcing her to diet?