Mother-Daughter Diet Story Sparks Serious Controversy

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A mother who landed a book deal after writing an essay in Vogue about making her 7-year-old daughter go on a diet has been on the receiving end of severe criticism on the internet, including those who call this a “Tiger Mother diet” and an example of “fat-shaming.”

Dara-Lynn Weiss wrote that she put her 7-year-old daughter Bea on a diet after she said Bea’s pediatrician told Weiss to help the girl slim down. However the mother utilized a variety of tactics including “public shaming” to accomplish the task of helping her daughter lose 16 pounds.

In her article, Weiss said: “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.”

Katie J.M. Baker, writing on the feminist web site Jezebel called Weiss’ essay “the worst Vogue article ever” and Weiss herself “one of the most . . . selfish women to ever grace the magazine’s pages.”

In a blog post entitled, “Vogue Writer Publicly Humiliates 7-Year-Old Daughter On Diet,” Judy Molland wrote on the Care2 web site:

“Instead of this draconian approach, why didn’t Weiss focus on positive messages about eating healthy foods, rather than calorie-counting and deprivation? Did she recognize that her approach might be related to her own unhealthy attitudes to food? And hasn’t she heard of the importance of both exercise and diet? In reading the entire article, I didn’t see one mention of activity, play, even walking.”

The head of the National Eating Disorders Association told Time Magazine’s Healthland blogger Bonnie Rochman that the way Weiss attempted to help her daughter is “a recipe for eating disorders.” Lynn Grefe told Time: “She did everything we recommend people don’t do. To us, diet is a four-letter word.”

One mother, writing in New York Magazine said that Weiss’ “public humiliation” of her daughter represented “new levels of pathos.” As many critics were wont to do, the New York Magazine writer blamed Weiss’ past struggles with her own weight for the severity of her response to her daughter’s issues. “. . . Weiss chose to project her own self-loathing onto her daughter,” the woman, writing under a pen name, said.

Weiss has now been offered a publishing contract for a book tentatively called The Heavy, about her daughter’s dieting experience.

What do you think? Does this mom deserve a book deal or a scolding?

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