Writer and mother Dara-Lynn Weiss has much more on her plate these days than she may have asked for after writing a Vogue magazine article detailing her struggles with weight -- and the weight of her seven-year-old daughter.
The article, which appears in the magazine's annual "Shape" issue, is entitled "Weight Watchers," a somewhat ominous title given the landslide of criticism Weiss has received. In it, Weiss candidly chronicles her daughter's "obesity" and her year of depriving and reprimanding her daughter, intent on scrubbing away the shameful trapping of a "fat girl" that Weiss says would affect her psyche for the rest of her life.
From the article:
"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... I dramatically grabbed the drink out of my daughter's hands, poured it into the garbage, and stormed out."
After dieting and a weight loss program helped Bea shed 16 pounds from her seven-year-old frame, Weiss writes that the pair "celebrated with the purchase of many new dresses."
Some critics have said rewarding dieting is extremely damaging to young minds. "When we send those messages, they're not about health but they're very much about looks," body image expert Dr. Robin Silverman told the Daily Beast. "And that's the dangerous part ... when [Bea] enters the age of puberty... she could be very uncomfortable about the weight gain."
Like mother, like daughter? A personal struggle
If the prospect of a reward for shedding pounds bothered some, Weiss' open admission of her own body issues only served to fan the flames. Weiss said she would reprimand her daughter, and then "secretly eat ... when she wasn't looking."
"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," she writes.
Ultimately, Weiss writes that her daughter's weight issues are a lifelong inevitability, though whether her resignation is due to Bea's biology or gender is not clear. Is Bea "doomed" to a life of worrying about her weight because she is predisposed to be heavy, or because she is a woman? Weiss writes:
"The struggle is obviously not over. I don't think it will ever be for either of us. Bea understand that, just as some kids have asthma, her weight is something she may always have to think about, unfair as it seems ... Only time will tell whether my early intervention saved her from a life of preoccupation with her weight, or drove her to it."
Critics respond on all fronts
The article, in all of its candor, has been dubbed by some "The Worst Vogue Article Ever," and has raised important questions from a spectrum of disciplines. Is this sort of account a cultural issue? Is it a medical issue? Is it a feminist issue? A parenting issue?
Although Weiss reportedly used a pediatrician-created diet called "Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right," some doctors have expressed concern over Weiss equating "thinness" with "health."
"Yes, childhood obesity is a terrible problem," says a writer for New York Magazine, "but it should be addressed by making proper, sustainable eating habits -- not weight loss -- the ultimate goal."
Furthermore, various feminist outlets have criticized Weiss for "fat-shaming" her daughter and instilling in her a life-long preoccupation with weight as it relates to appearance.
Weiss "comes across as obsessive and the fact that she made such an issue of her daughter's weight, both in public and in Vogue -- seems wrong," one writer opined on Fashionista.com.
An anonymous mother writing for New York Magazine was more direct: "Years from now, when Bea is in therapy, she won't have to waste those early sessions explaining herself because she'll just be able to hand over that article and say, 'SEE WHAT I HAD TO DEAL WITH?'"
HLN reached out to the magazine for comment on the controversial article. Vogue said it had no comment.
A stand on childhood obesity or a damaging body image issue?
However, despite all of the outrage, images of recent childhood obesity campaigns, rife with their own controversies and accusations of shame, cannot be ignored, health officials say. At 4 feet 4 inches and 96 pounds, Weiss said her daughter was bordering on "obesity."
Meanwhile, Weiss has signed a book deal for a memoir entitled "The Heavy," which could be "perhaps as controversial as the original [Vogue] article" and undoubtedly sheds a new light on Weiss' original motivations for the article.
What do you think of Weiss' article? Was she brave in being open about her struggles? Is this the way to approach childhood obesity? Or through her candor has Weiss set her daughter up for a lifetime of distorted values?