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Thursday, March 21st, 2013
I knew very little about author Dara-Lynn Weiss before attending the moderated discussion about her controversial book, The Heavy, this past week at The Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. I knew Weiss was the cause of mommy-blog explosions, some in defense of her choice to put her overweight 7-year-old daughter on a diet, many more filled with vitriol and contempt.
But I decided to walk in without having read the infamously provoking Vogue article, published in April 2012, or her book, which came out in January of this year.
Based on her talk, I couldn’t understand why there was such a venomous outcry from the parenting community. Did her choice to restrict her daughter’s diet sound controversial? Yes. But worthy of such hate? Not to me. And then I read the Vogue essay. And then I understood the problem. The woman who sat and spoke before me did not seem to be the same woman who wrote for the fashion mag one year ago.
From the moment Weiss sat down, she emphasized that there are just some things in life parents have to do because they are the parent. Sometimes a mom as to be “the heavy”—pun intended. The fact was that Weiss’s daughter, Bea, weighed 93 pounds at a height of four feet four inches, which had Bea’s BMI clocking in at the 98th percentile for her age group. The obesity marker sits at the 95th percentile. Obese people, whether 7 or 47, are medically advised to lose weight. Bea’s pediatrician told Weiss “the trend”—meaning Bea’s overweight status—“was not correcting itself.” Bea was not going to simply grow out of this, as so many of Weiss’s peers believed. Weiss admits that she clung to this diagnosis and removed her own thoughts about whether it was right or not to consciously adjust her daughter’s eating. “I did not accept that decision-making moment. It was nice to cling to the fact that it’s a health issue,” Weiss said.
Yet even with medical evidence to back up her need to take action, Weiss explained she experienced a paralysis about how to handle a child’s weight problem when indeed there is a problem to deal with. Weiss had no clue where to start. Bea wasn’t loading up on soda and junk food. Weiss faced a difficult challenge. If your child is eating healthfully, but is still obese, what do you do?
“So much of the response to childhood obesity is: ‘Don’t talk about weight. Don’t ever use the word diet. Focus on health.’ But that doesn’t work for me. I wanted to know how many calories a 7-year-old should eat. People always say eat different, but it really is about eating less sometimes. And that’s not an answer people want to give you,” Weiss said as she expressed her frustration. Weiss’s dilemma illustrates a widespread problem: Parents don’t know how much their children should be eating to keep them growing, but keep them healthy.
While the Weiss in Vogue appeared to fixate on her daughter’s appearance, the Weiss I saw truly seemed to have her daughter’s health at top of mind, not some compulsion to uphold a standard of thinness or beauty in her 7-year-old. In fact, Weiss directly stated that she had no desire for her daughter to be thin. “ ‘Thin’ should be used in the same way as ‘fat,’ as a deviation from the norm,” Weiss said. Her goal was to get Bea to the healthy weight marker, not below it.
And here is where I wonder if it all comes down to semantics. If Dara-Lynn Weiss had said “I’m putting my obese daughter on an ‘eating plan,’” and put that article in, say, Women’s Health, rather than “Bea had grown fat. … We put Bea on a diet,’” in Vogue would things have transpired differently? Is the real problem not the calorie-counting, but the language Weiss used with regard to Bea, whose self-image may be developing and fragile? Are we just hung up on the word “fat” coming from an adult, aimed at a child?
While critics argue that her primary concern was not Bea’s health but a number on the scale, in Weiss’ defense, the number on the scale is one way we measure health. So, the question becomes: Do we need to adjust the measurements? Is it a systemic problem that weight is such a significant marker?
We know we have a weight problem in this country and childhood obesity is on the rise. Yet, the majority of the general public verbally flogged Weiss for trying to do something about it. To this day, Weiss maintains that with The Heavy she just wanted to be an example of a strong mom who did a tough thing, “Maybe if I say that it’s okay to limit our children, other mothers will feel ok to limit their children when it is for their own good.”
Read more about Dara-Lynn Weiss on Parents.com:
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Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
Indiana Teacher Gun Threat? Lake Station Teacher On Leave Over ‘Guns’ Message On Chalkboard
A northwest Indiana teacher is the subject of a police probe over a threatening message he scrawled on the chalkboard of his classroom. (via Huffington Post)
Transgender Student Rights Would Be Guaranteed Under Proposed California Law
A California lawmaker has introduced legislation aimed at guaranteeing transgender students the right to use public school restrooms and participate on the sports teams that correspond with their expressed genders. (via Huffington Post)
Mom’s Placenta Reflects Her Exposure to Stress and Impacts Offsprings’ Brains
According to a new study by a research group from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, if a mother is exposed to stress during pregnancy, her placenta translates that experience to her fetus by altering levels of a protein that affects the developing brains of male and female offspring differently. (via Science Daily)
Is Baby Still Breathing? Is Mom’s Obsession Normal?
A new Northwestern Medicine® study found that women who have recently given birth have a much higher rate of obsessive-compulsive symptoms than the general population. (via Science Daily)
U.S. Baby’s Cure From HIV Raises Hope, New Questions
The remarkable case of a baby being cured of HIV infection in the United States using readily available drugs has raised new hope for eradicating the infection in infants worldwide, but scientists say it will take a lot more research and much more sensitive diagnostics before this hope becomes a reality. (via Reuters)
Michelle Obama: I Don’t Talk About Weight With My Daughters
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Michelle Obama offered a peek inside the first family’s healthy habits on Monday, revealing there’s one thing they never talk about at home: weight. (via Today)
baby with HIV, daily news, daily news roundup, gun safety, gun violence, HIV, Michelle Obama, News, news stories, Parents Daily News Roundup, placenta, transgender, transgender student, weight | Categories:
Monday, March 4th, 2013
Study: Childhood ADHD May Lead to Troubles Later On
Nearly a third of people diagnosed as children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) still have the condition in adulthood, according to a large new study that also found they’re more likely to develop other mental disorders and to commit suicide. (via Reuters)
K-12 Student Database Jazzes Tech Startups, Spooks Parents
An education technology conference this week in Austin, Texas, will clang with bells and whistles as startups eagerly show off their latest wares. (via Reuters)
U.S. Baby’s HIV Infection Cured Through Very Early Treatment
A baby girl in Mississippi who was born with HIV has been cured after very early treatment with standard HIV drugs, U.S. researchers reported on Sunday, in a potentially ground-breaking case that could offer insights on how to eradicate HIV infection in its youngest victims. (via Reuters)
Rewards Get Kids Active, But Don’t Improve Health
Children will meet activity goals to earn rewards, but the extra effort doesn’t necessarily affect their weight and health, according to a new study. (via FOX News)
Los Angeles Board Race Attracts National Attention and Money
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On Tuesday, voters in Los Angeles will go to the polls for a mayoral primary. But much of the attention will also be on the three races for the school board, a battle that involves the mayor, the teachers’ union and a host of advocates from across the country — including New York City’s billionaire mayor — who have poured millions of dollars into the races. (via New York Times)
ADHD, Austin TX, baby with HIV, childhood obesity, Exercise, health, HIV, Los Angeles school board, mental illness, Parents Daily News Roundup, suicide, weight | Categories:
Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
“Lose weight. Get fit. Do a triathlon.”
Those were among my new year’s resolutions last year, and for once, I accomplished them.
In hindsight, my goals for 2012 seem preposterous. I’d just given birth to my third child three months earlier. I was weary from sleep deprivation, carpooling duties, homework, laundry, slapping together meals, freelance work, and postpartum hormones. I didn’t have a lot of “baby weight” to lose, because I hadn’t gained much. It didn’t matter, though: I went into my third pregnancy already vastly overweight. I remember stepping on my ob-gyn’s scale that first visit after I learned I was pregnant again: I weighed 198 pounds. By the time I was ready to deliver, I weighed in at 220.
Through the miracles of birth and breastfeeding, by the time the new year rolled around (so to speak), I weighed 185 pounds, heavy by any definition but especially large on my 5’4″ frame. I posted only pictures of my kids on Facebook, and retreated from public view like Greta Garbo, if Garbo had been a puffy-faced mom and not a movie star.
After the new year, something clicked. I’d been committed to losing weight before, but as corny as it sounds, this time I had a mantra in mind, “This is your year,” and I just believed it. When I got roughly 30 pounds down, people really started to notice the change. Their kind words–and the thrill of clothes shopping–encouraged me to keep going, until I’d lost a total of 80 pounds: 45 of those through my own work and 35 due to delivery and nursing (thank you, my baby girl Fiona!). And just shy of my baby’s first birthday, I completed my first sprint triathlon.
People sometimes ask me how I lost weight and now seems like a good time to look back, as a handful of those pounds crept back on over the holidays and like a few of us here at Parents and well, everywhere, I’m on a kick again, getting up before dawn to exercise and deleting emails about free brownies in the office kitchen as fast as I can. (Trade secret: There is always free food when you work at a magazine!)
Here’s how I did it:
I gave myself infinite time to lose weight. There would be no crash diets or crazy schemes I couldn’t stick with for a long time. I needed a sensible approach with flexibility. For me that plan was Weight Watchers. I did it online.
I shook off setbacks. Sometimes, I ate more than I’d planned. There were weeks I’d lost only a half-pound, or nothing. I remembered my goal, and kept going.
I didn’t exercise right away. My past attempts at doing it all at once–dieting and hitting the gym–left me discouraged, and hungry. I focused exclusively on my food intake for a good six weeks, before I started feeling a little lighter, and felt encouraged to get moving. I walked my kids to school, and started jogging home with Fiona, just a few yards at a time at first, until I was running a mile, and then another, around the neighborhood.
But I did set a big fitness goal. That was a triathlon. I hadn’t laced up a pair of running shoes in years. I didn’t own a bike. But I had months to train. Think about it: What can’t you accomplish with months to prepare? I seized opportunities to exercise: If my husband met us in the evening at our outdoor community pool, he handled the kids while I swam laps. Sometimes I didn’t get to the gym until after 9pm, but I never regretted peeling myself off the couch to go.
I surrounded myself with crazy people. When you have a vision of yourself in mind–for me, it was “athlete”–it’s not the time to listen to skeptics wonder aloud how you’re going to fit in exercise between your baby/kids/commute/job. I hooked up with an awesome training group of crazy-in-a-good-way local women called the Triwomen. Why crazy? They believe anyone–that includes you–can do a triathlon. I met a 65-year-old who learned to swim just so she could compete in her first tri. Talk about inspiring!
I bought a bikini! I’d like to say I got fit for my health, and for my three kids. That’s true. But my happiest moment, second only to finishing the triathlon, arrived in the form of a Nike two-piece I bought for our beach vacation last summer. My body’s far from perfect, but in my new midnight-blue bikini I felt…good. I felt free playing in the ocean with my kids and husband, and boogie boarding to shore beside my son. I was healthy, happy, and for once, completely unselfconscious about how I looked. That tremendous high is motivation enough to keep me on track this coming year.
In 2013, I plan to run a half-marathon, another reach, considering I hadn’t run more than 4 miles at a stretch in all of 2012. But with the help of (crazy) committed friends, time, and training, I know I’ll get there.
Good luck with your goals, whatever they may be. This is your year!
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Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
FDA: BPA Banned in Baby Bottles
The federal government announced Tuesday that baby bottles and sippy cups can no longer contain the controversial chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA. The American Chemistry Council asked the FDA to phase out rules allowing BPA in those products in October. (via Associated Press)
Sports Promote Healthy Weight in Teenagers
New findings published in the journal Pediatrics are among the first to demonstrate that walking or riding a bike to school actually has an impact on weight gain among high school students. Also, playing on at least one high school sports team, but preferably two or more, can significantly lower the likelihood of obesity in teens. (via NY Times)
Dads’ Jobs Linked to Birth Defect Risks
Certain jobs held by men in the months before they conceive a child may increase the risk of birth defects, a new study suggests. Many of these occupations included environments where workers are commonly exposed to solvents. (via MSNBC)
Mothers Who Have Heavier Babies May Be at Increased Risk of Breast Cancer, Study Finds
A hefty birth weight may put mothers at more than twice the risk of breast cancer compared with a woman who had a comparatively smaller baby, according to preliminary data from two studies, published Tuesday in the journal PLoS One. (via CNN)
Autism Survey for Parents May Catch Disorder Early
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A survey, called The First Year Inventory, given to parents when their children are 1 year old may help identify kids at risk of autism, a new study suggests. (via MSNBC)
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Friday, December 16th, 2011
Body Weight More Contagious in Childhood Than Adulthood
How much we weigh as adults is more influenced by the people around us during childhood than those we spend time with as adults, a new study suggests.
Kids’ Leukemia Risk Tied to Dads’ Smoking
Children whose fathers smoked have at least a 15 percent higher risk of developing the most common form of childhood cancer, a new Australian study finds.
Can Calorie Counts Convince Teens Not To Buy Sugary Drinks?
Does calorie information help consumers make healthier choices? Not always. But a new study finds that when calorie counts are presented in an easily understandable way, even teenagers — those experts in never listening to useful advice — can be persuaded to avoid high-sugar choices.
Looks Like Candy, Tastes Like Candy, But It Can Kill Your Kid
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Most kids will eat anything that looks, smells or tastes like candy, including medications, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Shortchanged by the Bell
After a summer of budget cuts in Washington and state capitals, we have only to look to our schools, when classes begin in the next few weeks, to see who will pay the price.
10 years after 9/11, camp for victims’ children ends
America’s Camp opened to give children who had lost a parent in the terrorist attacks a haven where they could escape the grief and curiosity that dogged them. Today the camp closes for good, having fulfilled its 10-year mission.
How about a little help here
A recent survey published by Psychology Today magazine found that fewer than 25 percent of American parents compel their kids to perform chores. And those few children who are made to do chores expect to be paid for them, the study said.
Weight gain hits women after marriage, men after divorce
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A new study shows that women are more apt to pile on excess pounds after marriage, while men add the weight after a divorce.
Monday, July 11th, 2011
Report cards on kids’ weight don’t make a difference
Schools in California notified parents about unhealthy weight, but it didn’t have an impact, study finds.
6 ways to keep your kid from cursing
Eighty-six percent of parents agree that children ages 2 to 12 are cursing more today than when they themselves were children, according to a national survey commissioned by Care.com.
Secondhand Smoke Tied To Mental Health Problems In Kids: Study
Estimates suggest that anywhere between 4.8 and 5.5 million children in the U.S. live in households where they are exposed to secondhand smoke, putting them at greater risk for multiple health problems. Now, new research suggests that secondhand smoke exposure can increase the odds of developing certain mental and behavioral disorders by 50 percent.
100 Dead, Many Children, in Boat Sinking in Russia
More than 100 people, including many children, drowned when a riverboat filled with families cruising the Volga River sank over the weekend, rescue officials said Monday, conceding little hope remained of finding survivors.
How to talk to your kids’ doctor
Studies show you get only about 15 minutes of face time with your pediatrician during an average well visit, so you’ll want to make every second count.
Texas Woman Welcomes 16-Pound Baby Boy
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A Texas mother possibly set a new state record after giving birth to a baby boy weighing more than 16 pounds, according to the Longview News-Journal.