Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
You’ve probably heard about author Dara-Lynn Weiss. She’s the New York City mom who put her 7-year-old on a strict diet and wrote about it for Vogue magazine last year. Her severe methods incited an online uproar. Sadly, Weiss got a book deal out of it.
I just read The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet, and I feel sick to my stomach. Weiss goes into excruciating detail about how she forced her daughter Bea to lose weight. The little girl had been gaining for several years–where was her mother then?–before the pediatrician told Weiss, “I think it’s time” to do something. Bea was in the 99th percentile on the chart and technically obese. I repeat, the child was 7.
I was a chubster in elementary school. My parents called me their “little beer barrel.” I lost some of the weight in middle school, and I lost all of it in high school when I became bulimic. I’m past that now, but I’m vigilant about what I eat and how much I exercise. This is my healthy way of dealing with my body issues as a grown up, and more importantly, as a mother.
My twin daughters are 7-years-old now, and that’s why this book gives me the shakes. Weiss has weight issues of her own, and she admits that she hates to exercise. She’s not modeling healthy behaviors for her daughter, but I get that. Nobody’s perfect. What really bothers me is that Weiss let her then 6-year-old eat corn chowder soup in a bread bowl (1,000 calories) or nearly a pound of watermelon for her snacks. A child will get fat if you buy her this much food and then let her eat it. When my girls ask for snacks, I give them a Clementine or apple slices or pretzels. Weiss contests that her daughter wouldn’t stop consuming food and was always starving. It’s the parent’s job to say, “I know you’re hungry sweetie, but you just had your snack, and we’ll have a delicious dinner in a few hours.” It’s not hard. I have three young children, and I use these exact words regularly. Kids won’t suffer if they wait for the appropriate times to eat their food in sensible amounts. Weiss contends that her daughter couldn’t “self-regulate.” Well, who can? A parent’s job is to teach a kid how to eat, what to eat, when to eat and when to stop. I do not think self-regulation is easy at any age, but we have to try.
Yes, I’m being judgmental. I feel entitled to my opinon because I was a chubby kid, and my mom let me eat Nutty Bars for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That did me no good, and it won’t do my children good. So we don’t eat like that. We are not against soda or Doritos or birthday cupcakes from Shoprite. We just don’t consume those kinds of foods often.
The most disturbing part of this memoir, for me, is how Bea is forced to be on a restrictive Weight-Watchers-like diet with her mother hovering over her constantly counting calories. First of all, why would Bea need to know she was on a diet in the first place? If the doctor told me one of my kids needed to lose weight, I would offer less food gradually without telling her. If she asked why her snacks were smaller, I’d tell her that the whole family is on a mission to eat healthier. Why burden a first grader with the seriousness of dieting? Kids don’t need to know everything. Second, Weiss gives Bea Snackwell’s 100-calorie packs and Diet Coke but won’t let Bea have a salad. Weiss tells Bea, “I’m sorry…It’s got a lot of dressing on it.” (This happened in front of company, I will add.) Weiss consults a nutritionist, but clearly not a modern one. Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver, Michael Pollan and other experts write about the importance of whole foods and the evils of processing and chemical additives. If Weiss and her family are having health problems–why didn’t she get up to speed on this stuff? Why see a nutritionist who green lights Diet Coke?
I feel deep empathy for anyone who suffers from weight issues–especially involving kids. But this book is a dangerous read. Weiss publicly humiliates Bea by counting her calories in front of everyone, and she gives her daughter questionable foods. When she writes the Vogue article, she allows Bea to be photographed against a psychologist’s advice. (To Weiss’ credit, she regrets that now.)
At least there is a happy ending to this book. As Weiss said on The Today Show yesterday, Bea is 9 and maintaining a healthy weight. That’s great. I just hope this over-the-top, obsessive mother doesn’t cause lifelong damage to her own daughter.
For a different view, read why one mother supports Dara-Lynn Weiss: In Defense of the Mom Who Put Her 7-Year-Old Daughter on a Diet
Categories: Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Mommy Bloggers, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books | Tags: Bea, childhood obesity, children diet, Dara Lynn-Weiss, diet, healthy foods, Jamie Oliver, Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, overweight, The heavy, unhealthy foods
Monday, December 3rd, 2012
Bookworms will love the lineup of parenting memoirs and advice that are scheduled for release in 2013. I know I am. Here are the books I can’t wait to read in the New Year. Stay tuned for my write ups about them on this blog.
The Heavy: A Mother Daughter Memoir
by Dara-Lynn Weiss
Did you hear about the mom who put her 7-year-old daughter on a strict diet and wrote about it for Vogue? Author Dara Lynn-Weiss caused such a stir that she got a book deal. This memoir tells the story from start to finish–how the doctor labeled her little girl obese, and how this mother decided to take care of it. The book is supposed to be brutally honest, and Lynn-Weiss claims that her insights will help other parents in the same situation. (Jan. 15)
Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic’s Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth, and Mini-Marshmallows
by Zac Unger
In this memoir, one dad takes his family to Antarctica–Churchill, Manitoba to be exact. In the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” he examines a faraway place that’s one of Mother Nature’s last strongholds. A seasoned writer, he observes the human relationship with the great bears. And he took his wife and two kids there! (Jan. 29)
The Food Allergy Mama’s Easy, Fast Family Meals
by Kelly Rudnicki
The author runs the helpful and popular blog, The Food Allergy Mama, and she also wrote the companion book The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book. She has five kids, one with severe food allergies. All recipes are free of milk, butter, cheese, eggs and nuts. She uses easy-to-find, inexpensive ingredients to make dishes like oatmeal fudge bars. (Feb. 5)
The Secrets of Happy Families
by Bruce Feiler
Popular New York Times columnist and best-selling author promises another warm and helpful book. He often writes beautifully about religion (Walking the Bible), but this one focuses on innovative ways to connect as a family. He didn’t go to psychologists for advice but instead to Silicon Valley execs and folks on the set of Modern Family. Some of the surprising advice in this book will be to ditch the sex talk, don’t worry about family dinner and let your kids pick their own punishments. (Feb. 19)
The Still Point of the Turning World
by Emily Rapp
Rapp’s books (Poster Child) and articles are beautiful to read, but her piece in the New York Times called Notes from a Dragon Mom was particularly heartbreaking. In it, she writes about the short life of her young son Ronan who is diagnosed with Tay-Sachs. In her trademark way, she gently takes readers on her family’s difficult journey. (March 7)
French Twist: An American Mom’s Experiment in Parisian Parenting
by Catherine Crawford
For readers who were into in the controversial book Bringing Up Bebe, this book offers another intimate look into the secrets of French parenting. Instead of going to Paris to immerse her family in French ways, the author brings French attitudes to Brooklyn. She writes about her European hands-off approach and how it worked magnificently–most of the time–with her two kids. Now they eat lamb chops! (March 12)
Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives
by John Elder Robison
Diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 40, this dad writes about the adventures he has raising his son Cubby. Irreverent, hilarious and a little dark, this book is gives readers an inside look at what it’s like to be a person on the autism spectrum. He hopes to inspire his readers to embrace and celebrate misfits and geeks. If you’ve seen or read Running with Scissors, you might have met John–he is Augusten Burroughs’ brother. (March 12)
Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures
by Amber Dusik
Hiliarious Parents’ writer Dusik finally gets to crack readers up with her own parenting book, and yes, the pictures are really bad. She’s a popular blogger, but in this book she delves into life with kids while sharing stories. Silly ones like the time her child asked if clowns will throw pies at her at the circus. She’s aiming for a funny run of stories and essays along the lines of Jenny Lawson’s Let Pretend this Never Happened. (March 19)
The Object of My Conception
by Elisabeth Rohm
Rohm, best known for her role on Law and Order, blogged about her infertility for People.com, and she was overwhelmed by the positive responses from women who were going through the same thing. In her memoir, she tells the story of her fertility issues, her IVF treatments and her successful journey into motherhood. (April 9)
Learning to Listen: A Life Caring for Children
by T. Berry Brazelton
Fans of this caring and famous pediatrician will be interested in the story of his life. From growing up in Texas to heading to Princeton and Harvard to diving into research on newborn babies, this book tells the story of a great man in his own words. You probably know his seminal book Touchstones, a handbook for all parents of babies from birth to age 3. (April 9)
Categories: Best Of Lists, Best Sellers, Cookbooks, DIY, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Mommy Bloggers, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books | Tags: Amber Dusik, Bruce Feiler, Catherine Crawford, Dara Lynn-Weiss, Elisabeth Rohm, Elisabeth Rohn, Emily Rapp, French Twist, John Elder Robison, Kelly Rudnicki, Learning to Listen, Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye, Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures, Parisian Parenting, Raising Cubby, T. Berry Brazelton, The Food Allergy Mama, The heavy, The Object of My Conception, The Secrets of Happy Families, The Still Point of the Turning World, Zac Unger