• Thu, Mar 22 2012

Vogue Writer Advocates Publicly Shaming Her Overweight 7-Year-Old Daughter

young girl measuring waistListen Vogue, you’ve done some shitty things over the years. We’re probably never going to be friends, what with the rampant racism and fetishizing of pre-pubescent girls.

I’m aware that you’re the fashion Bible and this is a fashion site. I know that I should probably show you some reverence. I’ll apologize to EIC Jennifer Wright now. Sorry if I’m making your job more difficult.

But Vogue has crossed the line from controversial to downright horrible. In the April 2012 Shape issue, writer Dara-Lynn Weiss opens up about a difficult motherhood experience. She talks about her year-long struggle to enforce a strict and publicly humiliating diet regimen on her daughter, Bea.

This story starts out almost illiciting sympathy for the writer, who is faced with a pretty scary parenting dilemma. Her seven-year-old daughter is deemed “clinically obese” by her pediatrician. The little girl is 4’4” and 93 lbs. As a mom, I often worry about the balance of teaching healthy habits and encouraging body acceptance in my daughter. We focus a lot on foods that “help us grow big and strong” instead of ones that “don’t make our bodies feel better.” We talk about the importance of staying active and getting outdoors to play. And even with my four-year-old, I bring up the concept that different foods help our bodies in different ways, and we need to balance our bodies’ needs and balance the food we eat. In other words, veggies, fruits, meat and grains all have their own place.

Childhood obesity is a problem in this culture. It’s one that mothers need to start addressing and we need to start being honest about. But the issue of health is no excuse for the torture that this young child is put through. In the author’s own words:

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 whose calories are listed as “120-210″ on the menu board: Well, which is it? When he couldn’t provide an answer, I dramatically grabbed the drink out of my daughter’s hands, poured it into the garbage, and stormed out.

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.

Um by the way, those Starbucks figures probably depended on what type of milk you used and whether you had whipped cream. I’m just saying. [tagbox tag="fat-shaming"]

When faced with a difficult motherhood decision, this mom didn’t support or encourage her daughter to make the right choices. She didn’t teach her the importance of health, why obesity matters or try to help her make smart choices on her own.

Weiss went about “helping” her daughter in the least helpful way possible. She publicly shamed her. She counted calories instead of nutritional value. And oh yea, SHE PUBLICLY SHAMED A SEVEN YEAR OLD. Sorry, just making sure you caught that.

Vogue ran this article as if it were a triumphant piece about a woman helping her daughter lose weight. After a year of strictly enforced dieting, little Bea has lost 16 lbs, even as she’s grown 2 inches. The mother and daughter pair posed for adorable, cheerful pictures drinking tea. Apparently we’re supposed to be excited that this child was made to feel horrible about her obese body.

The only highlight of this story is that the little girl seems to be more self-aware and thoughtful than her mother. While Weiss is lamenting, “It is grating to have someone constantly complain of being hungry, or refuse to eat what she’s supposed to, month after month,” her daughter seems to see the last year more clearly. ”That’s still me,” she says of her former self. “I’m not a different person just because I lost sixteen pounds.”

I truly hope that little girl remembers that she’ll always be the same person, no matter what size she. But if Bea turns out okay, it will be in spite of her mother’s harsh and cruel tactics, not because of them. This story was not a triumph. It was a tragedy about a girl who deserved support and help, and instead faced embarrassment at the hands of her mother.

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  • Eileen

    Ugh. She sounds awful, and like she’s setting her daughter up for failure. When Bea is pissed at her mom (as all girls/women sometimes are), or when she’s just trying to assert her independence, what is she going to do?

    Not to mention she’s being an ass to the Starbucks guy. Starbucks has about eighty zillion different drinks that can be personalized about ninety zillion ways – he’s seriously supposed to know the calorie content of everything off the top of his head?

  • Lindsey

    This is awful… why does the kid have to loose 16lbs? She’ll just re-gain it as she grows taller. And probably be shamed for every pound even as her bmi goes down.

    I was pretty large as a 6th grader, I remember being 120 lbs and feeling horrible and everyone thinking I was huge. But guess what? Puberty! I grew two inches and got boobs, and suddenly I was a quite slim girl at 120. If I had lost the 10-20 pounds I would have had to gain them all back in high school, which would have been awful.

    Bad mother! Bad!

  • Jo

    Wow, that is effed up. I hope that the writer of the article reads your commentary.

    The only thing that drives me crazier than the awful social standards and norms we have now is when they are taught to our future generations. You are so right about the public shaming, that is even harder to take as a child than as an adult! How awful. It would be a miracle if this girl didn’t end up having an eating disorder, and I sincerely hope things out turn out okay for her, as you said, in spite of her mother’s actions.

  • Fabel

    I glanced through this issue yesterday & the whole thing is a clusterfuck. I think I saw a picture of models in fat suits? alongside an article about speeding up your metabolism– and I didn’t even see this article, which sounds atrocious.

    And yeah, the calories have a range because it depends on size, what kind of milk, and if you get whipped cream or not. I can’t believe she wasted a hot chocolate because of a possible >100 calorie difference.

    • Sam Van

      It is shocking that she would throw out the hot chocloate because of extra calories when her poor daughter must have been looking forward to it. Just awful to do that to her!

  • Jessie

    On the one hand, it is shocking that a Mother would show pride and triumph in such behavior. On the other, this woman plays a major role in shaping fashion and what is being relayed to women as a desirable weight / shape / look through a notoriously biased media source, and it is not so surprising. Sad, alarming, and down right gah-ross, yes… Surprising? Sadly, not so much, to me at least.

    I hit puberty a bit early, and as a cruel gift from Mother Nature I was 5’6 and 150 pounds as an 11 year old. A GIANT in every way possible compared to those around me. That alone did enough damage to my self esteem and confidence to last me 17 years in the future, even with a loving healthy family that supported me with positive reinforcement around me, I cannot imagine what this child will go through, moving forward.

    Side note: This is a Lifetime movie waiting to happen. (If it hasn’t already.)

  • Lilac

    Well what do you expect from a mother in charge of a magazine known for shaping our preconceptions of beauty and desirability. You know why your child was fat? Because you probably don’t spend enough time with her tending to her emotional development!

  • Angelina

    It’s a real shame that her daughter will most likely grow up with self-esteem issues and an eating disorder because of this. The mother sounds like a real bitch.

  • LCT

    This is despicable. What the hell is wrong with people??

  • The Mommy Psychologist

    This is absolutely horrible! If this poor little girl doesn’t end up in my therapy room, I guarantee she will end up in somebody else’s therapy room. Probably coupled with an eating disorder.

    “The child psychologist who thought she had all the answers to parenting until she became one herself.” http://www.themommypsychologist.com

  • CW

    If her daughter has a weight problem, why is she even buying a hot chocolate at all? Caloric drinks are the easiest thing to cut out. The options the child should be given are herbal tea (no cream/milk) or water. Whether the hot chocolate has 120 calories or 210, the girl is overweight and shouldn’t be drinking it, period. No more “pizza Fridays” either. I’m sorry, but feeding her kid this kind of crap is how the poor little girl wound up fat in the first place. Change is hard, but her daughter will be much better off the younger she gets used to eating a healthy diet.

    • Ebony

      I think you may have missed the point…

      Pizza and hot chocolate are not what made her fat. There are quite a few things that probably made her fat…starting with eating and drinking those things every week, not exercising along with probably some emotional baggage provided by her mother.

      She may still be fat with a healthy diet, the goal should be to focus on whats on the inside of her body. Eating properly and exercising makes for a healthy person. Not necessarily skinny. It would even help to redefine the word fat…OR JUST NOT CALLING PEOPLE FAT, especially 7 year old children who actually dont make choices when it comes to food, their authority figures choose their food.

    • CW

      Sorry, but eating too much junk food *IS* what made the poor little girl fat. And yes, she was fat. My 9 y.o. daughter is an inch taller at 4′ 5″ but weighs only 65 lbs. I don’t think I weighed 93 lbs. until I was in middle school, and by that point I was 4′ 11″ tall.

      Commercial pizza and hot chocolate are loaded with refined carbs and saturated fat. Indulging in an occasional slice or mug is fine for someone who is at a healthy weight, but someone who needs to lose weight ought to reserve those calories for healthy food.

      No wonder why there is such an obesity crisis in this country…

    • dee

      Amen!

  • jeannette

    this is how eating disorders begin.

  • Stephanie Potter

    Thank you for bringing some much needed attention to this article ini Vogue magazine. What a poor excuse for mothering this woman’s own description of how she treasts her daughter is. I think, that like the author of this article, we should discuss in the language appropriate to the age of the child the benefits of healthy eating and exercise (play for kids!), but that even sweets have their place. Shaming her daughter, both in front of her friends and the whole world via her tactless article, is a dangerous parenting choice. I pray her little girl survives her mother’s poor parenting choices without becomes anorexic or bulemic.

  • KG

    Can I adopt this child and give her a normal life? Mommie Dearest sounds like a total self absorbed fool. I hope Vogue prints all of the negative feedback they will receive for printing and praising this article.

  • Jules

    Look, I see nothing wrong with addressing the childhood obesity epidemic. A healthy well balanced diet and activity should always be encouraged. I think the appropriate way to do this is address it as a health issue, never a weight issue. This is psychologically abusive. As a former fat kid and now fitness and health buff, I can say that my healthy lifestyle today is directly attributed to my mother telling me there was nothing wrong with me and she and my entire family never showed me anything but unconditional love and acceptance. Because of that I was able to love and accept myself and my weight loss had nothing to a number, but my health and how it made me feel. My heart breaks for this poor girl and all of the humiliation and low self esteem she is suffering at the hands of her mother. Poor thing.

  • Carla

    My heart feels for this child. By the time I was 10 years old, I was 5’6″ and wearing a size 12. I was a tall girl who had developed the body structure of an adult rather quickly (minus the boobs, which I still don’t have all that much of.)

    I remember as a kid, I’d pack on a little weight and then sprout up a few inches seemingly overnight. This is fairly common as far as how many children develop. The body needs the energy from somewhere, so it stores it for usage. Otherwise its going to take it from somewhere, and those other places are muscle tissues and skeletal tissues.

    Once puberty hit, I was never a skinny kid. But I understood nutrition, took ballet and ballroom classes a few times a week. Participated in gym at school and was a generally active growing youth outside with bike rides and walking the dogs, etc.

    My body actually hasn’t much changed from when I was 10 till now, besides 2 more inches and filling out of the female frame. I’ve had moments of insecurity growing up, but it NEVER came from my mother. She supported me, encouraged my interest in physical activities and healthy eating. We always cooked food from scratch at home as much as possible and didn’t have junk food in the house, but would let us have unhealthy treats every once in a while without making a huge issue about it.

    My father has never made me feel like he accepted me or was proud of me in practically anything i do, on the other hand. Today, I have a great relationship with my mother, and a removed one with my father. I guess the mother of Bea has decided what kind of relationship is most important to have with her daughter, and it doesn’t seem like a fully healthy, loving one. She might have good intentions in her head, but the impact that she’s leaving probably isn’t the one she intends on Bea.

  • quinn

    This reminds me very much of my childhood. I developed early, I was about 5’6″ and 140lbs at 12, with a fully formed womanly frame. My mother would make me feel ashamed if I gained weight, yet she would keep crap in the house because she could eat it, weighing about 110 lbs herself at 5’6″. I vividly remember the day I asked my dad for nachos at the snack counter, and he said no, and asked me to look down at my stomach because it stuck out so much, in front of everybody in line. My mom made efforts to make me work out, and would ground me if I didn’t, but nothing changed until I got into sports. Unfortunately it was too late for me, and I developed an eating disorder after high school. I am now 30 and I struggle to stay at a size 2-4, and I have an intensly horrible relationship with food and my body as a whole. I believe in addressing the childhood obesity epidemic, but we have to find better ways to do it. Early education for all kids, not just the obese ones would be a great start. I wish someone would have done that for me. School lunches and soda machines also have to be taken into account. Kids need to be saved from their own predisposition to eating sweets and fatty foods.

  • Mrs. Lynn

    Well done, Mom! This girl will have a complex her entire life because of her mother’s ABUSE! Like many of the previous posters who commented, I was a full C-cup, 110 lbs by age 12. I was also 5’3. I looked 15. Prior to that, I got a little pudge before getting taller. My mom called me fat. So did my grandmother. My mom told me that my bathing suit made me look fat when all I was wearing it for was swimming in the backyard. She also said my “fat gut” made me look pregnant. Oh, yeah, I have not forgotten! I’m 32 now and it will be forever imprinted on my brain! When I did get thin, I was grilled for not eating! I couldn’t win! Every time I lost weight, my mom assumed I was on drugs. I have had a fluctuating weight problem since. Lucky for me, I have an amazing husband who thinks I”m beautiful even now at 8 months pregnant with swollen ankles and I have learned that I AM me at any size! And I’m fucking hot anyway!

    • Lindsay Cross

      Any husband that can love your swollen ankles is one worth being thankful for! I have definitely been there. Congratulations and good luck with the little one!

    • Tania

      Do we have the same mom? I hit puberty at 9, and had gross old men hitting on me at 11, and my mother spent my entire life since puberty hit telling me I was fat, until the point I lost a lot of weight and she started asking me if I was actually eating.

  • KAlex

    Vogue has been ticking me off a lot lately (aka Adele’s extreme and obvious photoshop makeover) and this is just fuel to the fire.

  • Sandra

    I think this is one of the worst types of parenting that i have seen!!! God help this poor little girl and save her from her own mother and the permanent emotional scars she is causing her.

  • T

    Stop it people! It is not just the pizza day or hot chocolate that is making her fat, and you know it, so get off your high horses of nutritional smugness and really look at the situation. It has nothing to do with junk food (yeah, that French Heritage lunch doesn’t sound like junk food. Neither does her side of corn.)

    I know of plenty of kids who have pizza day at school and aren’t obese.
    Reading between the lines, particularly the lunch for ‘French Heritage Day at school involved nearly 800 calories of Brie, filet mignon, baguette, and chocolate’ tells me that this little girl doesn’t go to a ‘regular’ school. And when you think of the type of people who send their kids to schools like this, images of kids being raised by themselves, or nannies comes to mind. I doubt there is much parental involvement, other than to criticize the child’s image.
    And the Starbucks trip is probably moms way of faking spending time with the daughter by declaring a ‘mommy daughter day’ for coffee! Yippee! Isn’t she a great mom.
    She can’t have dinner because the school served a French Heritage Day meal that was too high in calories? She can’t have pizza since she had a side of corn? She can’t have cake at a birthday party? WTF? This mom has serious issues that she is projecting onto the child. I wouldn’t doubt it if the child sneaks some food to feel the comfort and love she doesn’t get from her mom.

    • Cee

      Then please tell us, what is the cause of her weight problem if it’s not unhealthy foods? (And while the French Heritage lunch might not be ‘junk’, it’s certainly not healthy).

      Yes, lots of people all over the world can eat these things and not gain weight. It’s called metabolism. Some have a fast one, which means they can eat pretty much whatever they want, and some have a slower one. It sucks and it’s unfair, but it doesn mean that pizza, cake and high caloric drinks are healthy just because Person A can consume them and not gain a pound.

  • dee

    This is disgusting beyond words. Every single thing this woman has blamed and ridiculed her 7yr old child for can be traced back down to HER. What a nightmare world this poor kid has to live in. My heart just breaks for her. BTW, Starbucks is hardly a place to be when “dieting.” I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that this chick is probably drinking 400-600 calories herself when she goes there, obviously without realizing it. There is a website, with all the nutritional info if you need to know that badly. As a conscientious parent, she ought to have looked it up HERSELF, so that SHE could know what to allow her daughter to have! Then she could have saved her daughter the humiliation, and not been such a B*^&$R to the 16yr old working behind the counter. I get a feeling that would not have been as much fun for her though! I hate to say it, but I am hoping to God that she gets fat from the mystery calories she has been ingesting at good ol’ SB and get’s to feel what it’s like…LOSER.

  • Jen

    I am sorry, but there is no excuse to humiliate a 7 year old. This mother is incredibly obnoxious and shallow. A 7 year old eats what MOM puts in front of her.

    • Sue

      I agree with TaranatinoGirl 79 and Jen. This mother should be questioned for child abuse. Mental abuse is as bad as or worse than physical abuse. And it seems the mother is buying what the girl shouldn’t have. It isn’t only food, it’s also clothes, tv, etc. Be the parent and teach your children. Ms. Weiss is laying a great foundation for creating a bully or a person that will be bullied and at some point has taken enough and becomes the serial killers or shooters in the schools we all hear about…And if by some remarkable chance she makes it to adulthood without any problems, what is she taking with her when she leaves the house????

  • TarantinoGirl79

    That woman should be called into question for child abuse… because that is what that is.

  • Heather Hackett

    All I can say is, “Thank you Lindsay!”. I own a company called, I Train Your Kids and have truly made it my life to make sure children aren’t treated like, Bea. She was not the one to purchase, nor feed herself, the food that made her obese at 4 years old.
    Her mother should be ashamed of herself for not only how she reacted to a problem SHE created, but kudos to her for now providing her 4 year old beautiful daughter with a complex! Insane!
    I wrote an article titled, “How to approach a child with a weight problem” and it was my most requested as you truly only get one chance to address the issue with your child and you better make sure, it’s a good one!
    Great article Lindsay…thank you for putting Dara-Lynn in her place.

  • Rachel

    I went from chubby to chubbier all through elementary school. My mom later confessed that she had thought about sending me to fat camp…. What did she do instead? Make sure she instilled in me all the nutritional knowledge she had taken in during her home economics studies and get me a work out kit. I felt the fact that she wasn’t happy though she tried to cover it up and I felt how I was compared to my peers and I was highly relieved when puberty suddenly hit and I became tall and slim…..though it took me years to fully realize I was no longer “fat”. I can’t even imagine the effect of this mom’s over the top antics when her child is that much younger…

    Along with that- what the heck has this mom been doing with her child in the first place? I know that to get to the spot she has in the publishing industry, she’s had to make some sacrifices but I think she’s gone a step too far. First- who has been making sure this child has healthy balanced meals every day and understands about proper eating so she doesn’t end up in this situation in the first place. You don’t become clinically obese overnight. I’m not saying Mom had to be there herself. I’ve had a nanny before myself. Part of the reason I was happy to leave the kiddos with nanny is because I knew she had my values when it came to feeding, discipline, etc. Most importantly- she has just sacrificed her child’s well-being to this article. Its bad enough all the antics she’s pulled with the hot chocolate, etc……….but then publishing them so a whole nation of Vogue readers (plus whoever accesses American Vogue internationally) can see it?!?! It doesn’t matter that the girl had lost weight by the time it happened. Its still just another form of public humiliation for not being perfect.

  • Jamie Cormier

    yes, the mom should ‘ve cut out the foods that are high in calories and enforced a exercise time. But not publicly shaming her daughter. At parties, allow a bit of cake and cookies, parties aren’t everyday..its okay to splurge a little bit. Instead of fast food, maybe the critic mom should provide more home-cooked healthier meals. Its not about the kid, its about the F***in mom who is a hypocrite. Its not about being skinny, its about living healthier, less clogged arties. ETc. This is how eating disorders start. WaKe up AMERICA, its not about looking like a F****In broom stick!

    • Yulija

      Everyone shames their kids once in a while. Everyone embarrasses them. It is part of growing up. If her mother won’t do it now for her own good, other kids in school will do it twice as much! This girl will thank her mother in the future. Some kids are stubborn and will not listen to reasonable and logical explanation for why they should eat the healthy stuff. Did anyone think of the mother? How hard it is for your child to spiral down and not be able to help them. I do not blame her at all for being the parent and taking it into her own hands. The girl is seven years old! WHAT DOES SHE KNOW!? Wake up people, America is fucking fat! Stop bathing in your little pride and independence ” I love me for who I am even if Im a slob, a coke addict and a fat peace of shit!”. There is a limit as to how accepting we should be of these issues. This woman should be praised for coming out and telling her story despite all of teh possible criticism! Ask any “fat” individual, they will tell you ” I wish someone could make me, force me, show me the way out of this mess.” Yes, everyone should find things they love about themselves and feel comfortable with. But I can tell you that an obese body is NOT one of those things. Notice how it says she is clinically obese and not just “chubby”. I bet the mother rewards her child and praises all the other qualities of the girl. Stop acting like she is a tyrant!

    • Natalie

      As an obese person who has been fat most of my life, let me say that shame is NEVER the way to help a child. EVER. Period. Shame is not helpful. It is hurtful and damaging.

      Even if this child somehow manages to survive to an age of making her own decisions, the lessons she has learned in self-shame and self-harm will stay with her.

      Yes, you can love your obese body. You can love yourself and still be a fat chick. But when you start out hating yourself and being ashamed of yourself, it will be a miracle if you manage it.

      She should be learning how to eat healthy, how to make calories count, but at 7 she should not be on a restricted diet.

    • KaeTay

      fat shaming is how your kid ends up with an eating disorder.

  • lisa johnson

    Well, again – i retried Vogue after letting my susbscription lapse a year or so ago – and I’m not that thrilled with Americano Vogue anyway – because frankly it’s sterile comparatively to any of their European counterparts. This was the last straw – cancellation completed for good. Good riddens to a publication I can no loner support. Our female bodies are again being used and abused for political and of course financial gain. This woman in my opinion is abusing her child.

  • Monica

    I am certainly not supporting the extreme measures she is taking, but I have to wonder…. Why are we so up in arms about this misguided attempt to take charge of her daughters health, when ….

    childhood obesity is at a ridiculous high because soo many parents are not being parents where their child’s health is concerned. If you let your child sit in front of the television, computer, or video game all day and make poor food choices; is that the better option?

    she may be overdoing it, but at least she is trying.

  • S

    Boy, this woman sounds like my mother when I was Bea’s age…

  • Tania
  • Tawrens

    This woman should never of had kids. She’d better running a death camp then being a mom.