Monday, March 26, 2012

You Aren't What You Eat

You knew I was going to say something about this.

Apparently there is an article in the April issue of Vogue – an essay called “Weight Watcher” by one Dara-Lynn Weiss. I will first admit I have not read the article. I can’t seem to find a full text online, and I haven’t had occasion to pick up an issue of Vogue since…well, not since I leafed through it ages ago and found absolutely nothing relevant to me.

Anyway, the essay is about a mom with a daughter – who, at 6 years old, 4’4” and 93 pounds, is clinically obese. The mother puts the child on some sort of diet, which she then only sort of enforces. When she does enforce it, though, it’s in a weird, draconian, often publicly-shaming way.

Examples from the article include: withholding the child’s dinner when she finds out the food from an international celebration at school was 800 calories, getting between the girl and a salad when the dressing turns out to be olive oil, dramatically tossing the child’s cocoa away at Starbucks when she can’t find the specific nutrition information, and Weiss also writes, “I stopped letting her enjoy Pizza Fridays when she admitted to adding a corn salad as a side dish one week.

(Side note: Oh, the joy that would ensue should I ever hear that my child voluntarily ate a corn salad side dish!)

I guess the article also says that the mother’s goal for the child was that the child lose 16 pounds by a Vogue photo shoot. Because that’s what counts, after all: How terrible the mom would look with a chubby daughter in the pages of Vogue.

This is Weiss and her daughter. Thank goodness the child doesn't weight more or that mom might never be able to show her face in the Vogue offices again. (Photo credit: Vogue)

The mother also admits to having body and diet issues (gee, ya think?) and I don’t think anyone would fault her for not wanting her child to be at an unhealthy weight. But that doesn’t mean she has to be flying in on a broomstick to knock a cupcake out of her daughter’s hand.

I had weight issues as a kid, and still do have weight issues. No, I don’t want my children having weight issues or food issues. But I’m also tired of weight being first and foremost on everyone’s minds, in many cases eclipsing a person's spirit.

At one point in the article, Weiss writes, “'That's still me,' [the child] says of her former self. 'I'm not a different person just because I lost sixteen pounds.' I protest that indeed she is different. At this moment, that fat girl is a thing of the past. 'Just because it's in the past,' [the child] says, 'doesn't mean it didn't happen.'"

It is so profoundly sad to me that this child, now age 7, already knows that her worth, especially in her mom’s eyes, is tied to her weight. God forbid that little girl ever transform back into “that fat girl,” because it’s pretty obvious “that fat girl” has no value as a person.

At the core of my frustration with this one mother’s view of weight is my frustration with many peoples’ views of weight-loss: About 90% of the “I’m half my size!” media you see portrays a person with extra weight as flawed. It’s always “I was eating a 3 egg ham and cheese omelet and 4 donuts for breakfast every day!” and “I was hiding from my past by gaining weight and now that I’ve lost it I’m happy!” 

These aren’t always the stories. Sometimes there are content, well-adjusted people who weigh more than others. Sometimes there are obese people who eat far less, and far healthier, than many thin people.

No one is going to disagree that it is a parent’s responsibility to give their children the building blocks for health – a decent variety of food and opportunities for activity. And an obese child certainly needs extra attention to ensure that she grows up healthy.

And I gotta give it to Weiss for being honest about her reality. It will hopefully make more people cognizant of the attitudes they are handing down.

But I also wish I could meet that child, hug her, and tell her that she was never just “that fat girl.” 

1 comment:

jdoughe3 said...

Great post. One of my biggest fears as a parent is that I'll pass along the body insecurity I carried as a kid. Why is it so hard to see how beautiful we are?