Vogue ‘diet mom’ stunned by backlash
Published Sunday, February 3, 2013 7:00AM EST
Nine months ago, Dara-Lynn Weiss wrote an article for Vogue magazine to describe how she helped her 7-year-old daughter, Bea, battle obesity. But what Weiss hoped would be an honest and informative piece turned into a veritable firestorm.
Critics skewered her, accusing her of being a shallow socialite who just wanted a skinny daughter. A writer at Jezebel even went so far as to say that Weiss would “go down in history as the one of the most f***ed up, selfish women to ever grace the magazine's pages.”
Weiss told CTV’s Canada AM this week she was stunned by the response.
“I did not anticipate the level to which people would respond so emotionally and so personally and so negatively,” she said. “I knew, as a mother, we’re all subject to criticism and judgment in our choices and this is a particularly fraught issue -- weight and our children. But it really went beyond the small criticisms and debates that I expected.”
In her new memoir “The Heavy,” Weiss tries to explain why she needed to help her daughter lose weight and why it was so hard.
Weiss writes that she knew she had to do something when her daughter, Bea, was seven years old and had 93 pounds on her 4’4 frame, classifying her as “clinically obese.”
Weiss says she initially thought she could tackle her daughter’s weight problem with a few small dietary changes, such as switching her cooking methods to baking instead of frying, or insisting that Bea attend all her karate classes, for example.
But she soon realized that small changes were not going to cut it.
“These were really not substantial enough changes to address her obesity,” Weiss says.
“It really took, in our case, that severity, that type of commitment to help her.”
Weiss says she didn’t want to let her daughter know she was on a diet, but she says it was necessary to make her daughter realize her weight was a serious issue.
So for one year, Weiss regulated every calorie that passed her daughter’s lips, refusing to allow her take part in pizza days, or to take second helpings even when she said she was still hungry, or to have birthday cake if she had already hit her calorie limit for the day.
Weiss says she had to be intense because every day brought her daughter new temptations to overeat.
But she says she knows she drew the shock of other parents who may have thought her methods were draconian.
Weiss admits she didn’t always get it right, which is partly why she wanted to write her book.
“In “The Heavy,’ I tried to be honest about all the things I did wrong because part of what intimidated me in dealing with obesity was this idea that I had to be perfect and say the right things (to my daughter) and present food in the perfect light,” she says.
But Weiss also insists that many of those who criticized her misinterpreted her intentions.
“A lot of it went away from the reality of what Bea and I went through – this idea that I was a selfish mother who wanted a thin daughter and was willing to humiliate my child to get there. That wasn’t my experience.”
Despite the criticism, Weiss’s approach worked. Over one year, Bea lost 16 pounds while growing two inches taller.
Weiss says she doesn’t regret her daughter’s diet or the fact she stood her ground. But she says she wishes she had been a little better prepared for the public response.
“If I had known there would be this backlash, I would probably have been afraid. I probably would not want to put myself in the situation I was in,” Weiss says.
“But I felt it was so important to tell this story and to tell these truths and stand by my choices that I’m glad I did it and I’m glad I wasn’t scared off.”