Not a “Vogue” photo I realize

I love being tipped off to provocative nutrition articles. On Friday I received this:
I HAD to write to ask if you have read the article about the Mom who put her 7 year old daughter on a diet in this month’s Vogue (J-Lo is on the cover) If you haven’t please, please, please go get it. Would LOVE to know your thoughts even though I think I already know what you would say.
At the time I hadn’t read the article but I was on my way for a pre-trip pedi. Prior to reading, a 7 year old on a diet, in a fashion magazine, sounded like an open and closed case for scary parenting. Once at Cindy’s Nails,  I spotted the J-Lo Vogue, sat back in the squishy pedicure chair and started in. Dara-Lynn Weiss opens the article describing a situation where she was at a friend’s house and made a little bit of a scene when a her daughter is served salad nicoise. I felt myself cringe but read on.
Bea, we learn, was normal weight early on and started putting on weight as a toddler. Her mother explains that Bea always seemed to be hungry and a preschool teacher even mentioned she had trouble self-regulating at a snack table. As she watched her daughter gaining weight, Weiss says she initially ignored the problem. By the time Bea was 7, the doctor classified her as obese and her parents took action.
In a very honest account, Weiss recaps her own weight issues growing up. As an adult her weight stabilized she writes, “I felt pretty normal. And I looked pretty normal. But, like many women, I wasn’t really normal.” Many parents, specifically mothers, have their own weight “stuff” that they bring to the parenting table. Some women were pressured to lose weight by their own mothers and are determined to do things differently.  Others may have grown up heavy and looking back wish their parents intervened more so that they didn’t have to be taunted or unhealthy. It’s very easy to pat yourself on the back and feel successful in the nutrition department when you have average weight children. It doesn’t mean you are exempt from family food issues.
There were some things I felt this mother got right:
  • She enlisted an expert
  • She tried to make this a family affair, she brought her son to the doctor to be weighed in and she ate the same lunches as Bea
  • She increased her daughter’s physical activity, enrolling her in karate
  • She referred to things as “a nutrition regimen” versus a diet (though I’m not sure “diet” if handled properly is the end of the world).

Other things I didn’t agree with:
  • With either children or adults I don’t feel public situations are the time for lesson teaching or scene making (except when it’s my children and they are using bad table manners). The goal is always to control what you can control and snacks at a friend’s house aren’t for a 7 year old to refuse.
  • Health is the best platform. Yes, children are aware of their size but losing weight should be in order to be healthy, for life, and not to get new clothing, especially at 7. Health and healthy foods aren’t highlighted in this article and Weiss admits “we became connoisseurs of anything in a 100-calorie pack and bought enough diet soda to horrify any Whole Foods-shopping mom.”

As I read this account, I found myself thinking of children with dangerous food allergies. Weiss mentions this comparison “should she (Bea) attempt to walk through the door (at school) with an almond in her pocket, she’d practically be swarmed by a SWAT team.  But who is protecting the obese kids when 350-calorie cupcakes are handed out on every kid’s birthday?” And if we get our children extra help with speech or reading, should we not have them assisted when needed with nutrition? “The same Tiger Moms who press their kids into private school test prep at four or force them to devote countless hours to piano or dance or sports find it unthinkable to coax a child to lose weight.” The word “coax” rubs me the wrong way but point well taken.
The truth is many will take issue with this mother’s methods. If I recorded some of my boys’ piano practice sessions I would bet you wouldn’t award me patient parent of the year either. This article references a 2011 survey where parents find weight the single most difficult topic to discuss with their kids ahead of drugs and sex. Maybe this Vogue piece is a tool parents can use to open the discussion. And I think this is a discussion we should have with obese and non-obese children. After all, we can work on weight but we also need to work on sensitivity. 
I don’t think this is what the person who emailed expected me to say but I’m so glad she told me to look into this and in case you’re wondering I asked the proprietor of the nail salon for the article (no magazine swiping).
Have you read “Weight Watcher” in Vogue? Do you think 7 year olds should be put one weight loss regimes? Do you think it’s worse to take action for an obese child or do nothing?

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