Last March, Dara-Lynn Weiss wrote an article in Vogue that had the internet abuzz. Dubbed as “Diet Mom,” Weiss talked about why she put daughter Bea, now 9, on a diet when she was just 7-years-old.
In her new memoir, The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet, Weiss explains the reasons for her controversial decision.
“It’s not really about weight loss,” Weiss, 41, tells USA TODAY. “It’s more about the challenge of modern parenting where decisions are judged so readily.”
The New York City resident went on to say her book addresses a common issue for today’s parents.
“There wasn’t a voice from a mom who had lived through this and been an imperfect but very loving and dedicated parent around the issue of childhood obesity,” the mother-of-two tells PEOPLE. “I wanted to be honest about the difficulties. I wanted people to know that this is a lot harder than conventional wisdom would have us believe the solution to childhood obesity is.”
To help her daughter lose weight, she focussed on “reducing processed food, increasing fruits and vegetables, and getting a little more exercise.”
“She was in preschool when we realized she approached food differently,” Weiss shares. “She had an unusual relationship with the snack table, more ardent than the other children’s. At her checkups, her weight was heavy but not unhealthy. But by age 6, the doctor said there was a problem. We could no longer think she would grow out of it or see what happens. It wasn’t getting better.”
By the age of 7, Bea was 4-foot-4 and weighed 93 pounds, which is considered obese as she was nearly 30 pounds overweight.
But put your assumptions aside about Bea and her parents.
“This was not a lazy child,” Weiss says. “She didn’t eat unhealthy food. People make assumptions about obese children or their parents. She was a child with an enormous appetite … She has a brother a year younger, same parents, same food, who doesn’t want to eat sweets. On her father’s side, there have been generations struggling with weight.”
“The obstacles that obese children and their parents are up against are unthinkable,” Weiss adds. “You don’t know the access children have to food, the size of the portions, the numbers of times a day that you are presented with food because it’s a celebration or a reward. It’s so difficult to be part of the event but not to allow food to be involved. And I was part of that. Let’s bake cookies! Let’s go get cupcakes. It’s a real switch — a challenge — to think, let’s go play in the park but not to bring a picnic or to go the movies and not get a big bag of popcorn.”
She adds: “It is very easy to judge a parent’s decision to take measures that seem severe, that seem potentially excessive, like dieting and medication. … I was doing things that I would have said were abhorrent like putting a child on a diet but which were the right things to do.”
Bea, now 9, has since lost weight and maintained her healthy weight.
“I love the fact that she still has the same love for food. And I love the fact that even though she still wants two cupcakes, she knows she can only have one cupcake, and I don’t even have to tell her anymore,” says Weiss.
What do you think about Weiss’ decision to put her daughter on a diet at the age of 7?