Culture & Entertainment

Parenting memoir: the heavy, reviewed

Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Parenting memoir: the heavy, reviewed

Last year the parenting blogosphere lit up with discussion of Dara-Lynn Weiss's article in the April issue of Vogue where she detailed her 8-year-old daughter's 16-pound weight loss. You know what controversy leads to today: A book deal, and so here's the heavy, her memoir. I'll admit that I was one of the people who was pretty skeptical when the story first hit. What child needs to be on a diet before she's ten? Isn't this an indication of our cultural madness when it comes to weight? So I approached the book expecting to spend a lot of time sitting on the couch huffing. Instead I came away from the heavy with a new appreciation for how complicated these issues really are. It might help that my own 7-year-old is about the same height as her daughter was, and weighs just over half of where her daughter started when she put her on the diet; that helped put the pediatrician's view of Weiss's daughter as obese into perspective for me. It also seemed relatively clear to me, bearing in mind that Weiss might not be the most reliable narrator, that her daughter's issue with weight was unusual in terms of both how much she weighed, and that it was so hard for her to lose even on what seemed to me like a pretty low-calorie diet. But I also was brought face-to-face again with the fact that food and parenting is complicated. It's not just about wholesome organic choices and figuring out who controls what. It's also a very social activity, eating. Take cupcakes at parties: In theory, I think it's a little extreme to withhold cupcakes from your child at birthday parties unless there is an allergy issue, even though I recognize none of us probably needs the sugar and dye (well, I need the chocolate, but that's another story....) But when Weiss pointed out that based on just school birthday parties, her daughter would consume over 14,000 calories in cupcakes alone -- a 3-pound weight gain, if those calories were not expended elsewhere -- I started to sympathize. And the amount of judgment and actual direct under-cutting she received from parents like me who were skeptical of her choices was pretty disrespectful. She made the point that if a parent of a child with an allergy to nuts grabbed an Almond Joy away from his or her child, no one would think twice about it. But when she told her daughter she could have either the M&Ms or the cake at a party, there were some looks. Ultimately I'm not sure Weiss's memoir gave me any practical advice or even better thinking about my own kids and their eating habits or weight, probably because I came to see her daughter's struggle as a medical issue that we don't share. But it did remind me that it is much, much easier to judge other parents than it is to know what to do with our own kids when a problem presents itself. Do you have any food issues with your kids?
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Parenting memoir: the heavy, reviewed

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