Friday

Thoughts On- Dara-Lynn Weiss, Vogue’s Child Diet Enforcer Extraordinaire

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In the latest issue of Vogue an article was published by Dara-Lynn Weiss about her daughter's struggle with weight and what she as her mother put her through to go back down to an acceptable size. While Weiss might have thought the article would conjure up some sort of sympathy from readers it has sparked shock and disgust among most folks, The New York Times even compared her to the much criticized Tiger Mom, “Amy Chua may have to hand off the title of Tiger Mother to Dara-Lynn Weiss.”

The article starts out by diving head-first into the topic,
“I stepped between my daughter and a bowl of salad nicoise my friend was handing her, raising my palm like a traffic cop.“Thanks,” I said, “But she already ate dinner.”
“But she said she’s still hungry,” my friend replied, bewildered.I forced a smile, “Yeah but it’s got a lot of dressing on it, and we’re trying-“
“Just olive oil!” my friend interrupted. “It’s superhealthy"!”
My smile faded and my voice grew tense. “I know. She can’t”
Weiss goes on to lament that her daughter's pediatrician had labeled the seven year old obese yet (lovingly) she only thought of her as fat. Justifying the unassuming youngster, Bea, as at risk for diabetes, heart failure high blood pressure and cholesterol she decided to take matters into her own hands. Bea, meet you new best friend, diet.

Weiss admits that she has struggled with her own weight for years bouncing between Weight Watchers, Atkins, Slim-Fast and even the raw food diet. She casually drops that there was also occasional use of laxatives (an eating disorder staple) and that she once fainted after three days of fasting. Diet pills were also part of Weiss’ regimen which she stopped using when it was shown to cause pulmonary hypertension.
“I have not ingested any food, looked at a restaurant menu, or been sick to the point of vomiting without silently launching a complicated mental algorithm about how it will affect my weight.”
Weiss asks in the article, “Who was I to teach a little girl how to maintain a healthy weight and body image?” Yes, who indeed. But when Bea started eating adult sized portions of food or as her mother puts it, “she earned her fat honestly,” Dara-Lynn did what she knew all too well, it was time to introduce portion control and take little Bea to Joanna Dolgoff M.D. who created the “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right” program, a sort of kiddie version of Weight Watchers.
“Bea did not embrace all aspects of this endeavor. She threatened violence against the doctor as we sat in the waiting room every week.”
Though friends and family tried to warn Weiss that she was acting way too strict with not-so-subtle hints, “you’re making her crazy,” Weiss continued her quest against her daughters road to Brigid Berlin-dom.

Brigid Berlin was mostly known for her wild romps among the stylish crew of Andy Warhol’s factory in the sixties. Growing up her socialite mother frequently worried about Brigid's weight and constantly attempted to get her to lose it through any means, from giving her cash for every pound she lost at age eleven to having the family doctor prescribe amphetamines and dexedrine. Berlin recalled, "My mother wanted me to be a slim, respectable socialite. Instead, I became an overweight troublemaker." While eventually Brigid gained control of her weight, years of diet pills and fasting let to obsessive measuring of food ounce by ounce- the only way she could maintain a healthy weight as she grew older. Pie in the Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story (1999) is a documentary in which she tells her life story in intimate detail and ultimately breaks her diet by consuming an entire meal of key lime pies, 40 of them to be exact. The very interesting doc is available for free on Hulu.

A year later, Bea is sixteen pounds lighter and two inches taller, and has been rewarded with "the purchase of many new dresses" and a feather hair extension. "Only time will tell whether my early intervention saved her from a life of preoccupation with her weight, or drove her to it," Weiss says seemingly clueless of what she has done in the length of time it took to fit into size appropriate clothing, not to mention the mortifying aspect of having the whole thing detailed in Vogue.

Weiss admits that for Bea the words “diet” and “fat” were too painful, its frankly quite painful reading about the whole thing let alone living it. So is Bea good to go? Is the horror of weekly visits to Dr. Dolgoff’s office finally over? No. “The struggle is obviously not over. I don’t think it will ever be for either of us. Bea understands that just as some kids have asthma, her weight is something she might always have to think about, unfair as it seems.”
“Tears of pain fill her eyes as she reflects on her yearlong journey. “That’s still me,” she says of her former self, “I’m not a different person just because I lost sixteen pounds.”
Her mother though disagrees with Bea and her tears, “At this moment, that fat girl is a thing of the past.” to which the now eight year old Bea wisely answers, “Just because it’s in the past, doesn't mean it didn’t happen.” Like a horror scene right out of “The black swan” little Bea will now have to grapple with forever running from the beast she has seemingly tamed, something her mother is now trying not even to acknowledge.

Dara-Lynn Weiss has been feeling intense backlash since the article was published, big time. She was called one of the most “selfish women to ever grace the magazine’s pages,” by Katie J. M. Baker in a widely distributed post on Jezebel that drew more than 600 comments. A disgusted commenter on New York magazine who described herself as a former eating-disordered teen wrote, “What you hate is what you see in her that reminds you of yourself.”

But not everyone seems to think she is bat-shit crazy, Random House just announced that they have signed a book deal with the author. Salon.com scoffed at the announcement, “Fat-Shaming a Child Into a Book Deal.” Random House no doubt saw the success of Tiger Mom and thought to replicate the profitable 150,000 print copies Penguin Press sold, for themselves.
“So that’s how you get a book published, ladies,” Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote on Salon. “Just write an article about what a mean mommy you are, get a lot of sexy media attention and hate mail for it, and watch the bidding war commence!”
Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon.com wrote, “What makes the book deal for this truly revolting story even more reprehensible is that there is likely no one involved who doesn’t realize exactly how contemptible Weiss’ story is – including Weiss herself.”

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