Please read the BabyCenter.com article in its entirety … it warrants a complete reading and I can’t analyze it piece-by-piece but couldn’t NOT address it.
One of my biggest fears about having a daughter, in particular, is transferring my [past] food issues onto her. While I’m past the years of overexercising and disordered eating, I’ve shared that sentiment before, and now that Maya is eating pretty much everything, I’m very aware that how I eat/what I eat is resonating with her. No, she can’t rationalize food choices yet –but she whimpers “uh uh” for whatever we are eating.
She loves to eat, and she seems to be growing just perfectly within the same curve as she did in the womb — “on the small side of normal.”
[For anyone who cares about baby stats, she weighed in at 21 lbs 9 oz at her 15 mth appt (up to 30th percentile from 25th!) and she was 29.25 inches tall (25th percentile up from 20th). This is all excellent, as she was born in the 10th percentile for weight and height].
But just because she doesn’t have an iota of a weight problem now doesn’t mean she won’t in the future. Genetics play a large role in obesity, as well as one’s environment — it’s definitely a nature AND nurture issue.
Well, reading this article was absolute proof of what NOT to do if Maya has a weight problem later in life. Under any circumstances. EVER.
I don’t think I’ve read anything that has ever made me so angry. In fact, I sought out the original article at Walgreen’s today to read it in full and make sure my rage was for just cause.
And it was.
For starters, this is Vogue; a magazine that glamorizes thinness and beauty on every.single.page. Therefore, you have to take the source –a Vogue writer — into account … which almost makes it expected … and sad. The author puts herself out there for criticism and for that, she is brave. But for what she did to her daughter? Shameful, reprehensible, and, yes, abusive in a sense.
Per the Vogue piece, Bea, the girl in question is SIX when the pediatrician tells the author her daughters is obese, but it doesn’t even sound like she was that big. And again, she is six. Aren’t children still growing out of their baby fat at age six?
I know weight is a sensitive topic for doctors and patients and I get that; I do. But I am also 100% sure no doctor in their right mind would tell a patient’s mother to take action in the ways the author does. They might make suggestions for eating better, exercising more … but no doctor would say to take it to the extremes.
The way the Vogue writer handled her daughter’s obesity diagnosis made me sick to my stomach: denying her daughter dinner because she had had a heavy French lunch (instead of maybe suggesting she have something nutritious and maybe using it as a teaching lesson), publicly humiliating her in front of her friends when she wanted cake/cookies (why? why?! why not let her have a little, instead of such a staunch position “NO” and making her feel worse?), explaining out loud why she “can’t have” certain foods (instead of suggesting things she can have with no dialogue about it), obsessing over calories and weigh-ins and so on and so forth (instead of just serving up healthier options without discussion).
Every way she went about this, in my opinion, was the wrong way.
Plus, not to state the obvious, but at six, aren’t all (or most) of one’s meals prepared by parents/caregivers? I’m not entirely blaming the parents, but really, how can the child be at fault for being overweight? It’s not like the kid is going to Walgreen’s and buying a candy bars or hitting the drive-thru on his way home for a burger and fries. In a world of excess where there is junk food available pretty much everywhere, parents are responsible for putting up realistic parameters: maybe two cookies is an acceptable dessert; a whole sleeve of Oreos is not. It doesn’t matter if a child has a weight problem or not; boundaries need to exist to some extent.
And isn’t it a parent’s responsibility to lead by example and encourage their children to be active? A child doesn’t sit in front of the TV for hours on end for no reason: someone is allowing it. That same someone isn’t suggesting running around outside, swimming, kicking a soccer ball around, a family walk, etc.
So how is any of this, then, a 6 or 7-year-old’s fault?
Clearly, this mother was transferring her issues and insecurities to her daughter. Instead of just encouraging her daughter to eat better and be more active, she goes the complete extreme opposite … causing rifts between her and her husband, family and friends who all thought [rightfully so] that she was taking it to the extremes.
The worst part is listening to the author’s voice in the original piece, sharing her own sordid history with weight and food issues; her own insecurities and fears. It made me sad to think that could have been me only a few years ago … I never want to be her.
The author’s daughter, Bea, ends up losing 16 pounds in a year, and her mother buys her dresses and gets her the feather hair extension she wanted for getting to goal. In many ways, the writer got what she wanted: a thin daughter.
But did she really get what she wanted? Did she really “win”? Absolutely not.
Check out this closing paragraph in the Vogue article.
“When I ask her if she likes how she looks now, if she’s proud of what she’s accomplished, she says yes…Even so, the person she used to be still weighs on her. 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.” I protest that, indeed, she is different. At this moment, that fat girl is a thing of the past. A tear rolls down her beautiful cheek, past the glued-in feather. “Just because it’s in the past,” she says, “doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.””
My heart aches for Bea. I hope Maya never feels the pain Bea felt when she was overweight and teased for it as much as I hope Maya never feels shame from me like Bea felt from her mother.
It would be the biggest failure as a mom, in my mind, to transfer my issues onto my daughter — and it’d be especially bad if I, like the author, felt justified in my actions.
Childhood obesity is a real epidemic in this country; I don’t doubt it for a second. And while I don’t begrudge a mother for wanting what’s best for her child or wanting to help her child get healthier, there is a way to do things so as not to create a food-fearing/weight-obsessed child.
Because let’s be honest. It isn’t easy, but weight loss isn’t rocket science. For a person — child or adult — to lose weight, they ought to do the following:
1) Eat less (specifically, junk); eat more (fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein, etc.)
2) Move more.
[No one says it is painless and quick. But it works. For a child to experience gradual, healthy weight loss, it might mean switching to low-fat dairy, having fruit for dessert more often, and taking the dog for a family walk each day. I’m pretty sure no pediatrician under the sun would recommend the methods the Vogue author used: they are a prescription for a future eating disorder.]
The one thing left off my list is the very same thing this mother capitalized on: SHAME.
She essentially shamed her daughter into weight loss every step of the way, and I would bet you all the money in my bank account that in ten years — or maybe even five — little Bea has an eating disorder or disordered eating tendencies of some sort. She will resent her mother. She will feel inadequate. And she will feel shame. Because that’s what she was taught by this mother who supposedly cares so much about her.
There are ways to care for your children, to protect them, that don’t involve shaming them. Leading by example; encouraging a child to make good choices (empowering them to choose); encouraging physical activity, to name a few.
I am quite sure the author knew what she was getting into by sharing her story; no one shares something so deeply personal without thought of how it will be perceived (trust me, I know).
I just feel for her daughter who, at 7, surely had no say in this whatsoever.
Bea, if you are reading this someday, please know what your mom did is NOT OK. Contrary to what your mom seems to think, those 16 pounds don’t define you. And if you gained every one of them back (and you will; you’re only 7!) you’d still be Bea.
How about you? Did your mother (or father) ever put you on a “diet?” Do you agree with how the Vogue author handled her daughter’s obesity diagnosis? If your child was overweight/obese, how would you handle it? Would you address it or let him/her outgrow it?