You might remember Dara-Lynn Weiss as the mom who made huge shockwaves when she wrote an article for Vogue magazine about putting her 7-year-old daughter on a severe diet. Now promoting a full-length book about the same subject, The Heavy: A Mother, a Daughter, a Diet, Weiss claims to have "no regrets" about publicly shaming her small child into losing weight. But that's probably because her daughter, Bea, is still a relatively small child. Now 9 years old, she's probably too young to understand how this experience will impact the rest of her life ... but someday, someday she will stare at the shattered remains of her existence, wondering how she'll ever figure out how to put the pieces back together, and she'll turn and look at her mother and realize: "You're the one who made this mess. You broke me." That's when Weiss will start having regrets.
I was 8 when my mother put me on a strict diet.
I wasn't actually overweight, like Bea was (according to her mom, anyway), but that didn't matter. The important thing: I wasn't as thin as my mother wanted me to be. I didn't know where her obsession with being thin came from. I didn't know my mother's own distorted thinking and self-image issues were to blame for her actions. All I knew at the time was that getting my mother's approval was somehow contingent on the shape and size of my body, by the willpower I displayed and the sacrifices I made. By the time I was 9, I was so underweight the doctor wanted to hospitalize me. My mom thought I looked “perfect.” (I thought I could still stand to lose a pound or two.) Because something about my body seemed, for some reason, repellent to my mother, I was so disgusted by my own flesh that I wanted to make it all disappear. My fourth grade teacher sometimes burst into tears when she looked at me. Kids asked if I had cancer. But unless I could feel every bump and contour of the bones under my skin, I felt vulnerable and at risk. I could only count on my mother's love, I feared, if I mutilated myself to meet her standards.
And that's exactly the opposite of what every child needs: To be able to count on their parents' love no matter what. To know that even though parents might mess up and make mistakes, they will always love you for exactly the person you are.
That may be true of Dara-Lynn Weiss and it might have been true of my mom. I'm sure Weiss thinks she's doing the right thing -- in her eyes, she's saving her daughter from the worst possible fate: Being fat (which is what my mom thought she was doing, too). How can you fault a human being for doing what they truly believe is the right thing? Does my mother have regrets? I don't know if a person can regret things they don't consider to be mistakes.
As a mom, the one thing I truly believe, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is that it's my job to always support and love my kids no matter what they look like or who they turn out to be. And if they don't grow up feeling unconditionally supported and loved, I will deeply, deeply regret the choices I've made and have yet to make.
Do you think Dara-Lynn Weiss will end up regretting her daughter's diet?
Image via Karl Muehller/Flickr