Mom Who Wrote ‘The Heavy’ About Starving Her 7-Year-Old Will ‘Regret’ That Diet Someday

tape measureYou 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

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nonmember avatar Emily

I think she's too stupid, and shallow to regret anything. At 9 years old her daughters body is still developing and I'm not 100% convinced this lady realizes that everyone's body is different. I'm not going to deny that there's an obesity problem in this country, and the consequences are devastating. However, to market a book based around your problem with your daughters body is NO way to go about dealing with body issues. That poor child. The true shame is even if she gave her mom her blessing to write this book, she has no idea what she's giving her consent to.

amomm... amommy2jack

Jacqueline, this could be my story.  My mother was the same way and I wasn't overweight at all, I did develop large breasts and start my periods early which caused my mother even more anxiety over my body - that anxiety passed on to me.  I was weighed each Friday that I lived at home and if I wasn't at my perfect weight (according to my mother) I was locked in my room for the weekend and not fed because I was "a fat pig".  I learned to hate my body and hate my mother and stuggle with these issues even today despite years and years of counciling.  Her weight therapy backfired - as soon as I moved away I became the fat pig she feared and that I envisioned in my mind.  I ache for this little girl and hope her life turns out differently.

tuffy... tuffymama

My mom was like yours, Jacqueline. I was anorexic and bulemic at eleven, and I stopped growing for a long time. I'm the shortest person in my family! I didn't get my period until sixteen, when I stopped throwing up. My gallbladder was trashed for years. I made a lot of bad choices and hurt myself a lot, because of the mother-fed self-loathing. I wish someone had intervened, and I hope an angel comes into the life of this little girl.

nonmember avatar Uscg wife

I think this is an important reminder on how to treat our little girls. In my own life I have always been overly self conscious of my weight. I feel my mom also brought some discouragement towards my body and looks. I never truly felt beautiful and still till this day I look in the mirror and I don't see a beautiful person. If and when I have a daughter I will tell her she is beautiful everyday no matter what. Another thing we can do as a parent is teach healthy eating habits. Eating healthy is not just to be a skinny person but it makes you feel better overall. As a parent we are their role models and its important to remember that. Thank you for sharing your personal story.


I don't know how old this Weiss woman is,but if she is over thirty I highly doubt she will see the errors of her ways. I hope her daughter becomes a real spit fire and takes her life into her own hands early. I'm sorry for all of you who had those bad things in your life and happy that you have or are finding your way out of that tunnel. Tuffymama,I guess yours touched me most because you are such a Tuffymama in your comments. We all have stories. Thanks for sharing yours.

randamda randamda

If anyone is truly over weight, no matter what age they are, they should practice portion control, eat healthy, and get involved in physical activity. The obesity crisis in America is just as bad with children as it is with adults. I'm sorry your mothers had a disorder that they trained all of you to have. I'm not sure if this particular child is over weight or healthy or underweight. I am planning on doing more research but if she, or any child is, than it is their moms job to fix that. This isn't for beauty or to be thin, it's for health.

Char_... Char_gal4

How horrible.  She should be arrested for neglect and abuse.  I remember my mom putting me on a diet after I gained a lot of weight due to a medication I was on for treating the problems autism causes.  It made it worse.  Fake powder butter *blech*, skim milk *meh*, and days at Curves (got boring fast)

Turns out that by slowing down when I ate (I used to eat like my dog: fast), and stopping stress-eating, I improved.  Then I was taken off one of my meds.  I'm now only a tad overweight, but overall much healthier.

the4m... the4mutts

Theres an aspect some people might not even think of to mothers with body image issues.

My mother wasnt hateful about my body like some of yours were. Not at all. She simply ignored me until my body happened to start devolping, and look how she wanted. Then she would tell me how leggy, pretty, and cool i looked. It didnt start till my teens. Unfortunately, she was also jealous of me. So if i looked TOO good, i was accused of trying to get the attention of too many boys.

Even more unfortunately, i had never thought i COULD get the attention of boys with my body. It put the idea into my head, and from 14-18 i turned into a rampant slut. It was like it flipped a switch in my head and i was like "boys will like me if my body looks this way?! And here i thought it was all about clothes. So clothes dont matter, only what i look like OUT of them"

Theres so many problems that can arise from the way this mom is shaming her daughter, and i bet she never even considered it could make her daughter a skank, and thats on top of eating disorders, and whatever other self esteem issues are piling up there.


Wow 4mutts,so sorry.

Heath... HeatherJo11

She sounds like a nutcase. She should regret it. And she shouldn'tbe exploiting her child & her cray cray issues with a bookabout the whole nonsensical thing.

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