Shaming Children for Eating Snacks

Yesterday, the Christianity Today women’s blog ran my fuller response to Dara-Lynn Weiss’ tiger-mom approach to her daughter’s weight loss.

In further exploring the Vogue story, I found the following telling quotations indicating Weiss’ own ‘issues’ with food:

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.

She also notes that she has been

on and off Weight Watchers, Atkins, Slim-Fast, LA Weight Loss, Jenny Craig, juice diets and raw food diets.

Here’s a taste of what I had to say in response:

…I know that a poor diet carries significant health risks. I know that certain foods predispose the body to certain ailments. I know that in a sense, there’s plenty to fear and to feel guilty about.

But there remains the fact that in Scripture, food is always a gift from God. The Garden of Eden is an edible paradise; the God of Israel rains manna and quail from heaven; creatures from lions to cattles to people seek their food from God, who invites anyone–even people who have no money–to come, buy, and eat. And God makes himself flesh, declares himself to be the “true Manna,” and breaks his body as bread, pours his blood as wine, for the life of the world, promising one day to host a marriage supper to celebrate the consummation of all things.

You can read my whole essay at the CT women’s blog here.

A Seven Year Old On a Draconian Diet

A few of you have referred me to the story of Dara-Lynn Weiss and her 7 year old daughter, a frightening story that’s sort of the Tiger Mother of the thin-obsessed.

For those who haven’t read the piece, or some of the outraged responses it has provoked, Weiss’s piece in the April edition of Vogue magazine (not available online) tells how the writer, who admits to having her own lifelong “issues with food,” having tried many diets, used fear, shame, and ridicule to coax her seven year old daughter into losing weight, after a pediatrician appointment revealed that she was in the 99th percentile for weight.

Jezebel calls it the “worst Vogue article ever.” Here’s a taste of some of what Weiss did to her daughter:

I once reproachfully deprived Bea of her dinner after learning that her observation of French Heritage Day at school involved nearly 800 calories of Brie, filet mignon, baguette, and chocolate. I stopped letting her enjoy Pizza Fridays when she admitted to adding a corn salad as a side dish one week. I dressed down a Starbucks barista when he professed ignorance of the nutrition content of the kids’ hot chocolate whose calories are listed as “120-210” on the menu board: Well, which is it? When he couldn’t provide an answer, I dramatically grabbed the drink out of my daughter’s hands, poured it into the garbage, and stormed out.

Weiss says she has spent the past three decades “[hating] how my body looked and [devoting] an inordinate amount of time trying to change it,” so it’s really no surprise that she would pass this fear and loathing on to her daughter.

And of course, now Weiss is writing a book, cringe-worthily titled The Heavy, which will published by Random House.

I’ve got to say that I have few words for how sad and reprehensible I find this story.

Maybe it’s because I’ve read too many stories of life-long eating disorders and self-loathing that begin just like this.

Maybe it’s because the wisest eating advice I’ve encountered focuses on eradicating shame and guilt and instilling joy and confidence in yourself and your children.

Maybe it’s because this is such a distortion of what the feeding relationship between parent and child (yes, and between God and people!) is supposed to be.

I’ll let you know when and if I find more words. Meanwhile, what are YOUR thoughts?