Vogue's 'Diet Mom:' How I Enforced My Kid's Diet

Dara-Lynn Weiss was stunned by the backlash when she put her 7-year-old daughter on a diet.

Dara-Lynn Weiss, author of the new book <em>The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet</em>.

Dara-Lynn Weiss

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Some of the most painful moments stemmed from other parents who accused Weiss of "fat-shaming" Bea. At a birthday party, for example, she would tell Bea she could have either a cupcake or a slice of cake, not both. She's only a child once, some parents said—she'll grow out of her chubbiness. Let her have another cupcake! "People reacted awkwardly to these kinds of public conversations," Weiss says. "Everyone thought I was shaming her or embarrassing her when I said no." But Weiss looked at it as a mother telling her daughter what to do, as she would in any other aspect of her life—instructing her when to take an aspirin or what to wear to school, for example.

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And it worked: Bea, now 9, grew 2 inches and dropped 16 pounds. She's maintaining her weight and has learned to keep up her new healthy habits—on her own. Life is different now, though. Weiss and Bea once bonded over activities that revolved around food, like strolling down the New York City streets and popping into a cupcake shop. Mother and daughter still enjoy some special moments around food, but these occasions are rarer now, and perhaps even more special. And these days, quality time might mean, say, doing a craft project together.

Weiss wants other parents to understand that there's no easy solution to childhood obesity. It's hard. And there's no way to avoid the many mistakes that are bound to happen. "People say there's a right way and a wrong way," she says. "There's not. I did 10,000 things wrong on my way to doing the right thing for my daughter. I don't blame parents for being too scared to do this—it's incredibly difficult. You have to be willing to be unpopular and to fail, and just love your child enough to do your best."