If you weren’t on the Internet the day that Dara-Lynn Weiss’s now infamous Vogue article “The Weight Watcher” dropped, you missed out on the Internet equivalent of an 8.5 earthquake. The first person essay chronicled Dara’s rather questionable parenting of her then 7-year-old daughter Bea (not her real name), in which she deprived her child of dinner and publicly humiliated her over her calorie consumption — all in the name of keeping her weight down. But now that Dara’s article turned memoir The Heavy is on the bookshelves, she’s talking a lot more thoughtfully about child obesity.
Dara tells New York Magazine that you got her all wrong. She’s no Manhattan socialite. She’s not that woman who wants her tween to have waxed eyebrows and a tiny waist and be sexy. Her daughter Bea has a medical issue — one that she takes very seriously, so she says. She attests that because of her own “discomfort” surrounding body issues and diet, she was absolutely “underparenting” her daughter on maintaining a healthful diet:
“It’s so awkward to talk to a child about food and weight, that’s why so many parents don’t do it….I was very careful, in determining what was our goal was, to take the guidance of doctors and to choose a weight that was healthy but that was totally separate from any aesthetic value. I would not characterize that weight as “thin” and the fact that our goal came from a medical perspective reflected on my own fear of putting my own aesthetic judgments into this.”
Dara’s time away from the controversy apparently has given her the time to reflect on why the parenting world — among other outlets — exploded in response to her original Vogue article. Context is everything. The mother-of-two considers the packaging, the photos that were ultimately chosen, and the fact that she chose Vogue of all publications to discuss weight issues, with remorse:
First, I want to say this with total respect to Vogue — it’s a certain kind of magazine. It’s a fashion magazine. It has for years made me feel fat and ugly. But when you show up in the pages of Vogue and you look like this woman, I think readers have this idea of who you are, and why you might want to make your child thin. That was not my intention — or the result.
But the mother isn’t all regrets. Dara highlights one of the most fraught intersections of child obesity. The complex space between body acceptance and simply not parenting:
I stand by the assertion that obesity is bad, but not because it makes you look bad. Someone can be heavy and healthy and that’s great and that’s fine. In some ways, I don’t think that we should extend body acceptance to situations where the child is unhealthy. For Bea, her blood pressure was high. She went from a normal to a high blood pressure in a year and gained twenty pounds. It was something that was very immediately affecting her health.
Hindsight is 20/20. Looks like Dara has been making amends across multiple outlets, like “Today,” and has developed quite the insight on such an important issue in our country. Or hired a really good publicist.