Mother Finds Heartbreaking ‘Diet List’ On 7-Year-Old Daughter’s Bedroom Floor

Straight from the files of WTF Are We Teaching Our Daughters comes this concerning tale of a mother of three who went about picking up her 7-year-old daughter’s bedroom. Among the “Polly Pockets” and  ”friendship bracelets,” Amy Cheney discovered a very sobering tween artifact on girls diets that will leave you weeping. And raging against media depictions of women, girls, and their bodies.

Between the “variety of other crap seven-year-old’s love to horde,” Amy uncovered this “dyiet” list: a record of foods ingested and completed exercise:

girls diets


Upon deciphering the eerie diet notes of a 7-year-old, Amy falls into a litany of questions about her parenting:

Diyet. Jesus.

Where did she learn the word diet? How does she even know what a freaking diet is?

Whose fault is this? Is it mine because I let her play with Barbies? Because sometimes she’s allowed to watch Total Drama Action? Is it because when I draw with her I can only draw stick figures?

Seventeen Poosh-ups two times a day.

I felt sick. Physically ill. Like someone had knocked the air from my chest.

I could feel myself getting increasingly anxious the more words I was able to interpret from her seven-year-old spelling.

Three Appals, One Per, Two Keewee Froots.

How did this happen?

Amy describes herself as “smart about this stuff.” She asserts that she holds a degree in early childhood studies and refrains from asking the “do I looks fat?” questions in front of her kids. The mother adds that “weight has never been an issue in our home.”

Turns out that “Miss Seven,” as Amy refers to her, learned the word “diet” from a friend at school. Another 7-year-old who was on a diet — or “dyiet” — herself. Amy goes into little detail about the talk she had with Miss Seven upon finding the Dyiet List, just that they “chatted about diets and beautiful healthy bodies and the gift that they are.”

But once the initial shock subsided, Amy was plenty (and rightfully) infuriated:

And then I got angry. Really, really angry.

F*ck you society. F*ck you and your and stupid obsession with women and the way they look.

How dare you sneak into my home with your ridiculous standards and embed them in my little girls head, polluting her innocence with your pathetic ideals.

Jog/run up and down the driv way three times.

Your unrealistic expectations will not win in my house.

I am tired of the beauty and body obsessed arena we live in. I am tired of women being portrayed as objects to be saluted and admired or shunned and shamed depending on whether they measure up to societies idealistic standards. I am tired of the conformist attitudes. And then, because I was so tired (and sad, so sad) that I cried…I am not naive. I know this will not be the last time I talk about food and weight and bodies with my daughter. I am just ultra pissed that it had to start when she was seven.



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  • lisacng @

    It’s almost inevitable that our girls will be exposed to this and they are not mature enough to understand how beautiful and perfect they are, just the way they are! I hope that this mom finds wisdom in how to deal with this

  • CG

    I don’t think that this is that big a deal…if she has issues with her body then it is, but when I was around this age I was in LOVE with making schedules and lists for myself. I rarely stuck to them, but got hours of entertainment out of coming up with well planned weeks and activities.

    • waffre

      That’s how I felt when I saw this, too– especially since there are only check-boxes for one day’s worth of this “diet” it seems more like a play exercise to me. Even so, it was probably a good idea to have the conversation with the kid because if the fact she doesn’t need a diet wasn’t discussed I could see her getting the idea that dieting is just something female persons are supposed to do.

    • alice

      agreed. though perhaps (and i can’t find confirmation one way or another) the word “diet” in the UK strictly means “the thing you do to lose weight.” in which case, i could see how the mom (mum!) would be alarmed.

      but if that’s not the case, then i’d say this lady is really overreacting. “diet” is primarily the word we use to describe what we eat. and it’s really only the “beauty and body obsessed” who solely associate that word with the action of losing weight.

      looks like the kid has a pretty healthy diet and exercise routine. good for her. :)

    • canaduck

      Considering that a recent study found that something like 42% of 1st to 3rd grade girls listed “being thinner” as their number one wish, it’s perfectly reasonable for the author to be horrified. Like you, I was also crazy lister/scheduler myself at her age, but I also started developing eating disordered behaviour by about 10.

      For what it’s worth, I agree completely that you’re right and it might be nothing at all–but I’m just glad to know that this mom is on top of things and paying attention, assuming that she talks calmly to her daughter about it before freaking out.

    • Paul White

      I’m going to be crass here; how many children are overweight? If you are overweight, isn’t it good to know it and want to not be overweight? this isn’t just an aesthetics thing. Carrying around significant amounts of extra fat isn’t good for you.

    • Kelli

      Here’s my experience as an 8 year old: I was a skinny bobblehead back then but I was consumed with using my parent’s exercise machine and drink Slimfasts that my dad bought for himself to keep myself thin or look better (because I was heavily influenced by TV that I must concern myself with how much fat there was on my body). Thankfully my parents caught my behavior and saved me from developing more hurtful habits. My main point is that even if a child is overweight, it should not be left up to the child to maintain that, because they are a child! They are not knowledgeable enough yet to make extreme health decisions or see that they stem from our unhealthy “ideal image” culture. Sadly there may be parents that contribute to a child’s unhealthy gain in weight, but this did not seem apparent in this article, nor was it the focus point.

    • No more

      I am an “overweight” adult (bmi) that was anorexic as a young girl and teen. One of the biggest problems I struggle with, is that I never learned to eat properly. I am way healthier now (according to my doctor) but I do find myself falling into the habits I had when I was a teen. I had the same kind of thoughts when I was seven… Nearly killed me as a teen.

  • waffre

    Please tell me 7-year-olds aren’t considered “tweens” now… at this rate girls will go directly from being toddlers to tweens soon enough! I wish that word had never been invented, it seems like it’s just another way to market age-inappropriate products to young girls.

  • Diana

    I was babysitting a ( very skinny) 5 year old last week who wouldn’t eat breakfast for fear of “putting on weight.” She had fainted at school one morning also. I suspect this is why. I honestly didn’t know what to say. So I told her that little girls don’t put on weight , only mommys do. Probably totally wrong of me but she took me by surprise.

    • Valeri Jones

      I think this was a very good response considering how she put you on the spot.

    • Kelly

      It’s a lie. Spreading false information isn’t helpful.

  • Mary

    I’m in shock that a woman with a degree in early childhood studies interpreted this “diet” as something that is bad. School, for an example, teach kids about eating healthy and exercising. They even use the term “a healthy diet”. It’s Michelle Obama’s platform, isn’t it? She has made it a mission to make sure schools eat better and get enough exercise. I can’t believe that made this mom panic!

    • faifai

      I think the bad part is that the list was clearly labelled as a Diet. As in, weight-loss diet. Not Healthy Eating Plan. Knowmsayin’? Because yes, this actually really isn’t that bad of a plan for healthy eating and exercise, but it doesn’t look like the “Get Active!” stuff they show on kids tv, it looks like a weight-loss plan written by a child.

    • Zettai

      I see what you’re saying, bit I have to disagree. The kid can barely write and spell “diet”. She’s not going to label this “healthy eating plan”.

    • Kelly

      This list was not clearly labelled as a weight loss diet. You are seeing things that aren’t there. It lists eating lots of fruits and drinking water and exercise. It doesn’t look like a weight loss plan at all. You are projecting.

    • Valeri Jones

      I honestly don’t think kids that age should be worrying AT ALL about what they look like or what they are eating. When I was a kid, I wanted to ride my bike and eat ice cream all day because it was fun and it tasted good, respectively. My mom picked out my clothes until I was almost 10. I just don’t think it’s good for girls to start worrying about things like this at all at such a young age. It just shows that are kids are growing up faster and faster nowadays.

    • Kelly

      I disagree. Kids should be taught what healthy foods are and that exercise is important to good health. Maybe we would have fewer obese adults if that happened. It’s nice that you wanted to eat ice cream all day because it was fun but someone should have told you that fruits and vegetables are healthier than ice cream.

    • Valeri Jones

      I’m not saying I DID eat ice cream all day or that it’s a bad thing for kids to be aware of what goes into their bodies. I’m just really hoping that this little girl’s “diyet” really is a list for staying healthy and not to lose weight. Because if it is, then that’s just downright sad.

  • Lilura

    At first I was all set to be horrified…. and yes the fact that diet has infiltrated society so much is concerning. However, at least her diet list didn’t say “eat nothing but lemons all day” and “do 100 pushups”. Riding her bike and going for a short jog and eating plenty of fruit, is probably far healthier than sitting on her butt and playing video games. As a parent myself, I would take this opportunity to discuss and encourage healthy lifestyles and decisions. IE; not “counting calories” but ensuring she had more healthy foods (fruit) than unhealthy processed foods per day. I would also ensure my daughter understood that “beautiful, healthy bodies” does not necessarily mean “thin bodies”.

  • Michelle

    This seems normal to me. What would be scary and a red flag would be if the daughter was depriving herself of certain foods or equating eating a certain food to having to exercise it off. Eating healthy and moderate exercise is a really good thing for children to learn as part of a healthy lifestyle. If this were my child I would tell her how this is good so long as she is happy about her body and isn’t restricting calories.

  • Tomatobee

    Maybe correct the fact that the girl’s “diet” isn’t a diet. That’s healthy eating and ensuring exercise is done by making a list. I make lists to make sure I complete tasks and goals all the time – especially when it comes to exercise and healthy eating (and water tracking) and I’m definitely not skinny. I’m healthy, though!

  • Paul White

    So….eating 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day and doing a modest amount of exercise is an obsession?
    Look, I am *keenly* aware of the reality of body image issues; my first serious girlfriend was anorexic, and I had distorted ideas of what I should look like in adolesence (though it never was at a pathological level). But there’s nothing here that’s inherently bad. I mean, if it’s combined with the girls reluctance to eat a healthy diet, sure. Or if she keeps exercising till she’s faint, sure.

    But look, I log my food. I track what I eat because it’s easier to be healthy that way (did I *really* eat 5-6 servings of produce? Did I stay at a reasonable 2000-2500 calories?).

    If you ignore your diet, and don’t pay attention to getting any physical activity the odds are you’ll eat for crap and not be active and consequently be unhealthy (if you work a physical job that’s different of course but most people don’t).

    • Tinyfaeri

      This! People confuse the word “diet” with “being on a diet.” It seems like she’s trying to get more active and healthy… which is awesome for a 7 year old in this video game and TV culture. A diet is just what you eat, and it sounds like she has been paying attention in health class.
      Of course you want to pay attention to make sure it’s not the beginning of a problem, but as parents we’re supposed to check in with our kids from time to time anyway. I think that’s called “parenting.”
      And I totally make a food diary when I remember, ditto with exercise. Not to starve myself, but because I find it useful to see what I’m eating to make sure it’s mostly healthy, and I try to track my activity to see how I’m improving. We loosely track what my almost-toddler eats as well to make sure we’re varying her food (otherwise it’d be the same thing every day).

  • mel

    Am I the only one who thinks it’s funny that the author misspelled the child’s misspelling of “diet”?

    • Katia

      glad I’m not the only one who noticed.

    • Christina Parlatore

      She did that to show how the 7 yr old is so young and misspells words and yet she’s living like an adult worrying about gaining weight.

    • once upon a time

      You’re giving her far too much credit.

    • Valeri Jones

      No, you are not the only one.

  • Justme

    I would ask your daughter first what the list was for and then gauge her response to see how you should approach the situation.

  • Melissa T

    Um, most schools are holding campaigns to eat healthily and exercise. This looks like homework practically. I don’t see anything about body image, just a reminder to exercise and eat healthy. Ordering and making lists like this is a perfectly normal 7 year old response. I don’t see anything to be outraged about here. Diet is also a word for what we eat. It sounds like her friend is making healthy choices for herself and shared her pride in her hard work…what’s wrong with that?

  • Manderlay

    I thought I would end up being flamed if I wrote what I honestly thought about this…but i see that others actually feel the same way. I have an eight year old daughter and I am always on the lookout for cues that she is getting unrealistic messages about her body and internalizing these messages. So, I also get that this could be a serious issue. But, so many kids consume nothing but processed ‘snack’ foods and carry out. I actually found this refreshing. Here is a child who enjoys yogurt, fruit and water! My own daughter eats in a similar fashion. NOT because we have ‘put her on a diet’! But because our family eats this way. I always tell her that our ‘diet’ is not about weight…it is about eating healthy, whole food…and plenty of it! Eating healthy does not mean going hungry or depriving oneself. I also try not to use the term ‘diet’ — even when I am just talking about nutrition in general. I say, instead, that ‘Our family’s food plan is that we eat real food, not the fake stuff.’

    I would worry quite a bit if the child in question was making self deprecating remarks about her appearance or her weight…or if she started calling other people ‘fat’. But if she is healthy, energetic and happy…and eats well? And enjoys being active? In the long run she will have a better quality of life.

  • Zoe

    I’m relieved to see so many people thought the same thing as me… in the age of obesity, isn’t it a good thing that this girl is taking such an active interest in her own health? 17 push-ups twice a day isn’t much. 16 star jumps twice a day will take less than a minute. What she’s written on this list is not unreasonable. The word ‘fat’ isn’t mentioned anywhere. I don’t see any self-hate.

    Don’t forget that this is also a list for one day. She’s 7. The girl probably did this for a single day, then got bored and went onto something else.

    I really, really hope the mother did not overdo it and discourage her from pursuing good health, exercise and nutrition. Spending your teen years as ‘the fat girl’ is going to be a lot more damaging than some push-ups and apples.

  • Cee

    Eating disorders can start very young, people! I have seen little girls hide food and sob when it is found, students at the elementary schools I work for have asked me if I think they are fat or skinny. My own sister developed an eating disorder quite young. Its irritating to read “oh she’s just being healthy.” Way to be an observant parent to a potential eating disorder/ psychological problem, parents! No wonder lots of children turn to the internet for advice. If she is truly going at this from a health stance, good for her, but I wouldn’t shrug it off as that and go on my merry way. I would still keep an eye out for what she does and says for a while and see if its just “I saw Michelle Obama do push ups on the Disney Channel with Zack and Cody and now I want to do it!” or “Melissa and Jenny told me I was too fat to be their friend and they are so right.”

    As someone who found her sisters Minnie Mouse notebook with a meticulously written diet plan, copied point counts for Weight Watchers suggestions for restaurants and home, and calorie counts, I would at least be observant. It doesn’t hurt.

    • Paul White

      See, this sort of thing is not in itself pathological or unhealthy, even at a young age. Nothing on her list was in itself bad or unhealthy.
      Based on the information here, you cannot draw the conclusion that the young woman in question is suffering from an eating disorder. Sure, pay attention; make sure she’s eating. And make sure she isn’t overdoing the exercise. But this in itself isn’t a cause for massive alarm. And it isn’t, in itself, cause to curse society for making people care about weight and looks (frankly, I’d argue at least *caring* about weight is a net good, and telling any visual species not to worry about looks is counterproductive).

    • Lawcat

      I agree. Diet has two meanings, and from the things on her list, it looks more like a healthy lifestyle type thing learned in class than the diet we associate with losing weight. I think it’s good to talk things through with the kid, but definitely premature to go straight to ZOMG she may develop an eating disorder!

    • Eileen

      Yeah. This could be a healthy thing, in response to a health-class lesson about what we should be eating or a gym-class lesson about the importance of physical activity. Or it could be a play thing – maybe imitating a friend’s mom’s (or her own’s?) behavior. Or it could be about worrying she’s fat. Don’t panic or go overboard (she’s still a young kid!), but definitely keep an eye on her.

    • Daisy

      I agree. Since we really don’t know just from the note what was going on in the kid’s head, the best way to handle it is probably just to have a casual chat about healthy bodies, without making a huge deal out of it. Overreacting would probably make the kid much more self-conscious about it, and cause more problems than it would solve.

  • quinn

    I did this when I was her age, complete with waist and hip measurements. I never stuck to them, but I was always very aware of my mom trashing the way she looked, so I think that is where it comes from. If this mom doesn’t do that, then I would try to meet and spend time around the mothers of some of the girls she is hanging out with at school, it might be enlightening.

  • once upon a time

    I’ve always felt that there’s been an overcompensation regarding eating disorders and this has kind of proved it for me.

    Seems like all I hear about is how the media and society are driving girls to eating disorders; maybe this is correct, maybe not. But whenever someones dares to suggest that we need to do something about obesity – something that causes more deaths and health problems than eating disorders by far – everyone cries, “Fat shaming!”

    I would wager near anything that this girl has just done a ‘healthy diet’ unit at school. I remember telling my parents when I was primary school aged that I was going on a diet and them freaking out, until they realised that by ‘diet’ I meant ‘eat a healthy diet’.

    Look, props to the mum for keeping on top of things, but it’s all a bit of a tempest in a teapot. Slow mummy blogging day, hey?

  • Fabel

    I’m more concerned about the atrocious spelling. At 7-years-old, she should be able to spell simple things like “diet” , “push” , “apple”—no? And also know which way a ’3′ is supposed to face?

    Sorry, I know this is kind of a troll-y comment, but my inner grammar & spelling nazi is horrified. They still teach this stuff, right?

    • Justme

      Letters facing the wrong way (and numbers too) are often symptoms of a deeper learning disability. So there’s that.

    • AmyM

      A seven year old is possibly still a first grader. They can usually read much better than they write at this age and writing letters and numbers backward is still within the norm. My six year spells like this. My eight year old is better but even though she is reading at a sixth grade level, her spelling is still pretty wacky.

    • Valeri Jones

      Grammar and spelling are on the constant decline and it will be the downfall of society. I was in a clothing store the other day and saw this printed on the front of a child’s shirt: “Thank Heaven for Little Boy’s.” Seriously?!?!?! I rant about grammar, spelling, and punctuation constantly and will not stop. Twitter, Facebook, and texting are ruining common sense.

    • sarah

      You’re an adult and you don’t know not to hyphenate “seven years old”, so…

    • AP

      I wouldn’t nitpick that one. Hyphens are falling out of favor grammatically, kind of like Oxford/Harvard commas. I don’t agree, but it’s not technically wrong.

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  • Morgan Dillon

    Sounds more like a list of healthy habits? Fruit, water, exercise??? I mean, doing pushups and jumping jacks isn’t going to hurt the kid. And she could have learned any of that stuff from watching Sesame Street.

  • Ap

    I think the mom in this story is projecting her own issues all over this and out of line to have said anything to the girl. Most of our elementary school children are obese and sedentary, and yet, it’s wrong, shameful, and anger-inspiring to modify a child’s nutrition and exercise to reflect this fact? This “diet” consists of fruit, yogurt, water, and exercise recommendations- all good, healthy things for a little girl to do!

    Additionally- and the author may know, but doesn’t specify- perhaps the girl has a valid reason to be on a diet. Maybe her doctor said she needed to eat healthier and exercise more. Maybe she’s diabetic, or has high cholesterol, or any myriad of health problems that aren’t apparent on the outside. Or perhaps a family member has a health restriction, and the family is changing their routines to support Grandma’s heart-healthy diet or Brother’s weight loss- and now a friend’s mother is undermining that effort by shaming her.

  • kay

    I don’t think being concerned about your kid is overreacting. An eating disorder nearly killed me by the time I was 16; I spent several days strapped into a hospital bed being tube-fed before I could even begin to eat solid food again, and wasn’t able to leave the hospital for several months after. Well before that, I was seven and counting individual Cheerios, skipping meals, doing sit-ups and riding my bike around the block fifty times. Kids should not be worrying about being fat at that age.

  • Kelly

    Your diet consists of the foods you eat each day. Everyone who eats has a diet. She should have learned that word in school. As for her “diyet” she seems to be recording healthy foods she eats and trying to exercise. I don’t see the problem. I think mom’s projecting her own insecurities onto her innocent daughter.

  • otterpop

    i was always a chubby kid, and i can attest – by the time i was 7, i was more than a little aware that i wasn’t ‘pretty’ (i.e., thin) like other girls in my class. i hated how i looked, and if the whole dieting phenomenom was as easily accessible 15 or so years ago (since the internet wasn’t as widespread, this kid of information wasn’t quite as easy to get as it is now), i can guarantee that i would have already been attempting it. by the time i was 11 or 12, i had discovered dieting, and tried repeatedly to force myself to lose weight. by 15 i discovered meth, so that combined with anorexia left me rather disturbingly thin for a 5’7 girl.
    i’m now in my 20s and pregnant with my first. i still have trouble making myself eat enough (allthough it’s easier now that my baby seems to be devouring every single bit of nutrition that i put into my stomach, leaving me constantly starving hungry – i also have low blood sugar, so in order to keep from fainting/feeling sick, i HAVE to eat more often)…and i’ll admit it, even now i still would try to get arond eating if it weren’t for the fact that having a healthy baby is extremely important to me. if i found something like this in my child’s room, i would be concerned. i would sit down and talk to her about it. mostly because i want my child to have a far better self image than i have had for essentially my entire life. i want her to bbe happy with herself.

  • Kristen

    To Mel: Because of people like you, sitcoms exist and newspapers are written at a 5th grade level. The author spelled it that way to mimic what the little girl had done. This was absolutely clear. The article is well done. And sad. You are an idiot.

  • Kristen

    I thought this article was so very sad, tragic, and a necessary commentary on the writer’s personal situation and society at large. But… reading these comments is what has me really sick. People are so nuts. No wonder women, girls, and now more frequently men and boys, are so obsessed with their appearances. Our world is broken.

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