I do not know if you have heard of this article published in the April 2012 edition of Vogue magazine, but when I read the synopsis of the article, I had to go out and read the whole thing.
Author, and mother of a seven year old girl, Dara-Lynn Weiss, was worried about her daughter Bea’s weight after her doctor expressed concern that the girl was overweight. Weiss took her child to meet with Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, a specialist in childhood obesity. One of Dolgoff’s methods for helping overweight children is to assign the term “ted light” or “green light” designations to foods to help the child know if the food should be eaten in limited quantities, like cake, or if it is okay to have more, like vegetables. Sounds good right?
Well, Dr. Dolgoff’s methods are good, but the mother in the article took matters into her own hands and only visited Dr. Dolgoff the one time.
Weiss, who admittedly has her own problems with a healthy relationship to food, was wildly inconsistent with helping her daughter lose weight, and used extreme methods to help her daughter lose 16 pounds. Here’s a short quote from the article.
“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,” Weiss wrote. “I stopped letting her enjoy Pizza Fridays when she admitted to adding a corn salad as a side dish one week.”
I was horrified by so many of the things this mother admitted to doing to cause the weight loss. From withholding dinner to reprimanding her child in front of her friends for her eating choices, this mom has likely given her daughter an unhealthy view of foods that will take years, if not a lifetime, to overcome.
I know from personal experience that things that happen to us during our childhood can have a lasting effect on how we view our bodies and how we relate to food. I remember my mother putting me on a liquid diet when I was a teenager in high school. I lost a few pounds over the summer, which made her happy. However, she was not happy when I regained the weight by the time October rolled around.
Like my mom, Weiss got the desired results from her daughter but the results likely came at a high price. She rewarded her daughter with new clothes but failed to instill in her the love of healthy foods, the enjoyment of playing for exercise, and other lessons that will put her on a path to obtaining the lifelong habits necessary for weight management. A seven year old is not capable of understanding the ins and outs of nutrition, but she is capable of internalizing the messages that her mom gave her. (I know, because I have a seven year old at home.)
If you have influence of children in your life, I’d encourage you to set an example of healthy eating and regular physical activity. I know we all have our own demons when it comes to food, but let’s make a concerted effort to keep our food issues away from our children and their friends.
We can turn this type of article into a catalyst for conversation about childhood obesity and the right way to help manage this obesity crisis among children. Just like eating healthy food begins at home – a healthy relationship with food also begins at home.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the impact that unhealthy dieting can have on children or anything else on your mind. Diane