Comfort Cravings

How to soothe yourself without food—and how to eat healthfully and mindfully

Too Young to Diet? A 7-Year-Old on a Diet

Would you put a 7-year-old on a diet?

Over the past few days, there has been public outrage amongst the eating disorder professional community and parents over a new article in Vogue. If you haven't heard about it, here is a brief synopsis.

The article is about Dara-Lynn Weiss, a Manhattan mother, who forced her 7-year-old daughter, Bea, onto a diet. Weiss discusses her struggle to make her daughter lose weight. She chronicles a variety of methods she used to assist in her daughter's weight loss.  According to the article, this included depriving her daughter of certain foods, publicly humiliating her at restaurants, shaming her, and making her eat certain foods despite her pleas against them. Bea does lose weight. She is rewarded by a shopping spree, praise and an article in Vogue.

The article does point out the mother's own struggles with her body weight and self-esteem. She admits that she has tried many ways to lose weight including some dangerous methods such as fad dieting and laxatives. The mother's heart seems to be in the right place. She doesn't want her own daughter to struggle with weight as she has or to be teased. Isn't this what most parents want?  

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What appears to have outraged the eating disorder community and other parents was the methodology. Shaming, criticizing, forcing, and not listening to her body, in the long run, is likely to make a child's relationship to food worse, not better. This is the "diet-centric" approach that many adults use. Does it work in the long run? Statistics show poor results in dieting (see www.nationaleatingdisorders.org for stats). 

Let's hope that this article in Vogue opens up a productive discussion about kids and healthy eating. It's interesting how deep of a button it has pushed in parents across America either "for" or "against" her methods. Instead of hashing out this story, let's refocus. As adults, we have to learn how to eat mindfully, have a healthy relationship with food and manage our weight effectively before we can even begin to help our children. 

There has been talk that the mother has landed a book deal. The risk, according to some professionals, is that parents, who are hungry for ways to help their children cope with childhood obesity, may take this as a manual. Hopefully, this article renews our energy in finding safe, non-shaming, ways of helping kids eat healthier, more mindfully and improve the quality of their lives. Let's also look to professionals who specialize in healthy eating for kids to give us direction.

http://www.childrenshospital.org/clinicalservices/Site1896/mainpageS1896P0.html

www.eatright.org

www.edreferral.com

Join her twitter: @eatingmindfully

See Dr. Susan Albers' new book, But I Deserve This Chocolate: the 50 Most Common Diet-Derailing and How to Outwit Them. She is a psychologist for the Cleveland Clinic and author of five books on mindful eating including 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and Eating Mindfully 2nd edition (pre-order now!). Her books have been noted in O, the Oprah magazine, Shape, Prevention, Health etc. and seen on The Dr. Oz Show on TV.

www.eatingmindfully.com

Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a psychologist who specializes in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns and mindfulness. 

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