Remember that super controversial article that Dara-Lynn Weiss wrote for Vogue about putting her seven-year-old daughter on a calorie-restricted diet? And how that article landed her a book deal?
Well, the book, titled The Heavy, hits stores today and Weiss is making the rounds to promote it. While Weiss remained silent after the intense backlash following the publication of the article in Vogue (Jezebel called Weiss “one of the most fucked up, selfish women to ever grace the magazine’s pages,”) she’s been chatting up a storm to the New York Times, The Cut, and the Today Show.
The first question every outlet asks her is how she responded to the intense backlash. She blames Vogue‘s reputation for part of it. “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,” Weiss told the Cut. “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.” The result was a whole lotta internet hate.
“The backlash was part of the whole reason I wanted the conversation to continue,” Weiss told the NYT. People are so critical of childhood obesity, and then you try to do something about it–to help your child–and they’re critical of that, too.”
Weiss actually sounds pretty reasonable in all of her interviews, noting that what she did and how she did it was all on the advice of her doctors. The NYT and the Cut both found the book balanced and Weiss not nearly as well, extreme, as she seemed in the Vogue piece. While the Vogue article was rather sensationalized–recounting things like how Weiss had a fit in a Starbucks and threw away a hot chocolate because the barista didn’t know how many calories it had–having several hundred pages to tell your story can certainly add a bit more perspective and allow the reader time to sympathize with you.
No matter what you think about the ethics of putting a seven-year-old on a diet, here’s where we think Weiss will still get backlash: Making the decision to write about her child’s struggle in such personal terms. After all, daughter Bea had no say in the book. It’s all from her mom’s point of view. Remember how much backlash that “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” essay got? Putting your kid’s dirty laundry out for the world to pick apart is a questionable decision.
Weiss told the NYT, “I felt like this was something [Bea] should be proud of. This was an enormous accomplishment for her. The book is a celebration of her. Why would she ever need to feel bad for being a part of it?” Other parents are probably going to disagree with that. She told Matt Lauer on the Today Show that her kids were aware of some of the drama surrounding the article, but we think Bea won’t truly get it until she’s a little older and reads it for herself. Weiss actually says in her book, according to the Cut, that Bea was reluctant to do the Vogue shoot at first; she didn’t want to remind people of her problem. At 15, Bea might be super pissed at her mom for all this.
Second, much has been made about Weiss’s admitted “obsession” with food and weight. She owned up to it in the original Vogue article and still admits it’s an issue. “My biggest fear was making her obsessed. I felt that was my problem. I didn’t want her to be like me and end up obsessed with food and weight,” she told the NYT. “But when it became clear that she needed help…I couldn’t ignore that in the hope of not creating an obsession.” Still, people will always wonder–unfairly, perhaps–if that was the real motivation for putting Bea on such an extreme regimen. And, of course, there is a certain irony of devoting an entire book to your daughter’s weight struggle–and then hoping it doesn’t become a preoccupation for her.
The Heavy is going to cause a lot of dinner table chatter, we suspect. Will you read it?