It’s a weighty issue.
In a world where models are literally skeletal; where little girls go on diets before kindergarten; where eating disorders are epidemic; its hard enough for women and girls to maintain any semblance of healthy self esteem and body image. And that means parents of girls need to walk a very fine line.
I’ve seen and known parents who cross that line, in private and in public—the latest being the mom who wrote a piece in Vogue about how she got her 7-year old daughter to lose weight. I didn’t read the Vogue piece, but it’s no surprise that it’s generating some heavy controversy.
When I posted the link on Facebook, within 10 minutes I got this private message:
I have to comment privately on your post about the Vogue writer who publicly humiliated her little daughter about her weight loss.
STORY OF MY LIFE!!!! It traumatizes me to this day, to varying degrees. And I wasn’t even “clinically obese.” I was pudgy/chubby at worst. Enough that kids at school made fun of me. But even worse, my parents were obsessed with getting me to lose weight (never mind that my father is obese), and I was publicly humiliated in front of others about what I could and could not eat, etc.
I could not drive the car to high school if I didn’t lose 10 lbs in a month, I could not go on the class trip to Europe if I did not lose weight, etc. Fat camps, psychologist, they tried everything. “Why is my daughter fat?” The doctor would say, “Lady, be grateful your daughter is NOT on drugs, NOT drinking alcohol, and NOT pregnant! If her crime is being 20 lbs overweight, be grateful.”
It was awful. Even worse, I was told that I was “fat, and boys won’t like you. We want boys to like you, we want you to date, so you need to lose weight.”
Now I’m told by people that I am “stunningly beautiful” but I still can’t attract the guy that I want. Is it any wonder that when I am totally in love with a guy and he is not interested, that the FIRST thing I assume is, “Well, I guess I’m too fat. I’m not pretty enough.” Very sad.
I’ve been in therapy 3 times, but it doesn’t really ever go away. Pre-teen years are when a girl’s self-esteem is being formed, and she needs a father who loves her and treats her like a princess, not tells her she is too fat!!!!
Anyway, I just had to comment. I could write a book about what NOT to do if your child is overweight.
Two things immediately struck me as I read her comment.
A—It was hard to believe this woman was ever overweight—she really is thin, and “stunningly gorgeous.”
B–I could also write a book about this—because her story was mine, too.
My weight tormented me; my father tormented me even more. I was never obese, just chunky as a child; still I can’t remember a time he wasn’t obsessed by my weight. And his tactics were similar to those described by my Facebook friend. It wasn’t in a magazine; but it was still public humiliation. Dinners out with the family when he’d tell the waiter not to serve me potatoes or bread. Punishments and taking away privileges unless I lost weight. Sending me to Weight Watchers where they announced your weight out loud.
I always thought it was a miracle that I didn’t develop an eating disorder. Still, it did impact my life. No matter how thin I got, I never felt thin enough.
And then finally I did. Ironic, but it was cancer that cured me of my obsession with weight–permanently.
Hopefully it won’t take cancer for other girls, and women to wake up– and shake off our society’s obsession with being thin.
I want to thank my friend for reaching out; and hope parents will take her words to heart. I hope the mother who wrote in Vogue will learn that the consequences of her own words will last a lifetime. And I wish her daughter, age 7, could look in the mirror and love herself and her body just the way she is.