Thursday, March 28, 2013


I have to confess I was both fascinated and horrified by the premise of this book--that a mother, concerned about her 7-year-old's weight (she is medically obese) puts her on a rigorous and rigid diet, with red light, yellow light, green light foods and constant monitoring of weight, calories, portion sizes, and the foods she eats on playdates. By the end of the year, the 8-year-old girl has lost the weight to bring her to the borderline of normal/overweight; and she can name the calorie count for every food in the camp cafeteria.

Ok, so I need to own my backstory here. I wrestled with my weight until my 30s, when I came around to thinking that diets don't work (for me--and according to some statistics, approximately 97% of the people in America who diet gain it all back) and when I read most of Geneen Roth's work (as well as books by other writers and therapists who think food is too intimately tied up with issues of femininity, power, deprivation, and emotional drama to solve with simple calorie counts). So I began this book by thinking that I am worried for this daughter. She's being set up for an emotional relationship with food; an eating disorder; a perpetual obsession with food ...

But I think Weiss makes an interesting point--that society needs to open up about this issue and face the fact that there is no winning until we start having honest, extended, non-judgmental conversations about childhood obesity. The fact is, Weiss was damned for letting her daughter become overweight and then damned for trying to do something about it. And that's pretty crazy. My heart went out to her when this became clear. 

I did find myself wondering, if she'd read Roth (or any of the other theorists about emotional eating--and she may have, but she does not mention them anywhere), if she might have found a different approach. But I applaud her willingness to share her experience. She doesn't ever say that "this is the way to deal with your child's weight issue"; she is very good about claiming her experience as her own without foisting it off as a solution for anyone else. This is a very readable, humble, and intimate memoir about loving a child and trying to do the best she can. God knows I've made plenty of parenting mistakes myself and am always glad to hear I'm not the only one who's not sure what the heck I'm doing. 

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