In April 2012, when Dara-Lynn Weiss wrote about her attempts to control her seven-year-old daughter Bea’s diet in order to get her to lose weight, there were a lot of vehement reactions; Jezebel, for example, described it as “the worst Vogue article ever.” So when Weiss wrote a memoir, The Heavy, expanding on her experiences and discussing the reactions to her original magazine article, I was interested in having a conversation with her for Life Stories, the podcast where I talk with memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir.
So we talk some about the health issues that were involved, and the controversy that erupted over Weiss’s revelations about the dietary choices she made for her daughter, and her feeling that while some parents are applauded for their vigilance over what their kids eat in other situations, parents of obese children are often not given similar benefit of the doubt. But we also talk about why she now feels it was a mistake to let Bea pose with her in the photo accompanying the Vogue article, and about her surprise at Bea’s reaction when she successfully reached her target weight—and about the difference between eating the right foods and the right amounts of the right foods, and why the “food media” seems to focus on the former rather than the latter.
One especially positive aspect of The Heavy is Weiss’s desire to broaden our sense of the word “diet,” which has popularly come to mean a short-term plan for weight loss, to a more long-term strategy for healthy eating choices throughout life. Much of her memoir centers on the attempt to instill that kind of consistency in her daughter’s eating habits, but more importantly the hope that Bea would, as she grows older, have the maturity to make smart choices for herself.
Listen to Life Stories #20: Dara-Lynn Weiss (MP3 file); or download the file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click).