2.15.2013

Dieting for Kids

I was torn when I watched this story on ABC News about mother, Dara-Lynn Weiss, who put her 7 year old daughter, Bea, on a diet after learning that she had gained 26 pounds in one year and was diagnosed by her pediatrician as clinically obese.  She wrote about it in Vogue magazine this month.

The diet is called Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right and teaches children to choose foods and gauge nutritional value based on color, rather than calories: "green light foods are nutritious, yellow light foods are eaten in moderation, and red light foods are occasional treats"

In one part of the article which the public found most controversial, Dara-Lynn talks about a birthday party her daughter attended.  Dara-Lynn and her daughter agreed ahead of time that she was allowed a slice of pizza and a piece of cake, however, when her daughter then approached the dessert table for more sweets, Dara-Lynn intercepted her and told her that she had already eaten what she they had agreed upon and wasn't allowed any more.  Sometimes this resulted in a "heated discussion" as her daughter argued with her to have more.  Some readers considered this public humiliation.

Bea started out at 4'4" (52 inches) and weighed 93 lbs.  I'm trying to visualize, so my son is 54 inches and weighs 65 lbs.  You can see below the child on the right:


I don't usually voice my opinions during Feedback Friday, but I'm still trying to figure out what the issue is here?  In my house that is called parenting.  Am I alone in this opinion?  I'm trying to picture my son above 2 inches shorter and almost 30 lbs heavier and not thinking we had a problem.

It's Feedback Friday...

Do you agree or disagree with Dara-Lynn Weiss' decision to put her daughter on a "diet"? (is "diet" the trigger word here? would you feel differently if the word "diet" wasn't used?)

Do you monitor what your children eat and does it matter if you monitor for health or for weight gain?

Have you ever had an argument with your child in public when you have said no to sweets?



23 comments :

  1. I do think I would feel better if the word diet wasn't used. As a society we need to eat better, real foods that come from the ground, and that includes our children, so I don't think she's wrong to change her daughter's eating habits. It needs to be a way of life not just for a while until we lose weight. That's the thing about the word diet, it sounds like the eating changes are temporary - if you are "on" a diet then you can get "off".

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    1. I agree that the word "diet" is a trigger word for some people.

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  2. Hmmmm. I have had the beginnings of an argument with my children in a public place, but usually I decide that it may be time to go home now. Those discussions don't need to take place near others. No need to embarrass and humiliate the child, or the parent to act like a child herself by arguing with the child. I think the diet is definitely called for, but I think special occasions call for a little leeway. By special occasions I mean special and not daily. I also think that if the mother wanted to have the best impact on her child, the daily meals would be her largest and strongest tool along with modeling good eating habits herself.

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    1. I would think that a piece of cake is the special occasion leeway, but do you think that is too strict to limit to one slice of cake?

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    2. I guess it would depend if the other children were given more than one piece of cake. I have a very old memory from when I was a child myself when my grandparents showed up with ice cream, Lots and lots of ice cream. We are a large family, and we were all normal weight, and ice cream was a very rare treat. I think Grandma thought we weren’t getting enough to eat, we just didn't get a lot of sweets. Well. I think I ate myself sick with brain freeze and all. I still love ice cream. I think Mom was a little embarrassed by the amount of ice cream I ate, but it was something that special, and I still think of my Grandma whenever I remember that one time special treat.

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  3. Of course I monitor what my children eat! We are who need to teach our kids how to eat healthy, because the world is shoving McDonald's "fish bites" ( Omg, have you seen those? Puke) and soda and candy down their throats..and they're being very sneaky about it. This has been a hot topic in our home lately, as my 4 yr old daughter has started to notice (sometimes verbally, ugh) when someone is overweight. I'm trying to teach her, that its not about having a big belly, (We don't use the word, fat) its about being healthy! We drink green smoothies, and eat apples, cantelope, peas, whatever, so our eyes are healthy, our heart, our brains, our whole body! And, We eat treats sometimes, because We like treats too!

    Parenting takes courage. And the world is trying to shut parents up, by demonizing them. Would there ever be a problem if a mom was "forcing" her kid to brush their teeth? What about bathing? No.

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    1. What the heck are those fish bites?? Eww! I hate it when fast food places try to pass off something like fried fish as health food.

      It sounds like your eating plan would fit into the Red Light Green Light plan - only you don't call it a "diet". I feel like the use of that word got that mom in more trouble than her actual eating plan.

      The hygiene comparison is a good analogy for this controversy!

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  4. My kids are on a strict "diet"...most of the time we just don't eat certain foods (in full disclosure, my 13 yr old Is eating a leftover vday cupcake for breakfast as I type lol....I'm not the soup nazi here). I have no prob with the whole green light, red light deal...in fact, it's good that she's placing importance on nutritional value instead of just cutting back!

    The real thing that triggers my wth response is the tantrum over a sweet at a party. Probably a ton of underlying issues that need to be addressed over the food problem....like a mom that probably hasn't said no to her kid (hence the 94lb 7yr old). We'd be packing up and going home..done..no way.

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    1. You're right, that kid was probably like "What is this limits thing you speak of?" there couldn't have been many limits for the prior 7 years to get to that point.

      In that respect, I do feel bad for the child because she is paying for the mistakes her mother made for the first 7 years.

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  5. I think we're having such a strong reaction because of the word diet. If she had used a phrase like "sensible eating," I don't think anyone would be this upset.

    Personally, I was an overweight child and it continued throughout middle school, high school and college (size 16). It wasn't until after I graduated that I went on Weight Watchers and finally became a healthy weight (size 8). If you weren't overweight growing up, then you have no idea how mean kids can be. I was constantly teased for being fat. Any good qualities I had didn't matter. While Dara-Lynn's approach might not be perfect, at least she's honest enough to admit it's a problem. Being told you can't have a slice of cake is better than being teased for 18 years. It wrecks havoc on your self esteem.

    /end rant :-)

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  6. I feel like part of a parent's job is to make sure they have good nutrition. We have a kid that's a little husky. After breaking his arm last spring and being less active for a few months he became a lot husky, so we put him on a diet. He didn't' realize he was on a diet, I just stopped having so much junk around the house. I try to always talk about nutrition and not weight. (Heroin addicts are skinny, but not healthy) His slimmed down quite a bit w/out any emotional scars (and frankly no knowledge he was ever on a diet). This mother concerns me. I wonder how much she wants her 15 minutes of fame or if this is just her way of justifying the failures she feels about her daughter's weight. I think we all see people that yell at their kids in public almost in attempt to prove to the world that they are good parents.

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    1. I go back and forth with telling my kids if I am modifying their eating. I don't like the Jessica Seinfeld approach of sneaking all the healthy stuff in disguised as junk food. How else will they learn how to eat healthy on their own?

      However, just getting the junk out of the house and making it unavailable while making healthy alternatives available while not making a big announcement of it is exactly what I do too!

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  7. I think the definition of healthy is different to different people. My son is 11, 5'6" tall, and weighs 166lbs. Most kids his age are half his size. According to the growth charts, he is obese. He was 9lbs 11ozs and 21-1/2" long at birth and has always been a large kid. He is very athletic and is no where near obese. He won a national title in wrestling at the age of 5 as a 76lb heavyweight. He has won numerous awards, recognitions, and championships in baseball, and is currently one of the top ranked 11 year old baseball players in the U.S. He has won accolades in football and basketball as well. He is more active than kids half his size. He eats healthy, never drinks sodas, and rarely eats junk food. I don't feel you can base a child's self worth on their weight. Each child is an individual and parents need to be able to judge their child differently for that reason. They are not numbers on a scale or on a growth chart.

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    1. I think in your case, that weight must be where your son's body needs to be if he exercises and eats healthy. This mom admitted that there was a need for a diet change and she needed to introduce exercise. So, in this case, do you agree she was right to modify her child's eating the way you do with your child?

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  8. It's called teaching your child to eat healthy and not diet. Come on I do it everyday. I do think this mother is sorta dumb calling it a diet! You had one piece of cake you don't need to eat more sugar not you ate once piece if cake and that's all your diet let you. But that won't sell magazines!

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    1. I agree - maybe should have called it a healthy eating habit or something. It just has a negative feeling of deprivation to use the word diet

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  9. No one said anything about sport, or, even better, generally moving.
    In our house, we´re all pretty skinny. I bake about two or three times a week, and my kids do get their fair share of sweets, not more than average, but definetly something everyday.
    Of course we do eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies, but I also love to cook with meat, and we usually drink fruit juice with water. When I cook a soup, I love to add butter and cream and cheese.
    So you could say that nobody of us is on a strong "diet" - and yes, I agree this is the trigger word. I´ve never, ever "dieted" before in my whole life - in fact I believe the more you "diet", the more you think about all the things you´re not supposed to have, and the more you crave them.

    So - we walk a lot. We don´t have a car, so we ride between one to three hours on our bikes everyday, I go to the gym - because it´s fun - my sons and my middle daughter play football, my husband goes running. I´m just about to leave the house to do the grocery shopping for our family of currently 7 with my bike, and we live on a hill.
    And after I´ve done that, I deserved myself a nice, hot chocolate cappucino full of calories. No regrets.

    I think moving should definetly be a point in this whole discussion about red light/ green light diet - if you sit on your sofa all day long and cater your kids everywhere by car, all the dieting is pointless.

    And actually I agree with the statement about public humiliation - if it´s a birthday party, it´s a special occasion, and treats should be allowed - but even if she´s against her daughter having treats on a special event, she shouldn´t have voiced that in public, but at least taken her to another room. Why was she even attending? Where I live, birthday parties are usually not for parents, starting at around age 3... give those kids some privacy :)

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  10. I agree that exercise is so important!

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  11. Veering a bit from the topic.......My 11 year old for the last week has had to record all of her calories throughout the day for school. Her teacher told her they should not be eating more than 2000 calories per day. My daughter was surprised by 3 things. One, how many calories some foods/condiments have in them (example: walnuts, mayo, some cereal). Secondly, that she only eats about 1700 calories/day. And she was also surprised that for the assignment, it didn't matter if they "exercised" or not. I would say we eat relatively healthy in our house, but now she is obsessed with whether or not she can/should eat something because it may have "a lot" of calories. This is somewhat annoying to me. I want her to know what is healthy and what is not, but I also want her to know that she can eat about anything as long as it is in moderation. All of this stems from parents. I cook her food, we hardly eat out, we have vegetables and or fruit with every meal, and snacks are (almost always) "healthy" snacks. We are also a very active family. And yes, I hate the word "diet" especially for a child.

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  12. I went on my first diet at age 8 in the 1980s. I remember my mother telling me what I could and couldn't eat before going out only to be humiliated at the restaurant or someone's house. it wasn't until I realized as an adult that my mother was looked upon as a 'bad mother' because I am fat. The public food talks were her way of saying to the public, "Look I'm a good mom! I'm controlling her caloric intake! Don't judge me!"

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