A little more than a year ago, that was Bea Weiss, an overeater who failed to self-regulate, in the words of her mother, Dara-Lynn Weiss. You may have read about Bea in recent days. Fat no more, she graces the pages of April Vogue, along with said mother, who cut back little Bea’s calorie intake until she hit 79 pounds. Then she wrote the Vogue story. And then she got a book contract.
I’m not sure which of these details sparked the outrage, but news of Bea’s diet, her mother’s chutzpah and the book deal lit up the Internet like the latest news of a Lindsay Lohan probation violation. Much of the anger, at least initially, was heaped on Dara-Lynn for having the audacity to put her child on a diet. She was accused of humiliating Bea, setting her on a path of lifetime eating disorders and taking out her own obsessive-compulsiveness about food on her daughter. Slate labeled Weiss “self-absorbed” and “fanatical.” Jezebel called the story “The Worst Vogue Article Ever.”
All this for a diet that involved a weight loss of just a little more than a pound a month. That it also produced a healthier child, one who had achieved a significant goal and who was no longer the butt of fat jokes at school was nowhere to be found in the early reactions, though the points cropped up eventually. Had Dara-Lynn chosen to allow Bea to continue fattening up, she could have had her daughter taken from her under federal child welfare laws, which define neglect as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm … or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
Granted, it is rare for the government to remove a child from parental custody on obesity grounds, but it has happened in New Mexico, Ohio and elsewhere, and presumably could have happened to the Weiss family, too. Imagine the outrage then.