I almost called this post “How to Give Your Kid an Eating Disorder.” I was turned off by the title of this book: “The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet.” I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book and the topics it brought up. I don’t know if there is a way to discuss the book without coming across as judgmental. So I want to start off by apologizing if I sound that way.
My mixed feelings were hard to decipher. I like weight loss memoirs and as someone who has lost 100 pounds, I can relate to the journey. You would think I’d love this book. Unfortunately, I did not.
The book is about a mother who has an obese child. Bea is about 6 or 7 in the beginning of the book and is classified by her doctor as obese. That’s pretty heavy for a 6 year old. I could relate to Bea feeling self-conscious, embarrassed and sad because of teasing. I wasn’t overweight as a kid–even though I THOUGHT I was. I didn’t gain weight and actually qualify as “overweight” until I was about 17.
“For the prior three decades, I had not attended a party, sat down to a meal, gone to the bathroom, or been physically ill without, on some level, silently calculating how that action would affect my weight. I’d be miserable with the flu, but a little voice inside of me would see the silver lining that the loss of appetite I was suffering meant I might be losing weight. [pg 28]“
That above quote was by the author, the mother. She went on to describe pretty disordered eating patterns that she had most of her life…juice cleanses, fasting to drop weight quickly, etc etc. She talks about how she struggled with being overweight but she was 115 POUNDS instead of 100. What?!?! What kind of delusions is this woman under? 115 pounds?
“While the occasional peculiarities of my diet weren’t causing me serious physical harm. Bea’s way of eating was legitimately dangerous. She was on track to spend her life being overweight and battling the problems that come with it: high blood pressure, diabetes, difficulty moving, heart disease, poor self-esteem, social isolation, depression. [pg 30]“
This broke my heart so much. I found myself getting really angry with the mother. And this is where the judgmental attitude comes across. I kept thinking “what kind of mother lets her 6 year old daughter eat so much she’s OBESE?”
“But occasionally I’d give in to her please for a square of coffee cake, mainly because I wanted to eat half of it. [pg 33]“
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Where were MY parents? Trust me, they were there as I was gaining my weight. I think it was the approach and what my parents said that made me rebel and do the exact opposite than what they wanted. I felt criticized and judged; I felt shamed and restricted. I never felt like I was taught the right way to eat, or portion control; I was just taught “food is bad” and food was something to be hidden. Also, to be fair, I was already an adult and moved out of the house when I truly gained the bulk of my weight. That wasn’t really in my parent’s control. I don’t fault them for that, maybe just their approach.
But what about the mother in this book? Was she not aware that her very young daughter was gaining weight so quickly? It was also a turn off that the writer apparently thought her and her husband were perfect parents in every way.
“Jeff strongly believed that the whole family should be in it together. It shouldn’t just be Bea who went to nutrition doctor appointments and adhered to a new eating plan. It should be all of us. So that Bea wouldn’t feel singled out… [pg 42]“
This was actually good. I was glad that the husband suggested the whole family do the weight loss plan together. I think that’s how it should be. It should be a family goal to be healthy and everyone should support each other. I don’t think one family member should be singled out and SHAMED. But of course Bea still felt singled out because her younger brother got to eat a lot more food than she did.
I really hope that someday when I have kids I can teach them healthy eating and exercise without giving them a complex. I don’t want to shame them, or teach them that foods are bad, or make them feel self-conscious about their bodies. I want them to be healthy like I am now.
“‘I want to be able to do it myself,’ she whimpered. ‘I know I need to lose weight, but I wish I could just do it myself.’ [pg 46]“
She’s SEVEN. Seven years old. That’s a weird statement for a seven year old to make. Are they even aware of something like that at that age? I sure wasn’t.
The mother listed out the foods on their new “diet” and one thing that stood out was that her son ate a slice of pizza for an afternoon snack and Bea had homemade s’mores (two chocolate graham crackers and a marshmallow toasted in the oven). “They were delicious and she ate them almost every day. [pg 61]” Hmmm…I don’t know about those snack choices for a pre-dinner meal. Something about it just rubs me the wrong way.
Mid-way through the book, Dara-Lynn said she bought some sugar-free whipped cream to top strawberries with for only 20 calories. She was so excited about it and it made me wretch. Again, I used to be the person that are tons of processed junk food, then I was the person who ate processed LOW-CALORIE junk. Basically, food with chemicals. I’m not that person anymore so the idea of giving a kid fake food filled with chemicals is just gross to me.
“Instead of looking for whole grains and organic ingredients, I now compared calorie content, fat grams and portion sizes….I wasn’t happy that the reduce calorie content also brought with it maltodextrin, aspartame, artificial flavors, red 40, yellow 6 and blue 1. But I accepted them because the snack better served the purposes of our larger goal. [pg 84]“
How do you feel about that statement? Do you disagree or agree it was the right move?
There was a part in the book where Bea had a bunch of treats and food at a school festival and when she got home, the mom made her eat a light dinner. It was a salad with nonfat dressing and fruit for dessert. I felt badly for Bea. Her mom wasn’t teaching her how to eat in a healthy way, she was teaching her that if you go over your calorie allotment for a meal you need to starve yourself at the next meal!
“It was the most severe food-cutting move I’d ever considered, but I went ahead with it. I knew she had ingested more than enough food to make it through the rest of the day. A child who eats 700-800 extra calories at lunch is not going to starve to death if she does not get dinner. [pg 144]“
She then says “The efforts I had to take to steer Bea through these obstacles were overwhelming. I hadn’t signed up for this. [pg 145]” What? Yes you did! You signed up for this when you decided to have children. Parents are supposed to teach their kids to exercise, eat healthy, know their manners and abc’s. It’s all part of it. School certainly doesn’t teach kids the right way to eat. TV doesn’t. Their friends don’t. I so don’t get this woman!
Saturday mornings was when Bea weighed in. She woke up and was hungry and the mother said “Pee, take off your clothes, and weigh yourself first. [pg 161]” The kid threw a tantrum, saying she didn’t want to weigh herself and the mom said “Sorry, you have to.” Man is that disordered. She also ranted about how almonds, yogurt and salmon were unhealthy.
If you can’t tell, I pretty much hated this book. While I found some interesting things in it here and there, most of it made me really angry and really sad for this girl growing up with an unhealthy mindset about food. There was so much about this book that disturbed me and I didn’t even go into it all.
QUESTION: Have you read this book? What did you think?