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Mom puts 7-year-old on a diet: healthy choice or prep for an eating disorder?

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A curvy, glowing Jennifer Lopez may be peering out from the cover of the new April edition of Vogue's annual Shape issue. But it's a hauntingly cute 8-year-old inside who may end up getting more attention.

At the age of seven, Bea's mother, Dara-Lynn Weiss put her on a strict diet after her doctor said she was clinically obese. Then, Ms. Weiss decided to write about it for Vogue readers.

In one episode, Ms. Weiss dresses down a Starbucks barista for not being able to clarify the number of calories in a child's hot chocolate (it was listed at 120-210).

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"Well, which is it? When he couldn't provide an answer, I dramatically grabbed the drink out of my daughter's hands, poured it into the garbage and stormed out."

Ms. Weiss is also very upfront about her own eating and body image issues, which she said started in her youth: "...I hated how my body looked and devoted an inordinate amount of time to trying to change it."

(The article is not available online.)

Ms. Weiss details her history of using Weight Watchers, Atkins and a series of other slimming techniques, including laxatives and FDA-banned appetite suppressants.

"I have not ingested any food, looked at a restaurant menu, or been sick to the point of vomiting without silently launching a complicated mental algorithm about how it will affect my weight," she writes. "...Who was I to teach a little girl how to maintain a healthy weight and body image?"

Critics are beginning to line up to tell Ms. Weiss that she was, indeed, not the person for the job, even though she managed to help her daughter lose 16 pounds in a year.

Jezebel blogger Katie J.M. Baker contacted the doctor whose children's weight-loss method, Red-Light, Green-Light, Eat Right, Ms. Weiss started with, before veering in another direction.

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Joanna Dolgoff "wasn't thrilled" by the article, Ms. Baker writes.

"The program has to be run by the child," Dr. Dolgoff told Ms. Baker, "and the truth is that making a child feel bad only causes problems. It's not going to help with weight loss, and it's definitely not going to help the child emotionally."

Other observers are using the piece as a positive tool to talk about how to put your child on a diet.

Beyond the legacy of having been written about in Vogue magazine, does this kind of severe dieting under the watchful eye of a weight-obsessed mother set a girl for long-term issues?

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About the Author

Tralee Pearce has been a reporter at The Globe and Mail since 1999, starting as a writer in the paper’s Style section. She joined the new Life section for its launch in 2007. She covers parenting and family issues for the daily section. More

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