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Dieting Kids Aren’t Vogue

Dieting kids aren’t Vogue, but Vogue published a story about a perceived dieting success story.

In a kid.

I have been known to pick up a copy of Vogue magazine at the airport now and then. But something changed. I guess I changed. I have worked with more and more children and teens with eating disorders over the last six years. I also have three teens of my own, and with their friends in tow, am surrounded by female hormones, self-doubt and body criticism.

My growing disenchantment with Vogue accelerated last year.

Remember when Vogue allowed Dara Lynn-Weiss, the mom who put her young daughter on a diet, to publish her story? I was moved to write about my concerns and share my opinion. As a mom and childhood nutrition expert, Ms. Weiss made me very uncomfortable with the way she handled her daughter’s extra weight, not only because she restricted her eating (an approach shown in the research to be counter-productive, and associated with overeating and weight gain), but also in her tone and manner of speaking with her daughter about her weight.

When Vogue featured this ‘how mothers can help their daughters lose weight’ article, my skin crawled. Vogue crossed a line that shouldn’t be crossed, showing support for the dieting culture, a nod to kids on diets, and a ‘get ‘em started early’ permission slip.

Then I read a recent article from the former editor of Australia Vogue, Kirstie Clements. She reported on the unhealthy work environment (for models) at Vogue, one that supports dieting and starvation, disordered eating, and a ‘be thin at any cost’ attitude. She described a collective culture of waif-thin requirements existing on all levels in Vogue’s world, from designer and dressmaker to runway planner and photographer, and the ugly side effects of not eating (binging, purging, dehydration, fainting spells, and the eating of non-food substances).

Vogue, on its glossy pages, portrays models as beautiful images. Their emaciated bodies, hidden by glamorous clothing, can fool even the most trained eye. But, what of the untrained eye?  What about young, impressionable minds? The young girls who look to Vogue for inspiration, fashion cues, and a standard of beauty? What they don’t see—what they can’t see, is the torturous life of starvation, pain (yes, starving hurts), insecurity, anxiety, depression, and poor body image, all hidden under the latest fashion design.

I have three teenage daughters. I live with these impressionable minds. My young women, like many other teens, are trying to make sense of the world. To understand the rules, yet act in their own way. They look to my husband and I, our friends, teachers and other adults, TV, the Internet and magazines to help them figure it all out.

Magazines like Vogue take kids and teens to a dream world where beautiful faces and super slim bodies are draped in expensive clothing—a place most teens can only dream about. But some teens will try to make this dream world a reality. My teens, like most teens in America, will undoubtedly experiment with food, exercise and a variety of clothing, searching for their identity, what’s right, what’s wrong, and a balance between what they want to be and who they are. This is a normal part of development and I will do my best to help them on this journey.

But, I don’t need Vogue to complicate things for me, my girls, or any other girls. Girls need positive role models, not an unhealthy standard of beauty, one that includes low body weight and a stick-ish, hipless, boy-shaped body. Moms need help and support in raising young daughters, not encouragement to put them (chubby or not) on a diet, so they can be thin and svelte like the models in Vogue.

Goodness, it’s hard enough to raise confident, self-loving women!

It’s time for Vogue to stop hiding behind a veil of fashion. Time to stop glamorizing thinness. It’s time to stop supporting an environment of dieting so models can stay in the game. It’s time to stop publishing articles that encourage diets, especially for children. Diets don’t work anyway, other than to secure a future cycle of dieting, weight gain, and dieting again (pre-requisites for an eating disorder).

Healthy bodies, nutritious food, and positive body image are the dream. Dieting, emaciation and starvation is the nightmare.

Time to wake up, Vogue. Oh, and by the way, we are never, ever, getting back together.

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  1. As a mother and a dietitian, I was also appalled by the article in Vogue. I know that the story made waves all over the globe, too. Last year I was contacted by a team of French reporters working on a story on how American mothers put their daughters on a diet. The scary truth is that the “standards” of beauty reinforced by magazines like Vogue are so deeply ingrained in our society that virtually everyone I know outside the professional world tends to discuss body shape and weight of themselves or other people all the time. A mother I know does not approve of her kids watching old cartoons because they have “fat” princesses in them. New mothers are praised on losing baby fat in record time. Common sense is missing from this picture. Time to bring it back!

  2. Thank you! I, too, am a mother of a teen daughter who I am fighting tooth and nail to keep her “mostly” healthy body image. In 7th grade, she mentioned that her thighs were “fat.” I was mortified. I don’t ever and have never spoken like that in front of her about my body. Ever. She was getting that idea from somewhere. What was happening is that she was beginning to go through changes and her body was getting the more “adult” like look. She is, and always has been, a healthy size and yet she was looking at herself and thinking she wasn’t “right.”

    1. Yes, mine have gone through that too. Last year, my sophomore became more “adult-like”–and I am not just talking boobs and butt–more like everything filled out. This is very normal, but in today’s society, girls are led to believe they are abnormal. I am hearing a new word for “fat” which is “chub”–that’s the code word now…