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How Young is “Too Young” to Diet?

Posted Jan 09 2011 5:50pm

I have always thought actress Ginnifer Goodwin was adorable … but I was a little surprised to find out she’d been on Weight Watchers since she was 9 years old — mostly because I didn’t realize you could join that young!

Apparently, according to this article at, the media is up in arms about this admission she made, and so I thought I’d see what others think about it.

I like what she had to say and respect her honesty.

“I was so shocked when it was this whole, ‘Ginny’s been on a diet since she was 9 years old!’ I was like ‘No!’ I’ve never had body issues, I’ve never had an eating disorder,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’ve never had to go on a diet and that’s because of Weight Watchers.”

Goodwin, however, says she was an overweight child, which led her to the program. “I began to identify myself as fat.” Goodwin says. “At 9 years old I weighed about 10 lbs. less than what my weight is at 32. I needed to get help.”

“I ended up going to my mother crying,”she recalls. “With the counseling of my family doctor, my mother ended up turning to Weight Watchers and their children’s program. I went to weekly meetings, got counseling and would exercise with my peers who were my size. It was the first time I saw a proper children’s portion size, and it wasn’t two burgers, it was one.”

In the end, Goodwin credits her mother for her healthy approach to life. She looks back to the day when she told her mom she was fat. “Her reaction was not, ‘Oh, I’ll help you get skinny,” says Goodwin. “My mother’s reaction was, ‘Why don’t we all go and learn a little more about our health.”

I think all my readers know that I’m a huge Weight Watchers proponent, so naturally I support the program. When I joined in 2004, it taught me portion control and how to go out to eat and enjoy, in moderation.

While my disordered habits began AFTER losing the weight (and I did get a bit obsessive, to say the least, I don’t blame the program and, in fact, intend to rejoin WW again to lose the rest of the pregnancy weight. (I had to put my membership on hold during pregnancy, but never have stopped journaling in one way or another since 2004).

I know a lot of women have complicated relationships with their moms when it comes to weight … but I never experienced that.  In fact, my mom has always supported me and never criticized my weight or what I was putting in my mouth. Later in life when I expressed frustration with my body — when I was ready to tackle my weight — she was the person who inspired me to get healthier and join WW, which had given her great success the previous year.

Growing up, there was never any guilt, never any banishing of foods, or talk about “good vs bad” foods. We ate relatively healthy at home, enjoyed meals out, and if I reached for the third or fourth cookie after dinner, my mom might have said, “Lis, you had 2, do you need 3 or 4?” putting the decision in my hands. Nine times out of ten, that was enough to get me to see 2 HAD been enough, without any shame.

So I could very much relate to what Ginnfer says about how her mom helped her get healthier without ever making her feel bad about herself. That’s what a good mom does, in my opinion. It’s what I hope to do.

I’m the mom of a teensy tiny 22-day old, 6 lb 3 oz peanut right now … but someday Maya is going to grow up, experience puberty and all the physiological changes that come with it. Her body will change and she might go through a pudgy stage, an awkward stage, etc. We’ll of course love her all the same during that transitional time and support her, but it made me wonder … if she came to me, at 9 or 10 years of age, would I suggest Weight Watchers to her? And would I be a “bad mom” if I did?

Ginnifer seems to have zero resentment at all towards her mom and seems to be grateful that she had that early intervention.

Hopefully we won’t have to worry about any diet programs, period — hopefully she’ll grow up in a healthy home where food is enjoyed and exercise is a part of our family life … where she learns by example. My hope is that she won’t need to join any kind of program … but it doesn’t mean that some of the lessons learned from Weight Watchers couldn’t be applied — without the journaling,weighing, measuring that make the program so successful. Really, portion control and making good choices most of the time is the key to successful weight maintenance.

I don’t think Ginnifer’s mom was necessarily in the wrong — she was looking out for her daughter’s best interests and it seems to have worked; Ginnifer has had a grip on her weight ever since.  But ultimately, I think a healthy diet and regular exercise can begin at a very young age — like now. As parents, we are wholly responsible for our children’s nutrition and fitness/activity levels — they aren’t making these decisions on their own for a good while. With childhood obesity rates at an epic high in the U.S., there is a very good case for leading by example so our children don’t need to “diet” in the traditional sense of the word. If they grow up eating healthily and exercising regularly, there shouldn’t be a need for a program like WW in their lives … or even mine someday!

How about you? How young do you think is “too young” to diet? Do you think Ginnifer’s mom was wrong in having her join WW at such a young age?

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