Maggie develops an eating disorder

by Khushboo on September 20, 2011

I fondly recall 3 storybooks which strongly featured in my childhood:

Just Googling images of them made me smile!  Although I still have a while before I’ll be buying picture books for my own kids, I dread to imagine the selection of books I will eventually be faced with.  A couple of weeks ago, a link for the release of this book popped up on my Facebook homepage:  Maggie Goes on A Diet by Paul Kramer.

Obviously the title alone intrigued me to click  on it.  The more I read about it, the more appalled and annoyed I felt.   The summary for this book, which releases in October, is:

This book is about a 14-year-old girl who goes on a diet and is transformed from being extremely overweight and insecure to a normal-sized girl who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image.

The last line about promoting a positive self-image is something I applaud but the first line? Not so much.  Firstly the term diet should not be in any child’s vocabulary.   The word alone is so 1990s and stirs up connotations of deprivation and misery.  People wonder where eating disorders stem from and this is a prime example: mixed signals are being sent out to kids.  Even though this book is about a 14-year old girl, the reading level is meant for children between the ages of 4-8.
Kids are undoubetedly impressionable and this book only intensifies the insecurities of little children and the risk of developing eating disorders. I think it’s safe to say that it takes more than a ‘diet’ to transform somebody.  Equating ‘skinniness’ with popularity and happiness  is destructive both physically and psychologically.

I appreciate Kramer’s attempt to tackle childhood obesity but I don’t think this is the way to go about it, especially considering he lacks expertise in child health.  I might not be a psychologist but I’m not an idiot:  children shouldn’t be encouraged to lose weight. They should be encouraged to develop healthy habits and taught how to eat nutritiously and stay active.  More than that, the benefits of doing so which go beyond superficialness need to be promoted: a strong, fit, and healthy body.  As a former fat kid, I thank my lucky stars that I was never put in the position to measure my worth against my appearance or weight.  And if that’s not enough, here’s something else to chew over: why is the protagonist a girl?

What is your take on this attempt to reduce childhood obesity?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

runningismagical September 20, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I agree. I think that a problem like childhood obesity should be tackled with positive reinforcement on things that people can do to PREVENT it. Just looking at that cover made me uncomfortable.

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Khushboo Thadani September 21, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Prevention > Cure

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lovetotrain September 21, 2011 at 1:14 am

great post. scary how young kids are sucked into the evil cycle so early..and even more frightening that some parents encourage their young girls to ‘diet’.. kids should be kids. if they were all outside playing instead of sitting in front of the tv and computer there wouldn;t even be a need for books like that!!

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Khushboo Thadani September 21, 2011 at 8:02 pm

I agree, I actually recently heard a mother tell her young daughter that her thighs were fat…no words…

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Sara K September 21, 2011 at 10:36 am

Children’s books talking about dieting?! Really? When I have kids I might as well just give them my childhood books to read because that is the last idea i want to implant in their minds- there are far better ways to combat childhood obesity- such as starting with the parents and schools providing and raising the child with healthy, nutritious foods

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Khushboo Thadani September 21, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Seriously!! Even just providing healthier options in schools is a great start! Not that I had any desire to eat healthily foods when i was at school, but there wasn’t even an option if I did!

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Tessa @ Amazing Asset September 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Ohh yeah I heard about that book! Absolutely ridiculous, I can’t even believe it was published…

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Errign September 21, 2011 at 9:06 pm

I’m all for reducing child obesity, but I agree that the word diet shouldn’t be part of a child’s vocabulary, unless it’s in reference to a healthy eating style.

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Casey September 21, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Definitely agree. I think the best thing is to make sure they get three solid, nutritious meals a day (with healthy snacks) and are encouraged to move/be active!

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spinach&spice September 21, 2011 at 11:45 pm

We were twins when it came to favorite childhood books! But this new one just seems a little “off” to me. Diets aren’t the way for anyone to achieve a healthy lifestyle or happiness.. true health, fitness, nutrition, and self-appreciation are factors that actually determine happiness!

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Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun September 22, 2011 at 5:16 pm

I like that a book wants to focus on eating better foods and moving more for children…but do it without it being a diet! Yea…not really loving the premise of the book.

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Alaina @ Let's Be Real September 23, 2011 at 12:09 am

I completely agree with you and found this a perfectly written post!

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