The forthcoming book, Maggie Goes on a Diet, by Paul M. Kramer has generated controversy. The book, an illustrated hardcover children’s book written in rhyme, is not available until October 2011, however Amazon and Barnes & Noble have the book available as a pre-sale, it is described as being for readers age 4 to 8 and 6 to 12, at each respective online retailer. Either way, it’s a very young impressionable audience. While childhood obesity is rising at an alarming rate, threatening the present and future health of children as they mature, there’s been much discussion on the Internet and in the media about the kind of message this sends.
The book’s cover, seen above, also sends the message that self-esteem and social acceptance is tied to the size and shape of one’s body. And certainly, we know children are often bullied at school on account of size. The book is the story of the titular Maggie, a 14-year-old teen who described as “extremely overweight and insecure ” and who is, in fact, bullied at school, and who takes solace at home in food. The familiar pattern of emotional eating. She decides to go on a diet and in so doing is transformed and becomes a soccer star and be popular and accepted among her peers.
In an interview on Tues. Aug. 23, 3011, the author, Paul M. Kramer (also author of Divorce Stinks and Bullies Beware), defended his book in an interview on Good Morning America with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos (Video below). He said that his intention was to “write a story to entice and to have children feel better about themselves, discover a new way of eating, learn to do exercise, try to emulate Maggie and learn from Maggie’s experience.” In response to the controversy of “dieting” and pitching the whole concept of “going on a diet” to young girls in order to gain acceptance — and all of the obvious, inherent danger of fostering poor self-image that can lead to disordered thinking and even eating disorders, he insisted that his use of the term “diet” was not meant to convey any of that.
He said: “If I entitled the book “Maggie Eats Healthy,” somebody in a bookstore looking at [the] title is really not going to identify with somebody who has been overweight or who has health problems, or who can’t bend and play sports because they are just too uncomfortable.”
Highlighting imperfections in a boy’s or girl’s body “does not empower a child to adopt good eating habits,” Ikeda said.
In real life, dieting down to a smaller clothing size doesn’t guarantee living happily ever after.
“Body dissatisfaction is a major risk for eating disorders in children all the way up through adulthood,” she said.
Check out some other reactions from around the Web.
- Maggie Goes on a Diet: New Children’s Book Causes Anorexia Stir
- Maggie Goes On A Diet Author Was ‘Amazed’ By Backlash
- “Maggie Goes on a Diet” raises storm of protests among experts
- Disturbing New Children’s Book ‘Maggie Goes On A Diet’ Encourages Young Girls To Diet
I do believe the book, while well-intentioned, sends the wrong message. At least I knew it would have sent the wrong one to me, as I reflect on my own life history, of starting my first diet at age 11, a starvation diet in hopes of losing enough weight to stop the bullying and name calling at school that was so traumatic. While I also aspired to eat healthy foods (becoming vegetarian at age 14, as part of that striving), the starvation and deprivation diets and the focus I put on them operated in a parallel universe wherein I sought to escape the pain of not being accepted by peers. Had I read such a book, at age 11, I can’t say it would have helped me connect eating and exercising for health and well being.
Skinny Bliss readers, what are your thoughts on the book and the controversy it has raised? Please let us know in the comments!
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