An upcoming children’s book by author Paul Kramer has come under scrutiny for its message. Maggie Goes on a Diet is aimed for children under 12 years of age and is the story of a 14-year-old girl (she looks much younger on the cover) who attempts to eat healthily and exercise as a response to teasing she receives from her classmates. She then goes on to lose weight and become the star of the soccer team in a Cinderella-like transformation. The book has caused an uproar on sites like Amazon.com in which people call out the book for promoting self-hate, body fascism, and anorexia bait.
The author maintains that the book is directed toward promoting a healthy, active lifestyle where young children can feel good about themselves. Nutritionists and pediatricians encourage young children to eat a well-balanced diet, exercise frequently, and not get caught up in the cyclical trap of dieting. Joanne Ikeda, the co-founding director of the University of California at Berkeley's Center on Weight and Health, says that she doesn’t want young children to read the book, try to replicate what “Maggie” does, and fail. Body dissatisfaction is a large risk for eating disorders in people of all ages. Ikeda calls the book “well-intentioned but misguided.” Dieting for young girls can lead to a higher risk of being overweight than those who do not diet during adolescence.
In her blog post, Huffington Post Blogger and Executive Director of F.E.A.S.T (Families Empowered and Supporting the Treatment of Eating Disorders) , Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh expresses the many wrongdoings of the book’s message. She says bullying is not fixed by changing the victim, weight stigma causes harm, healthy eating, exercise, and self-esteem are important for health-related reasons not appearance, and pursuing weight loss is unhealthy for children.
While the book is not due to hit shelves until next month, one cannot deny the controversy it is spreading. There are many sides to every story and maybe the author and the naysayers both have a point. I would never say children need to go on diets or watch their weight. Eating disorders have been a huge interest of mine for many years and I know how harmful and complicated they can be. I don’t personally think there is any need for a book like this on the markets, it seems unnecessary and pointless but others may see it differently. I do know when the book hits shelves I will be walking over to Barnes and Noble to see what all the fuss is about. So tell me Bust readers, what do you think of the book? Is it an affirmative message for children to make positive lifestyle choices that will affect them for years to come or a dangerous way of telling young girls to hate their bodies?