Diet Book for Kids

August 19, 2011

The title of my post may have you thinking that this is a review of a diet book for kids or that I am advocating this genre of books. I assure you that is the opposite of what this is about. I rarely get into controversial topics on my blog, but I couldn’t let this one go by without expressing my opinion.

Earlier today on Twitter I saw a retweeted post by a couple of tweeps I follow who advocate for positive body image. The post was about an article on The Women’s Blog of the Guardian website, “A diet book for six-year-old girls: the worst idea ever?” Before I even read the article I agreed with my fellow tweeps that a diet book for kids is terrible. Then I clicked through and read the article and was even more appalled.

According to the blog post, the forthcoming book, “Maggie Goes On a Diet” by Paul A. Kramer is aimed at six to twelve year old girls — the perfect age for girls to develop eating disorders, which will no doubt be further exacerbated by books like this. The book is about a teenage girl who “is transformed from being overweight and insecure to a normal-sized teen who becomes the school soccer star.”

maggie goes on a diet

I have so many problems with this that I don’t even know where to start. First of all, the cover of the book shows the young “overweight” girl holding up a party dress in a mirror, and the reflection back at her is a skinnier version of herself. No wonder we have a society filled with women with body dysmorphic disorder. Second, the fact that the blurb about the book says that the girl goes from being “overweight and insecure” to “normal-sized” and the “school soccer star” implies that to be a star you have to be a so-called “normal” size — whatever that is. That’s some way to build confidence in pre-pubescent girls who will be going through size changes any day.

I can only imagine the kind of parents who would buy this book for their daughters, and I would hope that they seek out some help and think twice before doing so.

What do you think about this book? Please share your opinions! 

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  1. I just think it is bizarre. Why would anyone think this would be a good topic? I understand that there may be the need for some ‘healthy eating’ books for young girls but not on the lines of a diet based on superficial achievements such as a soccer star. All colours and shades of wrong.

    1. Thanks for sharing your opinion Amanda (and for reposting the link on your facebook page). I don’t know how this would be considered a ‘healthy eating’ book for anyone. Granted I haven’t read it, but having “diet” in the title immediately takes away the notion of “healthy eating.” Let’s hope that those of us who oppose such a book can make a stronger statement than this book ever will.

  2. I work in the ED field and this just appalled me. ComPortsoy agree with your post. This book gives out the wrong messages to young children and is certainly not one I would want my child to read.

  3. I totally disagree with you all. This book is titled “Maggie Goes On A Diet” but what is in the book is a different story.As a child, I always remember the saying “Never judge a book by it’s cover”, but as I see it, everyone commenting on these blogs are totally the opposite.In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has over tripled. Does this say anything to you? Instead, Americans seem to encourage this. This book is not telling your kids to be anorexic, instead it’s a story about an overweight kid who realizes her weight issue, and watches what she eats and eats healthy. Because of her healthy decisions, she becomes a good player on her soccer team. This book DOES NOT refer to any unhealthy eating habits, in fact, is a good influence for kids with weight problems. In most cases, parents wont teach their kid’s healthy eating patterns, but those opens opportunities and gives kids the knowledge they need to stay healthy in their every day lives.

    1. Travis, I don’t disagree that I have judged the book by it’s cover – I have in fact done so. However, the cover is extremely telling. If the book is about a young girl learning to eat healthy and making better food decisions, then the author should not have titled it as “Maggie Goes on a Diet.” Going on a diet is very different from eating a healthy, balanced diet. When people go on a diet it signifies restriction and deprivation. Not to mention that children should not be going on diets because they are still growing. Yes, we have a childhood obesity problem and something needs to be done about it, but in my opinion, as a dietitian who works with people to help them live healthier lives, the answer is not to encourage diets for children.

  4. Diet-noun: a particular selection of food, especially as designed or prescribed to improve a person’s physical condition or to prevent or treat a disease.
    As I see it, a diet does not necessarily include restriction and deprivation in any way. Personally, I am 17 years old and just happened to skim over an article online about this and I realized that I have a different opinion from nearly everyone else commenting on this. The reason this article speaks to me is because I weighed more when I was 13 then I do now. To get to my point, my parents never gave me the edge to lose weight, and never put me in any healthy eating conditions. Luckily, I realized myself that I was overweight, and instead of limiting myself to certain ammounts of food’s, I realized that I could put healthier food’s in the place of the unhealthy ones. I also realized that going biking and doing things outside of the house each day made me a happier person. Thankfully for me, I realized my eating problem before it got too bad. The way I see it, this book speaks out to the children that I was, and doesn’t tell them in any way to deprive themselves from food in any way. It is just explaining how eating healthier food and spending more time outside doing physical work can make you a much healthier person.

    1. Travis, I commend you for your ability to make the lifestyle changes you did on your own and for turning your health around. Of course I would love to see all children and teens learn to live a healthier life like you found. I also agree with you about the definition of “diet” – I am always explaining to people that “diet” is just what you eat. However, in our society the phrase “go on a diet” has a different meaning, and that is one of restriction. All you have to do is look at the “diet industry” to see this. Bookshelves wouldn’t be lined with “diet” books if people didn’t think that these quick fixes work. Learning to eat a healthy diet is not the same as going on a diet, and that is the main objection I have with this book. The implication of the title is the detrimental part (in addition to the cover image).

  5. I definately agree with you on the cover of the book, but what is on the inside of the book is a whole different story. I just believe what the cover has and what is in the book are two different things. I just hate to see in my everyday life so many kid’s that are like I was, but instead will live their whole lives obese, and not do anything about it. I hate to see kid’s get the impression that being obese is fine and that no health concerns should be done. The thing that hurts me the most is what happens to these kid’s 30 years down the road, having all the health issues that come with obesity, and it being too late to do anything about it. I guess it’s just my opinion, but what is in the actualy book to me is worthwhile reading to those kid’s that are the kids that I was. The kid’s that don’t even know what is/will be happening to them, and by the time they do, it will be too late.

    1. I agree with you about childhood obesity turning into adult obesity and the health effects that will occur down the road. I can’t speak to what is in the book yet b/c other than seeing some portions of it in the Good Morning America segment from yesterday, I have not read or seen it in it’s entirety. But I do think that it’s important for children to be aware of the health implications and also for children of normal weight to not make fun of children who are above normal weight. That is one thing that really bothered me in the focus group that GMA did with 5-6 year old girls – that one of the little girls called a girl in the picture “chubby wubby” – that is behavior that shouldn’t be tolerated by parents and teachers. We live in a society where thinness is idolized and I think there needs to be more balance overall.