Though it won’t be released until October, a storm is already brewing over Paul Kramer’s new book “Maggie Goes On A Diet”, which tells the story of an unhappy overweight 14-year-old girl who gets skinny and popular in that order. Though the author claims he intended to simply write a story about healthy eating for children, the Washington Post reports that the book has been overwhelmingly panned by critics who feel it sends impressionable youth a bad message about diet and self-image.
Diet and eating expert Karen Schacter, who works specifically with mothers and young girls on the issue of body image, tells The Post “I would not recommend a diet book for any young girl, especially one that promotes a message of thin equals popular; overweight equal lonely and unpopular. This is not how to teach girls (or anyone ) about taking care of their bodies, eating for health, or feeling good about themselves.”
She cites the documented failure of diets to keep people at a healthy weight and the fact that most young women and girls have already been exposed to the concept of ‘thin is in’. “They are already well-versed in the “culture of skinny” and body hatred,” Schacter says. “…A diet in a vulnerable girl can trigger a dangerous eating disorder.”
While it is important that kids learn early on about the importance of eating well and exercising to maintain a healthy weight, encouraging little girls to see their body as a problem to be solved from a young age can lead to a lifelong struggle with body image and self-esteem. “Maggie Goes On A Diet” suggests that the protagonist was only beautiful and worthy once she became thin. If our girls are to be healthy, they must understand that they are valuable and special even if they aren’t the ‘ideal’ size and that there is no one correct way to look.
How old were you when you first became cognizant of your weight? If you ever dieted, at what age did you start? Were you encouraged by a parent? Speak on it!