That’s the message, anyhow, that seems to be highlighted in the upcoming children’s book “Maggie Goes on A Diet,” written by Paul Kramer.
Maggie, a pudgy 14-year-old girl, “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,” according to a plot summary via Amazon.com.
Parents, bloggers and even nutritionists have expressed concern over the message sent by a book that encourages dieting for children — especially when the book is marketed toward 4- to 12-year-old kids. It reminds me of a heartbreaking article linked to on the SmartMagPA Facebook page a few months ago, about a 6-year-old girl who worried she was fat.
I understand the risks of childhood obesity, and I understand the problem is growing. Kids (like many adults, to be honest) aren’t exercising enough and aren’t eating the foods that properly fuel their bodies. But when the word diet gets thrown into the mix, I believe it has a negative connotation — and rather than focusing on weight and waist size, I believe kids need to focus on being healthy. When adults talk to kids about exercise and eating right, it seems to make more sense to focus on what it allows their bodies to do (climb trees, race their friends, bike up a hill, swim across the pool), not how it makes their bodies look.
Which is why what really gets to me is the cover image. A writer from the British newspaper The Guardian wrote: “Maggie is depicted as dumpy, pigtailed, wearing an unflattering jumper (has nobody told her that wide lateral stripes aren’t a good look when you’re carrying a few extra pounds?), staring into the mirror, presumably dreaming of a thinner self who will one day wear the tiny pink prom dress she’s holding wistfully to her chest.”
Would you read this book to your young daughter? How do you address health or body issues with your children?