This morning Adam told me about a new children's book he read about called Maggie Goes on a Diet. In my opinion, the book should have a subtitle: Maggie Goes on a Diet...and then spends the rest of her life in therapy.
The book is self published, which makes sense because I can't see any sane editor allowing this book to be printed. I spent the morning reading articles about it, and all I can say it...
What in the world is this guy thinking?
The book is targeted at children as young as 4, written in rhyme like a typical children's picture book and sends the message that if you're not thin, you aren't popular. And if you aren't popular, well, then something is wrong with you.
It starts with Maggie, an overweight fourteen-year-old, getting teased and bullied because of her weight.
And of course, Maggie turns to food to comfort herself. Notice the two-fisted binge in the dark in front of the open refrigerator?
I understand that this is actually fairly realistic. Kids (and adults) do turn to food when they need comfort, but I think the book's author, Paul M. Kramer, is sending the wrong message.
He's telling little (little) girls not that they should "eat healthy and exercise" as he claims...but that if they aren't thin and beautiful, no one will like them.
Tired of being teased, Maggie starts her diet. She dreams of skinnier jeans...
...it's that image of the jeans that keeps her going. (Tell me, does this image send the message that Maggie just wants to be healthy? Or is this about her looks? About wearing a smaller size?)
And what do you know? Maggie discovers that she's a talented soccer player. In fact, she becomes the star of the team...and that makes her popular. (I'm curious if Maggie has had soccer training up until this point or did she just magically "catch up" with all the kids who've been doing this since they were four?)
Kramer says his goal was to encourage kids to eat healthy and exercise, after all, obesity in America is an epidemic.
And he's right. Obesity certainly is a problem in America. But if I didn't know better, I'd think the author wanted to poke fun at the overweight kids himself.
I was an overweight kid. I was teased for it. I know kids can be mean, and guess what? I went on a diet. That diet looked a lot like anorexia. If kids are taught at the ripe old age of four that if they go through puberty and develop a little differently than their peers--if they put on a few extra pounds through the middle as they grow, that they aren't good enough...how does Mr. Kramer think that's going to turn out?
Here's a hint:
(I'll just point out that the girl in the mirror looks wonderfully healthy to me.)
I believe we have to educate our kids on being healthy, on eating healthy and exercising--but not so they can achieve "popularity and fame." Healthy is a somewhat all-encompassing term that includes mental health, and sending the message that Maggie is worthless when she's overweight is a great way to turn anorexia and bulimia into an even bigger problem than childhood obesity.
Mr. Kramer claims he's amazed at the public outrage over his book, and he's probably hoping this turns into dollar signs when its released in October, but as a mom of a ten-year-old who grew up striving to fit a certain mold, who did whatever it took to become thin and popular including making myself throw up after every meal, I can honestly say this book deserves the public outrage.
If Kramer were smart, he would've consulted with professionals, learned how to send a positive message to encourage kids to love themselves--even if they're a few pounds overweight--and wrote a story about self acceptance on the path to total health. Instead, he's chosen to write a book that, in its own way, bullies girls into believing lies--that unless they do something about their chunky middles they will never be good enough, popular enough and gosh darn it, no one will like them.
You tell me, does a book like this deserve a place on your child's bookshelf?
If so, you can start saving now for the years of therapy to undo its damage.