Despite being clearly aimed at fat kids, a new children’s book Maggie Goes On A Diet is attracting controversy because according to parents and kid experts it encourages children to develop eating disorders.
The book, written by Paul M Kramer and aimed at corpulent kiddywinkies, is written in rhyme and tells the story of Maggie – a young fatty that transforms her life by losing weight and becomes a football hero at her school. Despite its ‘controversial’ message, Amazon is already taking orders for the book which is due for release in October. From the parents of chubbies I imagine.
According to the sypnosis on Amazon’s website the book’s plot involves ‘a 14-year-old girl who 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.’ It doesn’t sound so innocuous.
Any diet book could be accused of encouraging eating disorders. So could most recipe books. And whilst some diets involve ridiculous regimes, there are still those that encourage healthy eating and exercise. The problem is that we are now a nation of fatties. Our kids are developing obesity quicker than we can order our next McDonalds Happy Meal. Obesity in children is a growing concern (fat pun intended).
Why encouraging an already overweight kid to exercise, and develop a positive self image should be considered controversial is completely unclear but a UK mother whose daughter died of anorexia aged 16 after going on a post-Christmas diet and suffering a heart attack has criticised the book calling it a “timebomb.”
“There is a huge percentage of kids who will read it and not take anything from it, but some will see it as the answer to a lot of things,” she said.
And there are also some genuinely obese children out there and in many cases obesity is already a sign that the kid has an eating disorder, and if the book can help them improve their potential, healthily lose some weight and stop them dying from obesity related illnesses and/or having a life of unhappiness and self loathing, then that’s not so bad is it?
Children’s dietician Paul Sacher concurs with the mother calling the book “shocking”, adding “The suggestion that a young child should aspire to look thin rather than be healthier or have more energy is very concerning. While it’s important that children maintain a healthy weight for their age and height, the idea that a child should go on a diet and lose weight is not helpful and could potentially be damaging.”
Sacher doesn’t mention how children can maintain a healthy weight when they are surrounded by junk food, adverts for nutrition-less food, severely underweight role models and images of models and celebrities ‘augmented’ by computer software.
It’s difficult to know whether the book is going to be a detrimental publication that causes eating disorders in youngsters or whether it will be used as a helpful fun manual for kids already on their way to obesity, when it’s not yet been released, but It’s not like the book is encouraging children to starve themselves to death – god knows there are enough websites and images in the media that will happily encourage them to do that without an iota of compunction.
A nutritionist at the University of California, Joanna Ikeda, said that “role models such as Maggie could perpetuate the idea that ‘if you don’t look like Cinderella, you’re a failure.” Oh, a bit like Cinderella then.
She added that a child who read the book “might, in fact, try to do this [lose weight] and fail. What is that going to do to their self-esteem?”
What is being obese going to do to their self esteem? What if they try to be like Hannah Montanna or Justin Bieber or David Beckham and fail – what is that going to do to their self esteem? There are enough detrimental images on the television and internet to guarantee that every child develops an eating disorder, already, why attack a book aimed at assisting with the growing problem of rotund youngsters.
But us sheeple do love to get together a lynch mob and run through the village with our torches blazing amplifying things out of proportion.
Eating disorders are a horrible animal and once gripped by one, it feels almost impossible to shake that unremitting grip. If a book that gently helps a chubby kid to lose a bit of weight and exercise written in rhyme promotes eating disorders, then there is a high chance that they already had that propensity. There is a big difference between a healthy diet and lifestyle and an eating disorder. Like with alcoholism, some people are affected and some others, not.
With all the ridiculous media images and adverts, the idea of a simple book aimed at gently encouraging overweight youngsters to exercise more and develop a healthy body image causing so much outrage, seems ludicrous.
Kramer is a father, has also previously published other books including Do Not Dread Wetting the Bed. Imagine if a child tries to stop wetting the bed and fails – what is that going to do its self-esteem?
Silly people. It’s the likes of McDonalds and the media you should be attacking. Fat kids exist. Obesity is already a massive problem (fat pun intended). If you really want to protect your child from eating disorders, chuck out the TV, and never let them leave the house.
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Images: sanabung.com, dailymail.com, baby-pictures.org, whatsfadinna.com, kiwibiker.co.nz.