Children’s Diet Book Raises Controversy

In October, a children’s book called Maggie Goes on a Diet will be self-published by author Paul Kramer.  The blurb describing the book on reads, “This book is about 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.”

Amazon’s comment boards had more than 150 posts on the book, mostly decrying the notion of a diet-themed storybook listed as intended for children aged 4 to 8. “It takes so little to trigger eating disorders in children and teenagers and this could be such a huge trigger,” said one commenter.

Others welcomed the book as a potentially healthy message for children, with The Los Angeles Times calling it “the sensible way” to teach children about weight loss.

Laura Stampler, a columnist for The Huffington Post, wrote an opinion piece that draws on both obesity and eating disorder statistics in the US:

Teaching kids to make healthy lifestyle choices from an early age is a worthy endeavor (one that first lady Michelle Obama has taken on as her own), and childhood obesity is a serious public health issue nationwide. According to the CDC, approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese in the United States, over triple the rate a generation ago.

But Maggie isn’t looking at an imagined reflection of herself dominating the soccer field. For this little girl, it’s all about the dress. The book is promoting skinny first, with a side of healthy slipped in later.

Just as childhood obesity is on the rise, eating disorder rates are climbing, and affecting younger and younger kids. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported a 199 percent increase in the number of eating disorder-related hospitalizations for children under the age of 12 between 1999 and 2006. A 2011 study found that nearly one in 60 adolescents has anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. Over half of little girls aged 3 to 6 think they are fat.

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  1. by Jennifer

    On August 25, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Having not read the book it’s a bit unfair to critique, however, I feel very strongly that “dieting” is not a healthy way to lose weight and having a book about it for children may contribute to the perpetual obesity and health concerns of our youth. It is challenging for adults to understand what a healthy diet should be and kids aged 4-8 certainly will have an even tougher time understanding. The idea of the book may be good (exercising,needing to lose weight for health reasons) however, the title and picture of a child trying to be a certain size for a dress is appalling! Yes, the youth of today MUST be educated, as do the parents, about how to change on obese lifestyle to a more fit/healthy lifestyle, but it must be done in a positive, healthy manner of which vanity is not a part of.

  2. by Caroline

    On August 25, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I think the title is horrible and the cover as well. Should be Maggie choosing a healthy eating lifestyle, or something like that. Diets aren’t the way to go, and most can be unhealthy if not done right. Choosing a healthy eating lifestyle will help you lose the unwanted weight, but also make your body healthier. You’ll be getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals, and you’ll feel so much better about yourself. I think having not read the book, that this is a good start to educating our children about foods and eating what’s best for our bodies, and not just what taste good. Might definately be something to read to children, but parents need to read first, and decide if it’s the right way to go with their own kids. America definately needs to start taking control of the bad eating habits, because kids follow in their parents footsteps.

  3. by kim

    On August 25, 2011 at 11:41 am

    i am sorry but i really don’t see a problem with the book. lets be real here for a min….the majority of people are over weight including children..yes we should teach them to eat right and get them involved in activities that get them off the couch. however the ones that are already over weight need a way to get back into shape.. weither you believe it or not a lifestyle change such as eating junk food and starting to eat healthy is a type of diet.. its a change.. you are getting rid or the bad and getting into the food.. esp since this is a the meaning or the word diet (Dieting is the practice of eating food in a regulated fashion to achieve or maintain a controlled weight. In most cases dieting is used in combination with physical exercise to lose weight) so maybe we should scream over the book but maybe over the miss use of how we as a peole see the word.

  4. by Farrah

    On August 25, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Haven’t we been told “to not judge a book by it’s cover”? It’s hard to judge the content of this book just by it’s title. Yes, the word dieting envokes negaitve images of unhealthy eatting, taking some kind of diet aid, or eatting disorders. However, we are fighting childhood obesity on an overwelming scale in this country. And if it focuses on healthy eatting and activity (not just specific exercise)maybe kids will feel they can follow her example and change their lives.

    But a lot of the childhood weight problem really falls on the parents and what the kids are eatting. In the end, everything that children get (food, books, clothing, etc) is the decision of the parents. And we need to let parents decided what is appropriate for their child.

  5. by Nora

    On August 25, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I have not read the book, nor will I with a title that off putting. I strive to teach my daughter healthy lifestyle and eating choices, and dieting is not part of that. The weight that the word “diet” holds is more than a few pounds, its emotionally disheartening. Even when you’re able to shed a few pounds, its heard to shed the mentality of dieting and the damage the thought of having to diet can do to a young girl and woman.

  6. by jennifer

    On August 25, 2011 at 11:48 am

    if you don’t like it, don’t buy it! admit it, our country has an obesity problem! a ‘diet’ doesn’t imply diet pills and starvation! i’m 6 feet tall and 150 lbs and i’m constantly on a ‘diet’. i track my protein, carbs and fats DAILY and decrease things or increase things as needed. this is called a ‘DIET’. i agree the focus of the cover regarding a clothing article is a bit in the wrong direction. dresses come in every size and a size does not determine health. how about we teach kids about diabetes and heart attacks? focus on the damage to things unseen, not just what is seen with the eyes.

  7. by Debra McDonald

    On August 25, 2011 at 11:52 am

    No no no! This book only reinforces the generalization that all fat people are unhealthy, lazy slobs who have no place around “normal” people! This is so untrue! There are plenty of us who have always been overweight, but are active, well adjusted human beings. Books like this should are just WRONG. Says something, doesn’t it, that it was SELF-PUBLISHED? Come on. The sad thing is that with all the press its gotten, some little fat kids will read it and say to themselves, “man, maybe I’m not normal…and eat themselves until a super obese adult with lots of self esteem issues.

  8. by Erica

    On August 25, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I do have a problem with the book. First, I do not think it’s appropriate to teach children about ‘diets’. Healthy eating, limiting serving size, importance of fruits and veggies…yes! Dieting? No. Second, from the cover, it looks like Maggie wants to change her outward appearance. I think we need to teach children healthy eating and exercise habits based on what it does for us INSIDE! Teach them how our food and exercise choices affect our health, not our waistline. The fact that eating healthy will help them be slim is just an added bonus.

  9. by Sean

    On August 25, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I’m guessing most of the people coming out against this book or dieting for kids, could stand to lose a few pounds themselves and are just too lazy so all of a sudden carrying extra fat, making your heart work harder, higher chance of diabetes and killing your knees and joints are acceptable. How dare we tell our children to be healthy! Get off your high horse and get on a treadmill. Your kids deserve a healthy role model.

  10. by jennifer

    On August 25, 2011 at 11:54 am

    How about making parents read this instead of their children? After all, I’ve never seen a 6 year old do the grocery shopping for a family…
    News flash! If you don’t buy crap, your kids can’t eat crap! And try turning off the tv just 1 day a week? I’m fairly sure the reason my kids are the only ones playing outside right now is because they’re the only ones not glued to the tv…

  11. by Sean

    On August 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Nicely said Jennifer

  12. by Nora

    On August 25, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Its our responsibility as parents to instill healthy eating habits from the beginning. Its our faults if our children’s choice of snack is that pop-tart in the pantry while sitting in front of the TV after school, and not fruit or veg while playing outside. We have to give them the tools early on to make the right choices and understand why. I would say that as an adult I too keep track of my eating habits, but I in no way like to think or call it a daily diet. The thought of that has a daunting connotation which many young girls can fall victim to. Instead of having to be on a daily “diet”, when what we’re doing is making healthy choices, shouldn’t we just tell ourselves and teach our children to have a healthy eating habits, and encourage them to be practiced daily. And although non of us want our children to develop weight or health problems, we should teach that self confidence is about self worth, which has to do with more then looks and weight.

  13. by Nora

    On August 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    I’m sorry Sean, but I think you’re comment about the parents who don’t like the book needing to loose a few pounds is a little closed minded. Maybe we just don’t like the way the message is being brought to our children in this particular book. In no way do I want to keep my daughter from a healthy life just because I think that dieting is a far cry from a healthy lifestyle.

  14. by MenNeedDietsToo

    On August 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    What really bothers me about this is that it is written by a man. He has absolutely no perspective on what life is like for an overweight GIRL. He only has the perspective of a man/boy, which is, “that fat girl must be miserable, since my male friends and family only like skinny girls.” Well news flash: not all “fat girls” are miserable, nor do all “fat girls” or any girls base their self worth off of what men think of them. When will we see “Michael Goes on a Diet”? I’m pretty sure the stats say that more young boys than girls are obese nowadays.

  15. by Sean

    On August 25, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I know Nora, you would like it delivered the same way it has been. “it’s ok sweetie, you are just big boned, if you think you are healthy you go right on sitting on the couch playing video games while I run out to McDonalds”. Because the current system is working so well.

  16. by Nora

    On August 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Really Sean, I see you’ve read my other comments. That is exactly what I want to teach our children not to do, and is exactly what I have said is wrong. We as parents have to give our children the start to a healthy life and the tools to do so. But this book about dieting is not that way we should approach it. In fact the book is for the child who hasn’t been given the tools or been taught how to have healthy eating habits from the start. I am saying forgo the book and just teach your child how to live a healthy life, and diets are not the right way to teach it.

  17. by Nora

    On August 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    As a new generation of parents, we have the power to change the obesity epidemic in our country, and quite frankly as mothers it starts with the eating/activity choices we make while pregnant.

  18. by Between Babies...

    On August 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I would NEVER want my little ones on a diet, but we are all honestly judging this book by its cover. You can read why the author says he wrote it here –

  19. by caprice

    On August 25, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Seriousley? What wrong with putting over weight kids on a diet. As long as they’re getting healthy what does it matter. With the Child Obesity climbing, and climbing, whats the harm in a book showing the rewards of getting into a healthier size and self image????

  20. by Vanessa

    On August 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I believe that parents should read the book before canceling it out as,an option. This book may not be fit for all kiss just like not all diets work for all types of people., but refusing to give it a chance or critiquing it negatively without having read it is hipocritical of any parent that has ever made their child eat vegetables and said “how can you say you dont like it if you have never tried it?” I do believr the cover picture sends the wrong type of messagw but the story could be good enough so that shouldnt be,an issue.

  21. by Lisa

    On August 25, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I won’t be letting my daughter read this, because I choose to teach her that a healthy lifestyle is more important than a “diet”. My kids are active, make healthy food choices, and eat ice cream once in awhile. They have parents who have obesity issues, and we all eat and exercise the same way so they grow up how their dad and I didn’t: healthy and active. Also, Sean, go suck an egg. Food is an addiction; unlike any other drug, no one can quit it completely. Many of us who struggle with weight struggle with MUCH larger issues with weight being an outward sign of inward damage. Calling heavy people lazy is like telling a paraplegic to get up off the couch and walk…you have no idea what goes on in peoples’ lives, and I sincerely hope you’re not teaching any children to judge by outward appearances as you do.

  22. by spencer

    On August 26, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Just as parents are the ones who buy what their kids eat, the also buy what their kids read. It can’t send any message to your kids if you don’t want it to! I imagine the only people who are going to read this are the author’s family and possibly someone writing an article like this one.

  23. by kao

    On February 8, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    having not read the book i cant say much about it..but ages 4-8 when the book is about a 14 year old girl is a little too much…why is the main character so much older then the suggested reading age?! a 4 year old is not going to understand this!!!..also the cover is her holding a small pink dress…not a soccer outfit…which is showing(from the cover) the its not the being healthy fact that she wants as its the being skinny to fit into a dress(maybe her friends wear those dresses and she wants to fit in?!).if we want our kids to be healthy it starts at home..the parent or care takers need to cut out the junk food and give more healthy foods…dont rely on a book to get your child into wanting to be healthy!

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