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.

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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