A Diet Story Book: Appropriate for Children?

An upcoming children's book, "Maggie Goes on a Diet," targets kids 6 to 12.

Would you purchase a children's book about dieting for your
child or pre-teen?

Maggie Goes on a Diet won't be available until October and is already causing quite a stir. The cover features a pudgy girl holding a party dress two sizes too small for her while looking in the mirror at her slimmed-down version.

Author Paul M. Kramer has written other childrens' books, but has
come under attack because the series of books recounting Maggie's weight loss targets 6-12 year olds. The central character in the picture book is a chubby 14-year-old, who is concerned about being teased about her weight and transforms herself into the svelte soccer star of her team by dieting and exercising. The story, critics say, is well-intentioned, but misguided.

According to Joanne Ikeda, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, this is not what kids normally go through and does not teach healthy eating habits. In addition, if a child tries to do as the book outlines and fails, their self-esteem could be damaged.

"Body dissatisfaction is a major risk for eating disorders in children all the way up through adulthood," she added.

Our Moms Council talks about this book and other weight issues plaguing kids today.

Tonia Accetta: I have heard this author's defense of his book and believe that his intentions were good and that was to increase girls' self esteem, but he missed the mark with this book. Girls can be cruel to each other and adults have the responsibility to teach them understanding, respect and kindness as a way to live their lives.

We must try to avoid the misconception that you are only
accepted if you are popular, famous, athletic and thin. We want to encourage our kids to live a healthy life, being active with a focus on healthy eating for nutritional needs without putting any child on a "diet." It would have been nice to read about Maggie and friends succeeding on the soccer field as a team together.

Tam Dorow: Wow ... are people taking issue with this book taking issue with Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and other works of children's fiction? Because those fairy tales can sometimes convey messages some people might find offensive to women, such as lying around waiting for your prince to come along and save you from your miserable life. 

How about The Runaway Bunny?  Do we think that Mom is a stalker who doesn't investigate the reasons why the bunny is running away and doesn't teach bunny why it's not good to run away? 
Although we don't agree with all the stories we read to our children,
some are fiction and fantasy, and we can take away some nuggets from those stories to apply to our lives, but not all things we read should be taken literally. 

Maggie Goes On A Diet is a fictional book and should be taken as such. We all know just because you're skinny does not mean you're good at sports and you are popular. Children know that too, perhaps better than we do. How many kids know skinny people who are uncoordinated and have difficulty making friends?

Kurt Sauter: Dieting is a very interesting topic. Everyone has a diet – some are healthier than others. The only people who should be on a weight-loss diet are those with a medical reason under a doctor’s care. The problem is that there are many influences on a person’s diet. Americans love food. Special events are centered around food. Going out to a restaurant is a social event. We have television channels dedicated to discussing delicious food. When people eat delicious food, they eat a lot of it.

Overeating leads to obesity. Obesity is exacerbated by corporations. Corporations have found that foods high in fat and calories are very tasty. People will eat more of them. Corporations have also determined that it is cheaper and more efficient to produce high-calorie foods. Tasty, high-calorie foods increase obesity.

At the same time we are bombarded in the media with images
of the “beautiful people” who are skinny. The effect on the obese is to
diminish self-image which often leads to more eating of the high calorie foods. This leads to a feeling that they need to turn to weight-loss options. In the busy lives Americans lead, these effects have made their way down to younger and younger children. They are increasingly obese and feel like they need to worry about their weight and image.

Many little girls see their mothers worry about weight. It is
only natural that a desire on the part of little girls to lose weight is the
result. Weight-loss diets are not the answer. Parents need to make a concerted effort to present a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle to their kids. They can start by example with a healthy diet of moderation and some form of exercise. In most cases I suspect that good diet and exercise will eliminate the need for crazy weight-loss diets for kids.

Suzette Valle: I understand what the author was trying to do: start teaching a child early on that being overweight is not good. However, it's disappointing that this book emphasizes that popularity and acceptance for kids are a result of being thin, which, by the way, isn't far from the truth in today's society. It would have done a better service to children in the targeted age group if the story relied more on good nutrition and exercise as a lifestyle rather than outlining
the results of a superficial goal to just look good.

It's unfortunate, but this book seems to lack a well-balanced view of the fat vs. thin battle many kids are facing due to inadequate nutrition and insufficient exercise.


Tonia Accetta is stay-at-home mom of a teenage boy and a preteen girl. She moved to Coronado in 2002 with her husband of 15 years.

 Tam Dorow emigrated from Vietnam when she was 10. She worked at all of the Big 3 U.S. car companies and has been a stay-at-home mom of two for the last 10 years.

Kurt Sauter is a father of two sons, works part-time as a chief engineer and system architect and volunteers with Coronado youth sports organizations.

Suzette Valle is a 20-year Coronado resident who was recognized by Time Warner as one of the local “50 Best Moms” in 2006. She has appeared on the Dr. Phil Show and blogs at MamarazziKnowsBest.com.

Susan Ross September 17, 2011 at 02:41 AM
The issue is whether the topic of the book is suitable for its target audience. I have written an article about “Maggie Goes On A Diet or The Rose and the Lily.” The latter is my book, also out this year. It counters the media’s message that beauty is the most important attribute a person can have. My article is at http://www.susanross.blog.com.
El Cordova Garage September 17, 2011 at 02:21 PM
I think this book could be detrimental to your tween. With the onset of puberty, which this book is geared towards that age group, children typically put on a little "chub" with their hormones changing. This is normal and goes away when they shoot up in the teen years, as long as they aren't downing whole pizzas every night. Girls, especially, have enough of a difficult time because of influences from the media, and mothers out there who feel they need to get plastic surgery and constantly diet. There are reasons to have book reviews and this was a good idea to put this out there and spread awareness "not" to get your tween this particular book.


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