If you’ve not heard, a new book targeted at 4-12 year olds will be hitting the shelves in October. It’s called “Maggie Goes on a Diet” and according to the blurb on Amazon.com, it’s 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.”
Teaching six year olds that dieting is the way to like yourself and become popular? At first I felt sure that it had to be some kind of (really bad) joke. I did not think it possible that anybody would actually write a diet book targeted at first graders. Nobody could possibly be that stupid/cruel/desperate for a quick buck, right?
Wrong. Paul Michael Kramer is. Sir, may I just say that this is sheer jackassery.
And Maggie might go on a diet, but Ragen is going on a rant:
He made sure that the book is “written in rhyme [so it's] easy to read and fun to learn at the same time”. And thank god for that, because I would sure hate for kids to have to struggle to learn to hate their bodies. That’s definitely the kind of message that we want to be easy to understand and implement. I think he’s going to have trouble with the sequel though, because not that many things rhyme with “treatment for anorexia”.
Like Michelle Obama before him, I’m reasonably certain that he’ll pat himself on the back for giving kids “real talk” in the face of a so-called “obesity epidemic”; never, ever taking responsibility for the issues of mental health, body image and self-esteem that arise, especially for the 95% of kids who are statistically likely to fail at dieting, and the disordered eating that results.
In no particular order, here are some things that make me wonder how the author can live with himself:
(For the record, it makes no difference if he doesn’t know these things since he’s the one who thought it was a scathingly brilliant idea to write a diet book for kids who have been potty trained for less than 5 years, based on his credentials of having written such scientific tomes as “Booger Bob” and “Louie the Lobster Mobster”.)
First let’s take a look at the positive, empowering messages that we get just from reading the blurb (if you have trouble catching sarcasm, this next bit is not for you):
a 14 year old girl
She’s a teenager, as a 6-12 year old all you want to do is be like the older kids, right?. So put away those carrot sticks (too many carbs!) and bust out the Slimfast, you’re a big girl now!
who goes on a diet and is transformed from being extremely overweight and insecure
Do you look like the picture on the book cover? Then you’re extremely overweight! (It’s important to say extremely so that we can hide behind the OMGDEATHFATWON’TSOMEBODYTHINKOFTHECHILDREN panic when there’s a public outcry.) If you’re a fat six year old, ask an adult what “insecure” means. If you aren’t that already, you should be.
to a normal sized girl who becomes the school soccer star.
It’s important to understand that if your body doesn’t fit a very narrow proportion of height and weight then there is something wrong with you. (Please ignore the fact that almost everything in nature, including human feet for example, comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Our bodies must all be the same.) Also, we will encourage you to exercise to fit into that narrow range while simultaneously reinforcing the stereotype that you are not athletic. That may be confusing or upsetting to you, but remember the solution is not for other people to say things that make sense. The solution, as always, is for you to lose weight.
Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image.
Please be crystal clear that no amount of healthy living, exercise or hard work will ever be good enough unless you get thin. You don’t deserve to like yourself or be proud of anything you achieve until you have reached a height weight proportion that makes you aesthetically pleasing to children’s book author Paul Michael Kramer.
Want some more reasons why this is absolutely ludicrous?
Dieting is the number 2 predictor of disordered eating. According to Lynn Grefe, the president and CEO of the National Eating Disorder Association: “There are a lot of factors at play with an eating disorder, but they start with diet. There’s a lot more pressure on young girls now. And I think we have to be careful as a society in what we are doing here. We should be focusing on health, not size.” Thanks Lynn. Let me just chime in here, as I would have when I was 6, with a big “No Duh”.
If we were to stop panicking and think logically, (even if we set aside the fact that the most likely outcome of dieting is weight GAIN), we would come to the conclusion that we must start being FOR healthy kids, not against fat ones. Once we start doing that, we will stop overlooking unhealthy kids with thin bodies, and we will give fat kids a chance at the kind of health (physical and mental) that can only be achieved when they are not constantly stigmatized, helpless combatants in a war being waged against them by some of the most powerful people in the world. There is nothing that could possibly be accomplished by being against fat kids that can’t be accomplished by being for healthy ones. We need to get that message and we need to get it before we irreparably damage an entire generation of kids.
Mr. Kramer wrote another book called “Bullies Beware” in which a kid stands up to his bully. If you feel like giving that a try, you might consider:
E-mailing him to tell him what you think
Joining the discussion at Barnes and Noble
Joining the discussion at Amazon.com
Letting other people know that this is happening so that they can get involved.