Weighing In: The Most Talked-about Children's Book of 2011


Has anyone been following the controversy surrounding this new children's book entitled "Maggie Goes on a Diet"?  

I have been contemplating whether I was going to mention it here on my lil' bloggy blog because I don't like to give unnecessary attention to such drivel.  But the fact of the matter is that this issue is too important to NOT speak up. And frankly, it has my name in the title of the book, so I really feel like it's begging me to weigh in on the subject!

You can find many other {and BETTER} commentaries than mine, but I really feel compelled to say something about what I think about this book.
So despite the fact "Maggie Goes on a Diet" doesn't go on sale for another couple of months, but it has definitely stirred up some controversy. The book essentially follows a story of an overweight young girl who realizes that she's fat and takes control of her weight by exercising and eating healthy food {and abstaining from "bad" food}. So that sounds alright, doesn't it?  Where is the harm?

For me, the harm lies in the following ways which I will outline below {you can stop reading here if you don't want to read my rant! I just feel really passionate about raising happy and healthy children!}.

Ok, so first, here's the cover of the book.
Pretty awful right? A puffy little girl in pig tails {because they would never put a husky BOY on the cover!} looking longingly, dreamily of her skinny self wearing that tiny pink princess dress.  OY! How many things are WRONG with the cover?!?!?!


In terms of marketing this book, Maggie's age is supposed to be 14. But the sad reality is that this book is targeted to girls as young as FOUR! YES. You read that right - 4 years-old - and already society is dumping on them to lose weight! I mean, just look at the cover - that Maggie doesn't look like a teenager - she looks like a little girl. We definitely don't want little girls identifying with "Maggie," thinking they want to go on a diet too!

This is truly disgusting.  You can just imagine a clueless parent, grandparent, or aunt buying this book and reading it with their little girl, emphasizing that the power is within them -- the little child -- to lose weight, if they only had the self-control; and if they want to be popular in school, all they have to do is lose weight!

What a sad and FALSE message this is to young girls. Skinny-ness {at the cost of deprivation!} never was happiness.  Hey, I'm all about getting healthy in the right way - but demonizing food and glorifying thinness just leads to poor self image, disordered eating and over-exercise.  Trust me, these kids have the their WHOLE lives to be messed up with that stuff - why start them at age 4???

Frankly, the name of the book irks me too. The word "diet" in our culture has little do with real healthy living and definitely has a negative connotation. Diets are generally a fad-related, short-lived, crash methodology to lose as much weight as possible, as quickly as possible regardless of any adverse consequences. The content of the book is still disturbing, but it would be better off titled, "Maggie Gets Healthy"or something less threatening than a diet book aimed at children!


Why is the main character in this book female? Don't men go on diets? Yes, but in my experience {and I have A LOT of experience in this area!} is that women are bombarded by images of the perfection that we all want to aspire to. I'm not blaming the media because I myself  buy magazines {fashion, health & fitness, trashy celebrity rags} that constantly mock and criticize any body type that isn't runway-ready for Fashion Week. I see and hear intelligent grown women, and dare I say SKINNY WOMEN {again myself included!} agonize that their legs are too wide, their tummies aren't flat enough, and their nail beds are so ugly {yes, I've uttered that phrase!}.  

We all have stuff we want to improve upon, but the constant picking on ourselves for that last 5 lbs or whatever your "stuff" is, isn't lost on our little girls. They model our behaviour. The fact that this diet book for children is even being published because there appears to be a market for diet books for young girls -- it's a sad state of affairs.  

This now delves into the concept of young girls needing to be "cute" or "attractive" or "hot" -- the hyper-sexualization of young girls is becoming an altogether common reality. You know what I mean.  Remember a few years ago a major store started selling thong underwear marketed to 8 year olds?! I'm no expert in gender studies, but I doubt a 4 year-old boy would be thinking he's not "hot enough" when he's a little chubbier than other kids. His idea of self-worth doesn't come from "being attractive".

Books like this just plays into that stereotype that being thin makes you happy.  It's not true. Ask any girl with disordered eating habits. She may be thin, but it's an all-consuming obsession of deprivation and self-hatred to maintain that twig-like figure. I'm not saying that natural skinny people {women in particular!} are unhappy -- my point is that one body type shouldn't be promoted over another. The goal should overall health and wellness -- a glowing child beaming with happiness and optimism, regardless of whether their body type fits into the popular media's image of idealized perfection.


THESE ARE CHILDREN. In my respectful opinion, it is a parent's responsibility to help small children make and provide healthy food for children.  Also, it's a parent's role to support and guide their children towards a healthy, balanced lifestyle; to encourage the children to exercise and play and be children. An environment that includes the mocking words "fat", "chubby", "lazy" and the like, then reading a diet book marketed for children is unhealthy.

In conclusion, there is a fine line between teaching your children balanced and solid principles of health and wellness and teaching 4 year-olds that being overweight makes you ugly, unpopular, un-athletic and unworthy. This book crosses that line.


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