‘Maggie Goes on a Diet’: Anti-Obesity OR Anorexia Bait?
“Maggie Goes on a Diet” is the new children’s book about an overweight 14-year-old coming to terms with her weight after getting bullied in school.
The book tries to promote healthy habits as Maggie switched from junk food to more nutritious meals. She also started exercising and later joined the school soccer team. Overall, the book sounds pretty reasonable and sensible.
Unfortunately, Amazon.com customers disagreed. Tagged as an “anorexia bait”, the book has received a lot of heat from parents and readers. Adrienne Ressler from Florida wrote, “It’s bad enough that the messages and images in the cullture have co-opted most women into loathing their bodies, but targeting the insecurities of young girls, vulnerable to the risk of developing an eating disorder, borders on promoting high risk behaviors and attitudes that are destructive both physically and psychologically. Please take this book off the market.”
Online critics have pointed out that the author Paul Kramer is not an expert on child health and therefore should not be writing books on the topic. Kramer responds to harsh criticism in an interview with Fox News, “I’m not advocating, never did, that any child should go on a diet. First of all, this is a change of lifestyle. This is not meant to be to go on a diet.”
Proponents of the book point to the alarming childhood obesity rate in the US, and how the proven combination of healthy eating and exercise IS the right resolution. However, critics of the book say that this promotes an unhealthy body image and encourages eating disorders that are already rampant among teens.
So does the book promote healthy living or an unhealthy attitude? My thought is — how is this so different from a PSA on childhood obesity (minus the rhyming)? Maybe the real issue is addressing the root cause of the problem — influences at home and pressures at school. If we’re able to raise our kids in a healthy lifestyle, issues of obesity would not be a problem. At the same time, if we build up an intolerance for bullying, then maybe societal pressures would not be weighing so much on the youth. We should not let a book dictate a child’s self-worth. And perhaps my view is a simple one, even bordering on sophomoric, but then again, I’m not writing a children’s book.