Diet Book For Six Year Olds? Yes, Really

20/08/2011 11:33 | Updated 22 May 2015
Diet book for six-year-oldsAloha Publishers

I have a little boy who is a bit chubby. I worry about his weight when I read that childhood obesity can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression. My solution is to try to cut down on the amount of biscuits he eats and encourage him to play a bit more football and a bit less Xbox. What I had not considered was going out to buy him a children's book about going on a diet.

Of course up until recently I wouldn't have been able to buy such a title. But now Hawaiian author Paul Kramer, has seen fit to self-publish just such a book called Maggie Goes on a Diet, now available on Amazon.

This is wrong on so many levels.

The book charts the progress of 14-year-old Maggie who has, according to the publisher's blurb "so much potential that has been hiding under her extra weight". By going on a diet she is "transformed from being overweight and insecure to a normal sized teen who becomes the school soccer star".

Online bookseller, Barnes & Noble, which stocks the title in its 'Kids Books' category says it is aimed at children aged from 6-12. This makes its message more than just distasteful, but downright dangerous as, according to the The Royal College of Psychiatrists, the eating disorder anorexia nervosa is most likely to strike during just these vulnerable mid teenage years.

NHS figures back this up stating that the highest rates of anorexia can be seen in female teenagers aged between 13 and 19, in fact girls just like poor chubby Maggie.

UK mental health charity Mind says that 1 in 100 women in the UK aged between 15-30 suffers from anorexia, with girls as young as five developing the condition. Clearly this sets Maggie Goes on a Diet up to become a bestseller amongst the army of teenage girls dying to find out how going on a diet will transform them, just like its heroine, from overweight and insecure into a skinny soccer star.

While the book claims to talk about how hard work and exercise help Maggie to lose weight, the title itself promotes the idea of dieting as the route to better health, both mental and physical. The author clearly isn't aware that diets don't work.

A study of 25,000 people carried out by the Medical Research Council's National Survey of Health and Development found that virtually none lost weight through dieting. But I guess Maggie Changes her Lifestyle and Eats Healthily isn't quite as catchy.

Maybe I am being sexist too, but I do rather object to a larger, older man, writing a book preaching to teenage girls that they should slim down in order to become happier and one presumes more popular. But then any grown man who also puts his name to Do Not Dread Wetting the Bed, in which little Cynthia "chases away the pee-pee monster", is already suspect in my eyes.

Not only is the idea that dieting is the ideal route to improving your body shape proven to be flawed, so is the idea that putting pressure on girls, or boys, to slim down will make them happier and allow them to show their true potential.

The book is available to pre-order but Amazon's customer discussions forum is already abuzz with criticism, with many threatening to boycott the online shop if the book is sold.

One commenter writes: 'I'm sorry. It is not appropriate to be reading to children about going on diets. It takes so little to trigger eating disorders in children and teenagers and this could be such a huge trigger. If you read this to your kid it is tantamount to abuse.'

Another says: 'Maggie gains self-esteem, friends, and the ability to play soccer BY LOSING WEIGHT. This is such a harmful message, essentially saying that overweight children can't have any of those things. This book essentially tells overweight kids that if they can't manage to lose the weight they are worthless.'

So in his cynical attempt to cash in on the concerns of parents like me whose children are on the chubby side, Kramer is pedaling a dishonest and potentially dangerous book in the guise of an upbeat children's story.

For if poor old Maggie were to go on a diet she is more likely to end up locked in a dysfunctional relationship with food and far too depressed and stressed to even consider taking up soccer.

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