This morning, as I was getting ready to go to work, I was distracted by the story on the Today show. Paul M. Kramer, an author and self-publisher, recently wrote a book called, “Maggie Goes on a Diet”. (It should be noted that the book’s intended audience is 4-8). In it, the main character is overweight, and is ridiculed by others at school. So, she decides to do something about it, and loses weight. As a result of her safe weight loss, she becomes popular and joins the soccer team. She is also very proud of herself.
Do I think this is necessarily “anorexia bait”, as others have said? Not necessarily. Do I think this is quality reading for a four year old? Not at all. Like I have stated numerous times before, I don’t believe ED’s happen because of 1 triggering factor. However, OVER MY DEAD BODY would you see me reading this to my soon-to-arrive baby girl.
My first problem with the book is that it addresses happiness from the outside in. The message “If you want to have internal happiness, you must change the external first.” Any buddhist or meditation flip-through book will tell you that you can achieve personal happiness at ANY moment, regardless of size or financial status or hair color. Changing your weight can potentially do nothing for your happiness, and all the temporary external gains Maggie received from weight loss (popularity, etc) would eventually fall away.
My second problem with this book is that it does place the anorexia-predisposed young lady at risk for a major trigger. Let me tell you a story about a young 12 year old girl. The young lady in question was an intelligent, compassionate girl who loved to sing and help others. She was teased relentlessly by peers in school about her weight, until she decided to do something about it. She decided to lose 60 lbs in 5 months, until her period stopped and she grew a fine layer of hair on her arms due to temperature changes in her body. She began to believe that her new, beautiful, waif identity was all she was good for, and she genuinely believed this until her mid-twenties. But man, were those compliments from the popular kids good.
Amanda went on a diet, and it sucked.
And it turned into an eating disorder.
Third, I just don’t think any 4-8 year old needs to have “diet” in her vocabulary. A balance of healthy foods? Sure. In an interview on Fox news, Kramer contradicts himself and says he believes no child should ever go on a diet. Moments later, he acknowledges that Maggie does indeed go on a diet.
I truly don’t think this guy had the worst intentions – I really don’t – I just think he’s stuck in the trance that the rest of the country is, the trance that says “LESS WEIGHT MORE HAPPY”. I think he was poorly informed.
And, this book sends a message that says, “Hey bullies! Keep doin what you’re doin! The victims of your words will change themselves so you can keep being an asshole!”
And one last question…why is the central character of a weight loss book a GIRL?
(Image provided by www.theweekmagazine.tumblr.com)