Last week, I wrote an article about the Kramer book Maggie Goes On a Diet. It’s an open wound sort of topic for me with my sensitivity about this subject but mostly I am bothered by the probability of the damage that will be caused by the message in Maggie Goes on A Diet. The premise of Maggie Goes on A Diet is basically that a young girl, Maggie, age 14, looks in the mirror and decides that she does not like what she sees in the mirror. Maggie then decides to do something about her weight problem and Maggie goes on a diet. This should be an empowering message, right? I am fully aware that we, as a nation, are in the midst of an epidemic of obesity of epic proportions. I see it everywhere I look, even in my own mirror.
My issue is that this book goes on to say that by Maggie “going on a diet” ( a word that I feel should NEVER be uttered in the presence of a child for the sheer fact of the completely negative connotation associated with it) all of her dreams come true. Not only does she lose weight, she becomes beautiful, popular and the star of the soccer team. In a nutshell, according to this book all of life’s dilemmas can be solved by merely not being fat. What a dangerous message this sends. How easily can Kramer’s message be parlayed into self-loathing, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, anorexia, bulimia and a slew of other extreme unsatisfied, not quite measuring up disorders? Since the book is written for the 4-8-year-old, how many ways do you think this message can become twisted in their little brains? Hmmm? Let me count the ways….
Maggie Goes On A Diet and the whole world is Perfect
- If you lose weight you will be prettier
- If you lose weight more girls will like you
- If you lose weight boys will like you
- If you lose weight you will be popular
- If you lose weight you can wear nice clothes
- If you lose weight everyone will love you
- If you lose weight your parents will love you more
- If you lose weight you can be anything you want to be
- If you lose weight you can have anything you want to have
- If you lose weight..everything WILL be PERFECT
- If you lose weight, YOU will be irresistible
- If you lose weight you will never be alone
- If you lose weight, you will always belong
- If the number on the scale is high, your life will be unhappy
- If you have a little extra weight, you are not worthy of happiness
- If you don’t look like everyone else, you are not good enough
- If you are not perfect, you are worthless
And then I received a comment on the original post from a 17-year-old female reader and I know I am right. Here is her comment.
I’m a 17-year-old girl and to be honest, I see nothing wrong with this book. if my parents had given me this book…yeah, I would have been a little upset, but I would know they were just trying to stubbly help me. Everybody is beautiful in their own way, but who doesn’t want to be healthy? I mean it when I say that I am the happiest I’ve ever been because I eat right and exercise daily. This book’s message may just as well be a small step to help you onto your pursuit of happiness * 17-year-old reader*
Do you see what is happening? She is already programmed and defensive. She’s been affected by this sort of mentality. She would have been happy, though upset a little if her parents had given her Maggie Goes on A Diet. Her last sentence is the most troubling, equating Maggie Goes On A Diet’s message with helping one begin their own pursuit of happiness. If this message stands to reason, what is to stop girls from starving themselves or purging? By this message, it would be completely logical to restrict the food, amp up the exercise and be all that you can be. Maggie Goes On A Diet promises a mythical utopia at the end of a weight loss journey to children who still believe in unicorns… 4-8-year-olds. Diets are not for kids. Parents are for kids. Parents need to teach healthy eating habits and model an active lifestyle. You can’t be a good parent and feed your kids crap all the time and leave them in front of a television set. I know it’s easy to give in and feed Bobby nuggets three times a day because you know he will eat THAT. I know it’s easy to give in to that tantrum and just say “Sure go ahead watch another episode of Sponge Bob or play for hours on end on the Wii, PlayStation or DS. We’ve all been there. I’m not making judgments. I speak from past experience. The operative word being past. It’s easier to pop something processed in the microwave or keep the kids entertained with technology so you can get some stuff done. Believe me, I’ve been there. I’ve done it. But the ratio needs to be 5% coping out lazy parenting to 95% making the unpopular choices, the choices that will give our children a higher quality of life in the long run. I, for one, will not be responsible for my girls contributing to the childhood obesity statistic or will I let them spend all of their time with their derrieres planted firmly in front of the tele or the computer. I will not be the reason that they develop poor self-esteem or body image issues.
I will, however, make sure that my girls are shown by example a healthy active lifestyle. I’ve started working with a personal trainer myself over the past 3 weeks and I’ve now noticed my girls emulating my working out.They take dance. They play outside. They ride bikes. The use their imagination. I buy and prepare healthy food. Do they get restaurant food? Sure, once a week we usually eat out. But I try to ensure that they are getting healthy, clean food that is balanced and nutritious. They have to try everything twice, they must eat all their fruits and vegetable but can leave carbs on the plate any time they feel they’ve had enough. Most importantly, my girls know they are better than good enough. They know that they are a sum of their parts; inside, outside, physical, mental and spiritual. Their worth is not determined by what they look like or the size of their clothes. I don’t compare them to other children or to one another. They are individuals and they are amazing…as is. They are healthy, happy, amazing and loved.Oh, how they are loved. This is what is important. I want them to feel the weight of unconditional self-love, pride and respect for themselves not magnify their flaws into full-blown insecurities and disorders. I want my girls to love themselves with the same unconditional and boundless love with which I love them. Maggie Goes on A Diet be Damned.