Maggie Goes on a Diet – healthy eating or dieting tips for children?

Paul Kramer’s book ‘Maggie Goes on a Diet’ is due to be released in October, but not without great controversy. It is not surprising that Kramer’s use of the term ‘diet’ in a children’s book sparks outrage, but even more disturbing is the book’s message.

The story is about Maggie, a 14-year-old girl who goes on a diet and becomes her school’s popular soccer star. Paul Kramer claims his intention for the book is not to encourage eating disorders but, rather, “to have children feel better about themselves, discover a new way of eating, [and] learn to do exercise.”

According to the Childhood Obesity Foundation, approximately 27% of children between the ages of two and 17 are currently overweight or obese. The numbers don’t lie; childhood obesity is a major problem in society today. However, is a book about dieting really a step toward a healthier life for our youth? Diets are common in our culture, and most often consist of calorie restrictive meal plans.

These are also the same eating habits that created the term ‘yo-yo dieting.’ According to Eat Right Ontario, this type of dieting occurs as a result of these nearly impossible-to-maintain diets, and people regain all the weight they’ve lost, and sometimes more. ‘Healthy eating’ is not restricting. Canada’s Food Guide recommends children eat the servings of fruits and vegetables, grains, meat and dairy recommended for their age. These food groups should be eaten in small meals and snacks throughout the day. Children should also be active for 60 minutes per day. In order to decrease obesity, this idea of ‘health’ should be our goal instead of short term dieting. The book’s disturbing emphasis on a thin figure out weighs its value of ending obesity.

Furthermore, Maggie’s transformation from a chubby girl to a thin soccer star sends the message that being thin is where happiness lies. This should not be the idea of happiness we send to our children.

It’s no secret that there are girls with thin body types on our TV screens, the covers of our magazines, advertisements and clothing stores. Models are becoming thinner and thinner and the last thing girls need is another reason to think that thin is the ideal. Instead, we should teach our children to love themselves, but in order to do this we need to first learn to love ourselves, as we are.

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