maggie goes on a diet?!?!

‘Maggie Goes On A Diet’ is a new children’s book, authored and self-published by Paul M. Kramer, due out this October and geared towards readership as young as four-years-old. It tells the story of a 14-year-old adolescent girl who becomes a school soccer star after losing weight by going on a diet and limiting snacks, etc. Aren’t there more effective ways of being a soccer star than going on a diet?

But, perhaps this is really a book about an adolescent girl who gives in to the peer and societal pressures to look a certain way in order to feel good about herself? One of the first things I noticed was the distorted image in the mirror (body image distortion being a hallmark symptom of eating disorders). The second thing I noticed was that Maggie is not holding up an all-star soccer uniform, she is holding up an ultra-thin dress that she is hoping to fit into, one even smaller than her trimmed down mirror image.

As you might imagine, the story has become the target of tremendous controversy and criticism. Many reviews point to the irresponsibility of negatively targeting the self-esteem of young girls, Maggie’s acceptance of the bullying she experiences directed toward her weight, and the sheer danger of exposing children to these messages.

Many are up in arms and speaking out about what they think:
“for any parent to buy [this book] would be unforgivable.”
“4-8 year-olds should not be taught that dieting is a healthy choice.”
“The idea of this book makes me want to either cry or scream – actually both.”
“This is a dangerous book.”

Hundreds of reviews have addressed how this book, and the like, will contribute to early-onset eating disorders. Many have gone so far as to ask that Mr. Kramer remove the book from the market.

Mr. Kramer maintains that his book is not aimed at preschoolers and stated to Fox News that “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.” Here is his side of the story.

So… is this truly a case of judging a book by its cover (the book has not yet been released) or is there enough here to warrant the verbal barbs it has suffered thus far? What do you think?

About Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW, CEDS

Jodi graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from SUNY at New Paltz and earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University. In addition to over a decade of work as an LCSW and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist with individuals, families and groups in her private practice, Jodi is a NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) Certified Personal Trainer and created Destructively Fit®, a training that addresses eating disorders within the fitness industry. She is a former director of Day Treatment at The Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders and a founding member of Metropolitan Psychotherapy and Family Counseling Practice. Jodi also specializes in infertility and has served on the Clinical Advisory Board of Seleni Institute since its inception. Jodi is the creator of a curriculum on eating disorders for the Graduate School of Social Work at New York University and has been teaching this course, as well as guest lecturing in the NYU Post-Master’s Program, since 2007. Jodi actively lectures and teaches students, families and professionals throughout the metropolitan area about the etiology, prevention, treatment, assessment and work with eating disorders. Through psychotherapy and supportive work with adolescents, adults and families, Jodi works to create a secure sense of self, increased self-esteem and a healthy relationship with self and others. She works with an eclectic person-centered approach and tailors her practice techniques to the unique needs of each individual. Please feel free to contact Jodi directly in her Greenwich Village office, 212.529.5811. View all posts by Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW, CEDS

7 responses to “maggie goes on a diet?!?!

  • Ricki

    Jodi this article really hit the nail on the head for so many parents of young children today. I have been the Director of an early childhood center for many years and have unfortunately seen many parents making many poor choices for their preschoolers. One of my four year olds told us that when packing for a family vacation the mom told her first grade daughter that she was the only girl in the family that couldn’t wear a bikini because her belly was too big. The four year old told us that she wasn’t going to let her belly get big too. Very very often we see poor lunch choices for the children prepared by the mom and driven by the moms own poor body image. One of my preschoolers brings a squeeze tube yogurt and a bottle of water each day. This is hardly an appropriate lunch for a growing preschooler. It is clear that the mom is obsessed with her own body. As a school we try to run parenting sessions to counteract these poor practices, but I think that preschool nutrition should also be a very important part of a pediatrician’s visit. Keep these wonderful articles coming, Jodi. You are changing the lives of our leaders of tomorrow.

  • Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW

    Thank you! It is a relief to hear that schools are aware and helping to educate parents, as well as their children. You, too, are making huge difference!

  • Jess Elizabeth

    If the book is advocating a healthy lifestyle change, then it should be called “Maggie Takes Care of Herself,” not “Maggie Goes on a Diet.” Children need to learn that they can’t “go on a diet” unless their doctor tells them to (and hopefully, most doctors won’t use the term “go on a diet” and will instead encourage healthier eating and exercise), and hopefully no child will decide to go on a diet after reading this book.

    That being said, we probably shouldn’t be judging the book by its cover. But based on its cover alone, it definitely seems like an inappropriate children’s book that could do more harm than good.

  • Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW

    Well said, and I fully agree! Thank you, Jess!

  • Marissa

    I’ve actually read this book and it is horrific. The girl becomes more popular because she loses weight. If this book is supposed to educate children about choosing a healthy lifestyle, then it is terribly misguided. We need to find better ways of educating children about healthy eating and exercise habits – ways that do not emphasize appearance. I also think we need to find better ways of educating kids (particularly girls) about eating disorders. Many girls develop eating disorders after learning about them in school. That didn’t happen to me, but I know some girls who did experience that. But, I wonder if I would have thought more about the consequences of eating disorders if someone had told me about their effects on quality of life. When I was a kid, I didn’t care about physical consequences, because I was like “okay, the physical consequences are that I get really skinny. good.” Death wasn’t scary when I was a kid. Anyway, I’ve written more about this on my blog.

    • Jodi Rubin, ACSW, LCSW

      Thank you for your opinion about this book. I have not read the book yet. You are right in your belief that things like these, e.g.: books, messages, etc. at an early age do matter and we, as a society, need to be careful with out children and young adults (and adults, for that matter). Thank you again for your comment!

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