By Emily Mathis
A new book titled “Maggie Goes On a Diet” is hitting bookstores everywhere and causing quite a stir. “Do little girls need a diet book?” asks Salon.com. That is the question. With childhood obesity rates close to 1 in 5 children, it’s not surprising that someone would write a diet book for children. But is that the right way to go?
“Maggie Goes On a Diet” follows Maggie, a 14-year-old overweight girl, through her weight loss story. According to the publishers: “Maggie has so much potential that has been hiding under her extra weight.” The publishers call the story of a girl who loses weight and becomes a soccer star, “inspiring”. But inspiring is not the word many would use to describe this story.
Already forums on Amazon.com are blowing up with outraged customers, and the book has yet to be released. Some call the book an “abomination” and some customers even threaten to take their business elsewhere if the book is sold on Amazon. Valid points are being brought up about how easy it is to trigger eating disorders, especially in girls.
In fact, according to The National Eating Disorders Association, “42 percent of girls in 1st – 3rd grades want to be thinner”, and “over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives”. With nearly 10 million girls and women suffering from eating disorders, it’s no wonder people are up in arms about a diet book whose targeted audience is 4 to 8 year olds.
Having experienced being overweight as a child myself, I fear reading a book like this during that period might have steered me down the wrong path. Too many girls already struggle with low self-esteem and lack of confidence, especially about how they look. A book that shows being fat basically means you can’t be happy with yourself, and being thinner equates to having more friends and being the star of the soccer team; well, that’s just asking for problems.
Girls need books that talk to them about acceptance of differences, of each other, and especially of themselves no matter what. “Maggie Goes On a Diet” is just another example of the media trying to fit girls into a certain image. Maybe instead of publishing books about dieting, the publisher should think about publishing books that promote healthy body image.