A diet book for six-year-olds with a cover that features a round looking child holding a skinny dress in front of the mirror has been attacked by nutrition experts in both the UK and US and a health blogger in New Zealand. Maggie Goes on a Diet, is not due for publication in the US until October but is already listed on many websites such as Amazon, where it is facing a barrage of abusive tags.
The blurb on the book tells the story of 14-year-old Maggie who “is transformed from being extremely overweight and insecure to a normal-sized girl who becomes the school football star”. “Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self-image,” it adds.
In the UK, Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the eating disorders charity Beat, said: “We know concerns about weight, size and shape are beginning to affect children at ever younger ages. Six and seven-year-olds already believe that their size tells the world what sort of person they are, and that big equals fat equals unpopular.
“Diets by themselves don’t directly cause eating disorders, but the combination with low self-esteem caused by body-image issues raises the risk significantly,
“Children should only be dieting with medical supervision and with their GP’s involvement. They should be gaining weight steadily as they grow into adulthood, and need the full range of nutrients and adequate calories to develop healthily. Adolescence worries come soon enough, without introducing them to six-year-olds.”
In New Zealand, blogger Amy from A Merry Life, blogs about how she lost 40lbs and how it changed her life, has strong concerns about the book.
“Dieting is not a healthy choice for growing children. It’s just not. Even throwing the word diet out there to them is unhealthy, in my opinion. If you want to help with the child “obesity crisis” then target the parents. Teach them to make better choices – don’t start shaming children.
Another point that the book seems to make is that weight loss = happiness and success. That is not the case…. Happiness comes from the inside, not from your looks.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my future kids and what I want to teach them about being healthy. I want to teach them that food makes your body feel and work good when you make healthy choices…. I want to teach them all the things I had to teach myself, growing up obese in a diet obsessed world.
Since I’d rather look for solutions and what I’d do instead…
How about instead of Maggie Goes On A Diet you write a different book?
Maybe… Maggie Tries New Foods (about eating new healthy foods)
Maggie Plays Soccer (about discovering soccer and becoming a star without dieting)
Maggie Makes Friends (about an overweight girl NOT ashamed of her body, but popular)
What do you think? Child obesity is an issue. Three out of ten children in the UK are overweight. In the US approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese, over triple the rate a generation ago. But how should we tackle this, particularly with very young children. Should we just leave them to get on with eating what they like & worry about the consequences afterwards?
Whose responsibility is it? The parents, the school’s, the government’s, celebrity chefs’? Would love to hear your thoughts.