Diet Books for Children?

We’ve all heard about the rising numbers for childhood obesity, but do they warrant children’s books about dieting?

Paul A. Kramer thinks so. His controversial new book, “Maggie Goes on a Diet,” tells the story of a chubby 14-year old who wants to lose weight because she is teased at school. She changes her food choices and exercises, with the result of a slimmer figure. Her new body size makes her instantly popular with her classmates.

This book reinforces the idea that being thinner is better, a powerfully strong notion for children with low self-esteem. The changes Maggie makes in the book are admirable and great examples of positive lifestyle choices; however, equating them with social acceptance is not only erroneous, but dangerous. Children should learn about the benefits of healthful eating and regular exercise, which do not always include a reduction in body size or popularity boost.

Part of what has adults upset is that although its heroine is 14, the book is written for a much younger audience.

What do you think about this book? Do you think children should learn about dieting?

About Sarah Wechsler

Sarah Wechsler is a Registered Dietitian for SAGE Dining Services, Inc.
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2 Responses to Diet Books for Children?

  1. Michael Ramella says:

    Absolutely not. As the father of an 8 year old son and a 6 year old daughter, I don’t expect either one to understand what a “diet” is as most adults don’t understand what it is. What I prefer my children to learn is how to make healthy choices for themselves. They understand what good food choices are, and they understand that it’s better for them to play outside than to sit on the couch and play video games. That’s all I can ask of them as a parent, and I can feel that I’ve armed them with the right information.

    The key to all of this, in my opinion, is active participation and leading by example. Every child has some sort of anxiety over their appearance, and they need reinforcement that they have a source of unconditional love. Body image, social acceptance, and food aren’t always directly related as the author seems to suggest. I’d rather show my children what healthy choices are, and demonstrate them at home, than to have them pick up a book and adopt someone else’s idea.

  2. Christine Stutz says:

    You make some interesting points, Michael. As parents we all need occasional reminders that the best way to teach our kids is to set a good example with our own behavior, and that includes having a positive self-image. Even parents who are trying to lose (or gain) a few pounds should avoid putting themselves down in front of their children. This can lead to a child equating success — or even being lovable — with looking a certain way. And that is not healthy!