A children's book is creating controversy before even hitting the shelves. The title might tell you why. It's called, "Maggie Goes on a Diet", and is written by Paul M. Kramer.
The children's picture book is about a pudgy 14-year-old girl who goes on a diet. The description of Kramer's self-published book reads on Amazon: "This book is about a 14 year old girl who goes on a diet and is transformed from being extremely overweight and insecure to a normal sized girl who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image."
Barnes & Noble recommends the diet book to children aged 6 to 12, Amazon's site says ages 4 to 8.
"Maggie Goes on a Diet" won't be released until October but some parents are saying it shouldn't be on shelves at all!
Critics of the book say "It's not even slightly appropriate for the age group they're aiming it at," and tags such as "body fascism" and "give your children neuroses" have been added to the book's Amazon listing.
Kramer, 44, defended the book on Good Morning America. "My idea was just to write a story to entice and to have children feel better about themselves, to discover a new way of eating, learn to do exercise, try to emulate Maggie and learn from Maggie's experience.
Children are pretty smart, they will make a good choice if you allow them that opportunity. If you push them and tell them that they can't do something, they will probably go and do the opposite."
It's no secret, childhood obesity is a huge (no pun intended) problem in the U.S. According to the CDC, approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents between the ages of 2-19 years old are obese. That's triple the amount a generation ago.
But nutrition experts say this story will not help the problem. Joanne Ikeda, a nutritionist emeritus at University of California-Berkeley, told News-Medical.net that the book 'does not empower a child to adopt good eating habits,' by focusing on imperfections.
Rather, it may cause lower self-esteem by failing to achieve what Maggie did. 'if you don't look like Cinderella, you're a failure,' said Ikeda.
'I wouldn't want a child to read this ... because they might, in fact, try to do this and fail. What is that going to do to their self-esteem?'
'Body dissatisfaction is a major risk for eating disorders in children all the way up through adulthood,' Ikeda warned.
Putting it into perspective, as the numbers for childhood obesity are on the rise, so are the eating disorder cases and they are affecting younger and younger kids. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported a 199 percent increase in the number of eating disorder-related hospitalizations for children under the age of 12 between 1999 and 2006. A 2011 study found that nearly one in 60 adolescents has anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. Over half of little girls aged 3 to 6 think they are fat.
Surprised? Don't be. Afterall, we're a society that sells onsies and t-shirts for toddlers that read "Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels". Now, we can add selling diet books for little girls to the list.
Viewers serve up their thoughts on Facebook:
Fallon: "Interesting. Teaching children good eating habits is great because they will most likely make better food choices when they're older. But giving a toddler a diet book and telling them that they're fat is disturbing to me."
Kim: "I agree, and WHY is it geared only to girls?? By the looks of the author... shouldn't he read his own book?"
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And that's today's helping of Online Dish.
Online Dish: Fat at Four? New Diet Book for Young Girls Causes Stir
"Maggie Goes on a Diet" has been condemned by parents and nutritionists for sending a dangerous message to young girls.
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