Don’t judge this book by its cover
When you’re fourteen years old, chubbier than the rest of your friends and desperately unhappy about it, there’s nothing more precious than good self-esteem.
It gives you confidence, improves how you relate to others and boosts your overall sense of happiness. It makes you a better human.
Diets do not help build healthy self-esteem. Ergo, books about diets do not help engender healthy self-esteem. That’s probably why American author Paul Kramer has copped so much flak for his new but yet to be published book, Maggie Goes on A Diet.
The controversial story tells of a fictional and overweight teenage girl who goes on a diet to avoid being teased and ends up the high school sports star.
Pitched to children as young as four, Kramer’s book has outraged parenting experts and some doctors. He’s sending the wrong message, they shouted across online forums and parenting blogs last week.
Most are concerned that Kramer’s book will encourage eating disorders.
Others say by putting Maggie on a diet, Kramer is advocating short-term fixes instead of encouraging long term healthy eating.
Admittedly the cover of Kramer’s book does nothing to refute these arguments. Maggie stands in front a mirror, clasping a summer dress that’s clearly several sizes too small to her chest, with a forlorn look on her face.
Almost at once the story becomes skewed. Even a bit tired. It says Maggie’s going on a diet so she can fit into a lousy dress; just another young woman desperately trying to succumb to society’s ideal.
But that’s not Kramer’s message. Far from it.
Firstly he’s given Maggie courage. Not afraid to admit the other children’s taunts hurt her feelings, Maggie’s also motivated enough to make changes in her life. That she’s rewarded for with notoriety and respect from her friends. And that’s everything when you’re 14 years old.
He’s also refused to be condescending. “Kids are smart and make decisions for themselves”, Kramer told American ABC News. And he’s right.
Australia has a problem with childhood obesity; one in four kids are obese. But simply acknowledging these statistics is not a solution. Kids need guidance. And that that starts with honesty.
As adults we know being overweight is always uncomfortable. We also know that losing weight is a hard slog.
So there’s nothing wrong with being straight-up about this with kids who may already be struggling with their weight. As long as you do it with respect.
In this regard, Kramer’s book hits the right note.
One of the best things about Maggie is that she doesn’t cut corners.
Her success is not, as some critics (and the book’s cover) suggest is as a result of short-term changes. She goes on a journey, sticks to a pretty hard regime and falls in love with soccer.
Who wouldn’t want their child to take inspiration from a story like that? If I had any, I wouldn’t hesitate in buying a copy.
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