A diet book for kids
#1
"Maggie Goes on a Diet", is a controversial new book by children's author Paul Michael Kramer. The heroine of the book, Maggie, is a 14-year-old girl who is very overweight and has a negative self-image. She goes on a diet, works hard at it, loses weight and becomes a soccer star at school. She likes herself better, so the story ends happily-ever-after.

Needless to say, the book has sparked much criticism, with those saying that it could instill in kids as young as four a poor self-image, and give them eating disorders. The author and some supporters claim the message of the book is positive and empowering.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/articl...-four.html

Personally I can't agree with a book like this. It's true that obesity and diabetes in children has become a huge problem nowadays, but a book that tells overweight kids they should feel bad about themselves is not the solution. When kids are that young it's down to the parents to instill healthy habits, instead of giving them issues about their body and expecting them to deal with it.
PS. If you can, try your hand at giving some of the others a bit of feedback. If you already have, thanks, can you do some more?
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#2
It's hard to comment without having read the book as the tone could be anything from "one day Maggie looked in the mirror and realised she really did look like a fucking hippopotamus who deserved to be spat upon by normal children" to something like "Maggie had set challenges for herself for as long as she could remember, since the time she watched her brother rock-climbing when she was 3 and set to practising on the trees at home and nearly gave her father a heart attack two weeks later when he arrived home to find her waving to him from 30 feet up in the air. So when she decided she wanted to captain the school football team she set out with her usual determination--dropping junk food and taking to running around the block each morning to get herself in shape, and practicing in the back yard with a tennis ball to hone her skills." [OK, OK, I'm not a writer, but I hope you take my point.]

Certainly, a book about children adopting healthy eating habits could be done poorly or offensively (but then so could any book about anything. Think "What we learned from the foreign exchange student" vs. "Invasion of the Darkies" or "Love is Cool no matter who you are" vs. "Fags Are All Around so Keep Your Butt Duct Taped") but I don't think the entire concept should be fundamentally verbotten. Obesity in young people exists, and it is a problem, which the author certainly appears to be trying to help with. Telling people who are trying to help that they should never have even dared to open their mouths isn't something I approve of.

As for it being down to parents, I agree, and such a book could potentially be a useful tool for them to use to open a discussion with their kids and a positive way for them to show some direction.
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
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#3
Ignorant and neglectful parents have unfortunately turned childhood obesity into a subject that is difficult to handle in a tactful manner, as it's become extremely urgent. There are children at my kids' primary school wearing size 20 -- and more than a few. It concerns me greatly that with so much emphasis on healthy eating and maintaining ideal weight, the kids who need it the least are going to be the most receptive to the message -- my own children are quite slim and active, but will often tell me that "teacher says you can't eat that because it makes you fat". Meanwhile, the poor kids who are obese (and I never use the term lightly, but these kids are of worrying size) have parents who know that McDonalds every night is not a balanced diet (nor is McDonalds Tuesday, KFC Wednesday...) but they're too damn lazy to turn the stove on and make a stirfry. It's not for lack of education -- the TV screens are always full of this or that eating program, or stop-eating program -- so at what point does someone step in and say, "you are abusing your child and he/she has already lost 20 or more years of life, it's time you were removed from the picture before the damage worsens".

I absolutely agree about the book, however -- the way to tackle the problem is not through body image, which is very unhelpful and based on social trends anyway (how many of us actually look like supermodels? Hell, not even the supermodels look like supermodels until they've been airbrushed almost out of existence). Similarly, you can't just throw the fat kids onto the football field and tell them to run it off -- the other kids are going to laugh at them, you can't stop that, and they're probably going to do themselves some serious damage. A "diet" is not the answer for anyone really -- there is no quick fix, it needs to be healthy eating habits, regular (gentle at first) exercise, fresh air, positive role models and self-esteem that's not wrapped up in body shape.
It could be worse
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#4
Agree very much, Leanne. Assuming a child's gross obesity is not due to a medical condition, then it's tantamount to child abuse on the part of the parent. Food is such a personal issue that speaking up and criticizing is hard but it has to be done. The message is out there, the information is out there. Talk about the problem, and speak to kids about it. But recognize that the change has to come primarily from the system within each household... it's family habits that must change in order to guide the child.

TS, there's no doubt the author had good intentions... I feel a little bad for criticizing. Nobody's trying to shoot the messenger here. But this children's picture book tackled a sensitive subject that is very easy to get wrong, and based on the info we know about its plot, the author may have gone the wrong direction with it. Like you said, we can't comment on tone (only reviewers and critics who have read it in advance can). But plot-wise, it involves Maggie, the title character, having low self-esteem and being taunted because of her weight. Once she sheds the weight and joins a football team, presto! She gains many friends and is now popular. You can see why it would be a problematic story to tell a little girl. First of, how much of her unhappiness with herself is due to feeling rejected by her peers... only for the story to end by validating the perspective of her tormentors? Second, going on a diet is hard. Even adults find it so hard to stick with a diet and get results they are happy with... kids will probably get even less of the tools adults have (they have to eat whatever is served at the cafeteria and at the family dinner table). So if an overweight child decides she is unhappy with herself, then the book tells her the way to be happy and pretty and popular is to get thin only its even harder than the book makes it look, how could that not give the kid an eating disorder?

You made a very good point about how a book could be used by parents to open a discussion about this. I think I would have approved of the book if the parents of the title character were themselves actively involved, with them getting healthy as a family. It would ring more true as a way to open discussion on the subject. As it is written now, it puts unfair guilt and pressure on the child.
PS. If you can, try your hand at giving some of the others a bit of feedback. If you already have, thanks, can you do some more?
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#5
Quote:Needless to say, the book has sparked much criticism, with those saying that it could instill in kids as young as four a poor self-image, and give them eating disorders. The author and some supporters claim the message of the book is positive and empowering.
needless to say those people are morons. 4 year olds usually have no concept of self in as far as, "Do i look fat in this"
more often than not, a fat 4 yr old would try and eat the fuckin book. that said it could make fat kids who are older and more able to understand the ramifications of book feel less self worth and all the shit that goes with it. while the book is on the shelves and a work of fiction, i don't see it as such a big problem. as a work of fiction it may even help some 14 yr olds, many of em take this crap to heart. i can't see it as being a biggy. the people decrying it are moronic. amazon has said kids as young as 4 can read it, wow. why do parents leave newspapers with all this shit in lying round the house if 4 year olds read it hehe.
"come on johnny, potty time"
fuck off mum, i'm reading the financial times ...oooh look, there's a write up about a book that discusses fat fuckin kids, ...am i fat kid mum...can i have a big mac mum, can i ?"
"shut the fuck up you fat bastard and get on the potty"

funny as it sounds that's whats being implied (i know most kids are potty trained much earlier) that 4 year olds will read this book (how they'll get it i have no idea) and it will fuck them up emotionally. so i call, utter garbage.

i do think schools and parents should be aware of their kids diets and if they become obese do something about it. often we have fat kids because the parents don't care enough to give them proper diets etc. (leanne's quote)
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#6
Don't worry addy, I wasn't directing my comments are you specifically, you've presented a topic for discussion and my points were more at the way the media often takes a stand on something they're short of facts on and creates a controversy merely for the sake of covering column inches and bringing in ad revenue.

Anyway, my reservations on discussion sans basic facts aside, "...plot-wise, it involves Maggie, the title character, having low self-esteem and being taunted because of her weight. Once she sheds the weight and joins a football team, presto! She gains many friends and is now popular. You can see why it would be a problematic story to tell a little girl. First of, how much of her unhappiness with herself is due to feeling rejected by her peers..."

Yes I can see the problems, but not in the way you mean.

That some children are heavier than it healthy for them is a fact. That being heavier than is healthy is a bad thing is also a fact. The children bully each other is another fact. [A particularly unfortunate one, which certainly deserves addressing in it's own right. But a fact nevertheless.] That something can be done about weight is also a fact. [Unlike a below average IQ, or a congenital spinal defect, both other targets of bullying which the the victim is completely powerless to change.] That a good diet (I'm assuming the author is not advocating some short term fad) and exercise is a way to reduce weight is another fact. And that active outgoing kids, in team sports, often have more friends is yet another fact.

Is it fair? Perhaps not [though I could argue that societal pressures against unhealthy behaviour is actually a net social good, but that would be off-topic] but it's real. You can either tell overweight children they're wonderful and should ignore bullies (which won't work) or tell bullies to stop picking on overweight children (which also won't work) or you can show overweight children how they can help themselves (on the assumption that if the parents were competent then the children wouldn't be overweight in the first place). Or you can choose to ignore the problem and try to prevent people from discussing it (which won't work and would be a bad thing if it did).

I don't see any harm in a book showing a disadvantaged group a way to overcome the disadvantage they suffer from.
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
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#7
(08-26-2011, 11:30 AM)Touchstone Wrote:  my points were more at the way the media often takes a stand on something they're short of facts on and creates a controversy merely for the sake of covering column inches and bringing in ad revenue.

Oh there's no offense taken ( definitely did not mean to give you that impression either LOL Smile), and I agree with you there.

Childhood obesity should definitely be discussed, and it is also important to discuss it with the children themselves. But personally I think there's a delicate balance that must be achieved because there's a big psychological and emotional component: don't praise them for being fat, certainly. But waving social acceptance as a "reward" for losing weight is just repellent to me.

I see your point billy, glib though it may be Big Grin. Yeah, four-year olds probably won't even understand the book much. Older kids though... it's not just the book, I'm sure there are many messages out there that kids process in a negative manner because of hidden, unintended implications (for instance, there are many black little girls who grew up not feeling pretty because they weren't blond like barbie). There is a hidden negative implication in this book about body image, and I think kids will sense that and absorb it.
PS. If you can, try your hand at giving some of the others a bit of feedback. If you already have, thanks, can you do some more?
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#8
we first of all, should teach kids that it's okay to be different. that addresses the blonde wannabe to some extent.
then we should explain why it isn't good to be little fat bastards, not in those words of course. fiction can have a large influence on kids.
and if a fat little 12 year old girl see some skinny kid as a roll model then so be it, it's great. the problem does arise when they try and emulate the one fat, now skinny kid and fail, failure is very hard when you're a kid, i know this because once, i was a kid Smile.
kids also need to be taught how to accept failure and (and this is one the most important lessons) how to strive to overcome it. they also need to be shown that some things aren't indicative of failure. overweight being one of them. it should be positive reinforcement and that's what this book feels like to some extent. the main character tried and won. i've no doubt within the book she faced what must have been insurmountable tasks etc.
all the above aside, parent are more responsible for there being fat kids that kids are. maybe aim some of this fiction at the parent instead.

The parent with the big fat fucking kid.
of
the shite parent,
or
the parent who needed to learn good parenting skills.

jmo
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#9
(08-29-2011, 02:57 PM)billy Wrote:  kids also need to be taught how to accept failure and (and this is one the most important lessons) how to strive to overcome it.
That's the big lesson that seems to be missing for a lot of kids these days (and a lot of Gen Y-ers as well). Fear of failure is no excuse not to make an attempt -- and failure is no excuse to throw a tantrum.

There will always be chubby kids and I'm kind of happy about that, it takes some of the heat off the speckies :p -- but when lazy-arsed parents are over-feeding their kids to the point of giving them diabetes and heart disease before they hit puberty, something needs to change.
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#10
specky kid was you ? hehe :d
chubby kids can be healthy and i think thats the main aim, make sure the kids are healthy and well adjusted so that a failure doesn't destroy them. i hate the tantrum kids. my daughters little boy is an out and out animal when it comes to tantrums but we think he may be torrets to some extent, still, he's a little twat. Big Grin
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#11
Chubby kids can indeed be healthy -- in fact, the BMI bullshit puts quite unrealistic expectations on a lot of kids who are just naturally a bit bigger than their peers. It's not race-adjusted either, so we have a lot of Pacific Islanders here who are considered obese even though they're perfectly fine, active and fit. And of course there's nothing worse than watching The Biggest Loser or its ilk when some mega-tubby cries like a little bitch because he can't stay away from the fried chicken and gets thrown out, so shows like that make fat people even more the target of ridicule.

Maybe we just need to stop the attention on weight altogether. It's possible that things might even out if we stop making special categories for body shapes or skin colours or speech impediments or foot sizes or whatever else people get teased for, and just let kids be kids.

Oh, except keep teasing the ginger kids, that's funny.
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#12
I do not know whether any book, however well-written, will have any significant impact on a problem of huge, and epidemic proportions--- and, btw, it is by no means confined to girls.

There are some odd aspects, though. These children and young folk have as their principal role-models celebrity singers and waif-like models, and active, very rarely overweight (save in Sumo) sports-stars. I can guarantee that the poor ENORMOUS children I see regularly, in the environs of Pizza Hut, will have a celebrity mag on them. So they look, but how do they relate it to themselves? Seemingly, not at all.

Then again, we live in an age where TV cooking and gardening fairly dominate the air-waves. Yet the response of those with gardens, has been too cover with a patio, or decking (rat-shelter,you might say), and to pave over the front garden, even while retainiong a wall, so that there is no question of using it for a car. Have I ever made something based on a TV recipe? No. Perhaps some friend has, but if so, I don't know. Is it helpful to the poor? No, TV chefs seem to indulge in food-abuse--- assmbling perfectly good ingredients, jumbling them up chopping and dicing and liquidising and mixing , and throwing in some real cream here, aaand insisting on goose-fat there -- crikey! I do not recall any programme setting out to teach people how to cook cheaply, and healthily. The others offer the excuse when challenged : 'Of course, a dish like this is not for everyday!'

What we did have on our screens here in the UK was jamie Oliver, trying to produce healthy school-food, and training-up the staff. What happened? A classic cameo of mothers who went to the school to poke junk food through the wire-mesh to the kids. That made me think Leanne-like thoughts about treating this as abuse, in the way that persistent neglect is.

The problem,I suspect, is that if someone tells your child to say 'nothing' instead of 'nuffink', there is an implied criticism of you,Parent, and since food is so important, the idea that what you might hjave been giving your child 'to feeed him up' what more or less toxic, also offends you, as Parent. So some careful, but robust speaking and teaching is in order.

Then there are the bloody supermarkets, and supine governments, to feeble to direct that they cease and desist from selling every single thing, chock full with, fat, sugar and salt. Aaaaaah!
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#13
i remember an auzzi food program called 4 ingredients (i think) which was about being a good mum and a reasonable cook

back to topic. yes i think you're right. i doubt that one small book could even begin to counter the obesity problem kids face today
however, if it makes a for the usual "it's the parents fault" (which i believe it is) and one fat kid is saved then i suppose it will have done some good.
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#14
Negative body image in kids is a serious issue. Check out these figures:

Over the past three years in the UK, 197 kids aged 5 to 9 years old were hospitalized for eating disorders, with 98 of those being aged five to seven:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/a...ures-alarm

A panel of 5 to 8-year-old girls interviewed in Good Morning America reveal candid responses when asked about weight and body image (they giggle wildly at the words "fat" and "overweight"; when showed a picture of a chubby girl they instantly comment "Oh, she needs to lose weight".) The informal interview supports the results of a study that showed nearly half of 3-to-6 year old girls worry about their weight:
http://jezebel.com/5813602/panel-of-litt...depressing
PS. If you can, try your hand at giving some of the others a bit of feedback. If you already have, thanks, can you do some more?
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#15
3 years olds worry about their weight, wtf.
the parents are the ones who should worry.

that said i have two girls and when they were at high school
the fat kids always copped it. my eldest was usually the one the fatties went to for help
cos she was cock (best fighter) of the school and always helped em out.
those were hedy days, (the times i had lads dads coming to the house complaining what kassy had done to then Big Grin)
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#16
(09-05-2011, 04:39 PM)addy Wrote:  Negative body image in kids is a serious issue.

I think thats an unhelpful over-simplification. [Not by you, but by the media.]

Childhood obesity in developed nations is a serious societal and personal issue (but in the widest view it's actually no big deal).

It leads to increased health costs for society and the individuals, and to shortened life spans and reduced reproductive opportunities. Parents who allow their children to overeat and underexercise are failing to protect their genetic heritage. But non-survival of the least fit is crucial to the survival of a species so...meh.

Low self-esteem is perhaps a serious issue. I say "perhaps" for two reasons.

1. In our celebrity obsessed culture it is probably extremely widespread. We're too fat, or too skinny, or we're not great cooks and we can't sing, or act, or dance, or marry the right person, or drink enough or take as many drugs as a rock god, or fuck like a porn star or earn enough or whatever. All of us are crap at something, and we know what that is and if we're honest with ourselves we'd really wish it were different even if we can't actually bring ourselves to make it so.

2. Even though that seems bad, I'm wary of a rose coloured view of history. I'm not sure the chimney sweeps of Victorian London or even the unemancipated "upper class" women of the time felt entirely positive about their lot.

I actually suspect that a "feeling that things could be better in ones life" is probably how most people feel (and have always felt) most of the time. About something. And that dis-satisfaction with ones lot is probably the fundamental driving force of mankind.

I'm not at all sure that patting every roly poly kid on the head and saying, "you're a great kid. Have another donut while I punch in the faces of all the kids who say different." is really the best way to go. I think we should be telling them "you are too big, you can change that, I'll help, this is what we can do..."
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
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#17
I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. For me, the rising incidence of five-year-olds "dieting" their way to a hospital and near-death is pretty damn appalling.
PS. If you can, try your hand at giving some of the others a bit of feedback. If you already have, thanks, can you do some more?
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#18
You've misunderstood me. I'm not saying that unhealthy children (the many who are overweight with long term negative health impacts as well as the relative few who are over-dieting with the immediate impacts of that) are not tragedies. I'm saying that the problem is not a simple one.

If you believe that simply trying to get everyone to say that it's OK for kids to be significantly larger than average is the solution then, yes, we will have to agree to disagree.
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
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#19
Oh no, not at all. Like I said, childhood obesity is a problem (hell, an epidemic) that needs to be stopped, and we certainly shouldn't encourage kids to be fat. I'm saying there's a world of difference between "encouraging them to be healthy" versus "shaming them for not being thin".
PS. If you can, try your hand at giving some of the others a bit of feedback. If you already have, thanks, can you do some more?
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#20
In that case we'll have to agree to agree. Wink
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
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