Posts Tagged ‘controversy’
The kids are not all right
Like me, many of you have likely heard of the children’s book Maggie Goes on a Diet, set for release this October. Given the amount of outrage over the title, the pictures and the message, one wonders if the author (who is self-publishing this book) has enrolled in the ‘even bad press is good press school for getting the word out.’ After all, bad press has worked wonders for guilty ‘pleasures’ like “The Jersey Shore” or anything having to do with a Kardashian. Thus, I had to give some thought to visiting this issue before blogging on it myself.
If you caught author Paul Kramer’s recent appearance on Good Morning America, you might have been surprised (as was I) to see that he’s obese himself, which calls to mind the phrase, “Physician, heal thyself.’
While I do not denounce Mr. Kramer’s talents or worthiness based on his girth, I must wonder about someone writing for kids (recommending the book for children as young as 8 and in Grades 1 and up) on the subjects of diet and health who hasn’t managed to embrace these concepts himself. And yeah, I know that might be perceived as a bit controversial. But I believe actions speak louder than words – especially when it comes to matters of health (be they physical or psychological). In other words, Mr. Kramer’s so-called ‘message’ might be more meaningful if he was leading by example.
The fact is, as well intentioned as Mr. Kramer might be, this book could do far much more harm than good when it comes to teaching children about health, happiness and self esteem.
As a former fat kid who was made to go on countless strict diets, I can assure you that a diet is the last thing Maggie should go on. I do not blame or resent my parents for forcing me to go on diets, for cutting me off from what I deemed to be ‘treat’ food and thereby illuminating the concept of being “on” or “off” a diet plan (thus essentially teaching me about ‘cheating’ and bingeing with food). My parents did the best they knew how to do. But that was then. This is now. And despite the frightening rate of increased childhood obesity in our country, we should really know better.
I also take offense to certain passages within the book, in which the author tells of Maggie being unpopular and unhappy because of her size. The message here is that fat is unpopular and seen as “bad” amongst peers. If this is the case, time to get some new peers, Maggie. Popularity is not a reason to get healthy.
I might have weighed close to 300 pounds in grade school, but along with my stories of persecution and being misunderstood, I can also point to lots of laughs and good memories. Children need to be encouraged to live in the present and make the best of it. It’s this kind of self esteem builder that can help them want to change some of their eating habits in order to get fit and trim in a natural way. Most kids do still have height growth (getting taller) ahead of them. The weight has a chance to even out as long as drastic steps aren’t taken and bad habits aren’t taught. Ultimately, a healthy weight isn’t achieved by kids through dieting, but through balance and moderation in all phases of their lives.
As is true with adults, kids learn from example. Therefore, a diet for kids isn’t the answer as much as showing them what healthy eating is all about. We can enjoy our favorite foods in moderation, put down the fork before we’re uncomfortably full and then go for a walk. Let’s remember that kids have not learned their bad habits by themselves. Whether through mimicking their parents’ or peers’ eating habits or getting the wrong message from eating too many fast or processed foods, they have been taught to make the choices they’re currently making.
So shame on Mr. Kramer for proclaiming that Maggie Goes on a Diet – or that Maggie even needs to do so in the first place. Fact is, Maggie is perfect as she is. And now it’s time for Maggie to be introduced to movement, healthy choices and self-esteem builders. Not to the concept of ‘being thin equals popularity.’
It’s these kinds of subversive messages that led a kid like me to believe that food was a forbidden fruit that offered my only real pleasure in life. Cut to me stealing money from my Dad’s wallet, buying bags full of groceries, smuggling them into my bedroom and then eating until I felt like I was going to burst. These are not messages we want to encourage – not to the children we care about and not through the purchase (or even attention to) potentially harmful books such as this.
Let’s all turn the page on childhood obesity together, shall we?