Maggie goes on a dietI mean, I get mad just reading the title – and you should, too. This is the title of a new book by author Paul Kramer. And the book is being sold to REALLY young girls – Barnes & Noble lists the book with a recommended reading age of six to 12. Amazon offers it to an even younger readership, suggesting ages four to eight. Lauren Johnson shared this news with me and it’s effing ridiculous. Paul Kramer’s “Maggie Goes On A Diet” is a story about an overweight 14-year-old girl who lose weight and becomes a football star. Paul has been defending his work and is naive enough to actually surprised at the outrage it has caused. In an interview with Good Morning America, Mr Kramer said ‘he had no idea that anything like this [reaction] was going to happen.’ Kramer says the book is about “change.” Kramer said, “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. 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.” Critics have luckily been all over the book, arguing that it may promote eating disorders and health problems. Experts have also warned of the story’s possible negative effects. Joanne Ikeda, a nutritionist emeritus at University of California-Berkeley, told that the book “does not empower a child to adopt good eating habits,” by focusing on imperfections. Instead, 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’s concerns are valid – s report published last year in the journal Pediatrics revealed that the number of U.S. children under TWELVE that had been hospitalised with eating disorders had soared by 119% between 1999 and 2006. The public is also concerned. One reader, Dewi Gallagher Wilson, asked Kramer via Good Morning America’s Facebook page: ‘Why not call it “Maggie Gets Healthy”?’ The segment on Good Morning America also asked the author why he chose to use the word ‘diet’ in the title. GMA said it is a word that “sends all the wrong messages.”

Paul Kramer“Diet is a misconstrued word and it has many, many meanings,” Mr Kramer answered, saying it would not have the same effect. “Somebody at a bookstore looking at a title “Maggie Gets Healthy” is really not going to identify with someone who who has been overweight or has health problems, who can’t bend, play sports properly because they’re just too uncomfortable.”

The book’s description says that Maggie’s insecurities are transformed when she becomes a normal sized girl: ‘Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image.’ I personally think that’s awful – children should be encouraged to develop good self esteem aside from their size and weight. It also gives the false impression that weight loss will solve all problems, which isn’t true. The author also came under fire over Maggie’s portrayed acceptance of bullying. “Maggie is not a mean person,” he said. “Maggie is accepting that kids are mean, kids can be mean. She has decided to do something about it and to take things in her own hands and try to change her life, try to make herself more healthy. She wants to look nice. She wants to not be teased.”

That’s awful – the book is basically saying that children should change themselves in order to please others or not be bullied. It doesn’t teach them to stand up for themselves or accept themselves the way they are. Some people have also been particularly irate about the story’s focus on girls in particular. Lisa Hutchison wrote on Amazon’s reader forum: “This book is an abomination… It takes so little to trigger eating disorders in children and teenagers and this could be such a huge trigger. If you read this to your kid it is tantamount to abuse.” E. Williams added: “It is irresponsible to equate thinness with self-confidence. Children of every size need self-confidence in order to adjust to the demands of school. The idea that weight is something an individual can or should control is misleading, given that only 5% of dieters succeed in maintaining weight loss for even one year.” Kramer remains sanguine in the face of the outcry. “I was always taught as a child and all my life that you can’t judge a book by its cover. I think that all these people, especially that those who have written negative comments without actually reading the book have judged this book solely by its cover.” I think Kramer is either playing dumb or extremely out of touch with reality. I personally think the book is irresponsible and should not be geared to such a young audience. I’m hoping that no parent or school/organization will voluntarily buy this book.