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Thread: Diet book for children: good idea or bad idea page

  1. #1
    KestrelSF's Avatar
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    Diet book for children: good idea or bad idea

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    There's a new children's book that has caused a bit of a row, at least if the Amazon comments are any indication, called "Maggie Goes on a Diet"

    The LA Times article is fairly supportive: 'Maggie Goes on a Diet' the sensible way in children's book but if you check out other articles a good many are outraged at this book.

    From the LA Times article:

    Apparently, “diet” is one of the most incendiary four-letter words in the English language. Just consider the case of “Maggie Goes on a Diet,” a forthcoming book about an overweight 14-year-old.

    As the book opens, Maggie is called “fatty” and “chubby” by kids at school. So she decided to do something about it. She didn’t starve herself but switched to eating foods that were “healthy and nutritious” and cut way back on junk food, allowing herself a single “normal-sized treat” once a week. She also started exercising almost every day and later joined a soccer team.
    What do folks think about a book like this?
    Apathy is tyranny's greatest ally.

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    Heidi's Avatar
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    I don't see the big deal. It's just a story. I used to read Stephen King novels during my elementary school days and that didn't cause me to become a sex-starved, homicidal maniac or anything. If a parent is concerned about how their child will react to this dieting-themed book, they can either try to put their kid in a bubble so no outside influence gets in their kid's head (sorry, not going to happen) or they can view the reading as an opportunity to discuss body image and health with their child.
    I'm retraining and strengthening my taste buds, one primal meal at a time.

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    I don't have an issue on face value, but it would depend on how it was presented. Young people have enough issues with body image, self-esteem, etc that a further focus on food/dieting could be detrimental. I can already see some 12, 14, whatever year old kid opening a gift from Grandma on Christmas and it is this book. All that would scream to many is "You are fat (and wrong for being so)." So while I agree with Heidi that it could be a great time to discuss body image and health etc. it has been my experience that many parents want to discuss, "Go play and leave mommy/daddy alone" so more than likely real discussion will not happen.

    So long story less long...it depends on context and presentation
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    Quote Originally Posted by canio6 View Post
    I don't have an issue on face value, but it would depend on how it was presented. Young people have enough issues with body image, self-esteem, etc that a further focus on food/dieting could be detrimental. I can already see some 12, 14, whatever year old kid opening a gift from Grandma on Christmas and it is this book. All that would scream to many is "You are fat (and wrong for being so)." So while I agree with Heidi that it could be a great time to discuss body image and health etc. it has been my experience that many parents want to discuss, "Go play and leave mommy/daddy alone" so more than likely real discussion will not happen.

    So long story less long...it depends on context and presentation
    +1

    From what I understand, part of the issue is that although the character is 14, the intended audience is younger (4-8 or 6-12). I think it would be better for parents to cook real food meals, encourage their children to get involved in the cooking, encourage their children to become active, and make sure they're getting regular sleep and not spending too much time in front of the computer/smartphone, rather than giving them diet books. You know, things they would ideally be doing already.

    Also the book will not be complete until the kids who bully her hit college, have a diet that consists of beer and pizza, and get fat. But in seriousness, I think that's also part of the issue--that her motivation is to stop the name-calling, without any kind of examination as to whether the kids bullying her are justified in doing so. It's pretty rare that bullying from other kids can be turned into something motivational.

    Also it's not really a diet book for children - it's a diet book specifically for young girls.
    Last edited by spakesneaker; 08-24-2011 at 08:16 AM.

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    Some stats on youth dieting from the National Eating Disorder Information Centre National Eating Disorder Information Centre - Know the Facts - Statistics

    In a study of 14 – 15 year old adolescents, girls who engaged in strict dieting practices:
    -Were 18 times more likely to develop an ED within six months than non-dieters
    -Had almost a 20% chance of developing an ED within one year
    Girls who dieted moderately were five times more likely to develop an ED within 6 months than non-dieters.

    Patton, G. C., Selzer, R., Coffey, C., Carlin, J. B. & Wolfe, R. (1999). Onset of adolescent eating disorders: population based cohort study over 3 years. British Medical Journal, 318, 765-768.
    Dieting for weight loss is often associated with weight gain, due to the increased incidence of binge-eating

    Field, A. E., Austin, S. B., Taylor, C. B., Malpeis, S., Rosner, B., Rockett, H. R., Gillman, M. W. & Colditz, G. A. (2003). Relation between dieting and weight change among preadolescents and adolescents. Pediatrics, 112(4), 900-906,
    Stice, Cameron, R. P., Killen, J. D., Hayward, C. & Taylor, C. B. (1999). Naturalistic weight-reduction efforts prospectively predict growth in relative weight and onset of obesity among female adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 967-974.

    Adolescent girls who diet are at 324% greater risk for obesity than those who do not diet.

    (Stice et al., 1999).
    Findings from Project EAT (population-based study of approximately 5000 teens):
    - More than 1/2 of girls and 1/3 of boys engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors (e.g., fasting, vomiting, laxatives, skipping meals, or smoking to control appetite)
    - Higher weight and overweight teens are more likely to engage in both binge-eating and unhealthy weight control than normal weight teens.
    In fact, 20% of overweight girls and 6% of overweight boys report using laxatives, vomiting, diuretics, and diet pills (Neumark-Sztainer, Story, Hannan, Perry, & Irving, 2002).

    Cogan, J. C., Smith, J. P. & Maine, M. D. (2008). The risks of a quick fix: A case against mandatory body mass index reporting laws. Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 16, 2-13.
    Neumark-Sztainer, D., Story, M., Hannan, P. J., Perry, C. L. & Irving L. M. (2002). Weight- Related Concerns and Behaviors Among Overweight and Nonoverweight Adolescents. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 156(2), 171-178.

    Body dissatisfaction and weight change behaviours have been shown to predict later physical and mental health difficulties, including weight gain and obesity on the one hand (Field et al., 2003; Neumark-Sztainer et al., 2006), and the development of eating disorders (EDs) on the other (Le Grange & Loeb, 2007).

    Field, A. E., Austin, S. B., Taylor, C. B., Malspeis, S., Rosner, B., Rockett, H. R., Gillman, M. W., & Colditz, G.A. (2003). Relation between dieting and weight change among preadolescents and adolescents. Pediatrics, 112, 900-906.
    Neumark-Sztainer, D., van den Berg, P., Hannan, PJ., & Story, M. (2006). Self-weighing in adolescents: helpful or harmful: longitudinal associations with body weight changes and disordered eating. Journal of Adolescent Health, 39, 811-818.
    Le Grange, D., & Loeb, KL. (2007). Early identification and treatment of eating disorders: prodrome to syndrome. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 1, 27-39.
    Teaching children healthy eating and exercise behaviours is a great idea. Teaching young girls that they need to diet? Not so much. I'd be fine with a book that showed a girl eating better and being more active, but I think that talking about dieting is likely to cause a lot of harm (especially when normal-weight kids may well decide they're too fat and undertake dangerous behaviours).
    “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

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    I think what the book describes actually are healthy eating and exercise behaviors. The problem is that it's getting packaged as a 'diet' with the intention of weight loss rather than just how anyone should be living, for health.

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    croí's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Owly View Post
    Teaching children healthy eating and exercise behaviours is a great idea. Teaching young girls that they need to diet? Not so much. I'd be fine with a book that showed a girl eating better and being more active, but I think that talking about dieting is likely to cause a lot of harm (especially when normal-weight kids may well decide they're too fat and undertake dangerous behaviours).
    I agree with this. Also, if you're giving your child a book about dieting, you also have to look at yourself and what you are bringing into the house in regards to food. If your child grew up pigging out on junk food, because that is all you eat. How do you expect them to turn their diets around, if you continue to eat junk food? I believe the book is a good idea, but the parents also have to be on board and help with support. Not just hand them a book, and expect a teenager to know the best route to take without developing an ED.

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    I'm seeing a lot of really good comments here I haven't seen any of the "experts" discuss... mainly the notion of parental responsibility to bring healthy foods into the house. What sort of support did the girl in the story get from family? Did the whole family start to eat better? I think these are more important, and practical, questions than some of the hysteria this book has produced.
    Apathy is tyranny's greatest ally.

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    As a former fat kid I can't see how this would be helpful in the least, if nothing else it is a validation of the stigma fat people suffer. We know what the mainstream dietary advice is and what effects it can have. So what does some poor kid do when the 9 servings of whole grains 5 servings of fruit/veg and all the rest of the food pyramid BS doesn't work? I think self blame is an inevitable consequence.

    And as a former fat adult I think it's time for so called experts to stop giving advice. They are not helpful at best or more likely actually harmful. But what do I know, I've only lived it.
    Wheat is the new tobacco. Spread the word.

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    Oh geez, I wasn't even thinking of other people picking up the book for the kid. I was thinking more along of the lines of the kid sees the book at the bookstore or library and they want it. That could turn out awful for the kid if they got this book as a gift without asking for it.

    Just having the parents lead by example does make better sense than buying this book.
    I'm retraining and strengthening my taste buds, one primal meal at a time.

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