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Should Your Kids Diet Like Maggie?

Maggie Goes On a Diet

There has been much buzz swarming around the upcoming release of a new children’s weight loss book. Not even set to be released on shelves until October, the book, Maggie Goes on a Diet, is already creating an uproar.

Maggie Goes on a Diet tells the story of an overweight, fourteen-year-old girl.

The book begins with Maggie being called “fatty” by the kids at school. She is constantly teased and tormented over her weight, until she decides to do something about it.

Instead of the typical approach that many teenagers unfortunately take, (starving themselves, taking diet pills), Maggie just makes the switch to eating a smarter, healthier diet.

So, what happens when Maggie goes on a diet? To quote from the book:

”Losing the weight was not only good for Maggie’s health, but Maggie was so much happier and was also very proud of herself. More and more people were beginning to know Maggie by name. Playing soccer gave Maggie popularity and fame.”

This sounds like an approach that would be recommended by experts, but audiences aren’t taking too kindly to the book’s overall message.

Several major book websites, including Amazon.com, have several negative reviews aimed at the book, saying it’s wrong to encourage young children to go on a diet.

Here are just a few examples of this negative feedback, posted on some of the web's busiest book-selling sites:

Taken from Barnes and Noble.com:

“This book is simply outrageous. How dare you assume that any child’s shape is intrinsically requiring of change, before their body is even done growing up.”

“This is horrifying. Why was this even published?”

Taken from Amazon.com:

“This book is an abomination. It is not appropriate to be reading to children about going on diets.”

“The idea of this book makes me want to either cry or scream—actually, both. Please take this book off the market.”

Most of the outrage over this book is due to the fact that both websites label the book as being for children, listing the reading level between the ages of 4 and 8.

With all of the controversy surrounding, Maggie Goes on a Diet, we turned to one of our experts for their professional opinion, and asked the question: Is it right to encourage younger, overweight children to go on a diet?

Christy Shatlock is a registered dietitian, and one of the leading dietitians for BistroMD. As an expert in the field of nutrition, we asked for her feedback on this book, and if the messaging takes the right approach.

“There is nothing wrong with encouraging your kids to make healthier choices,” says Christy. “Encouraging kids to go on a 'diet' however, is not the right approach.”

For young girls, the pressure to be thin and to maintain a certain shape is nothing new. Hollywood and advertisements in the media sell the concept that “thin is in” and in order to be healthy, you have to be skinny.

“The underlying theme of Maggie Goes on a Diet, is not necessarily bad. I just really dislike the word 'diet' when it comes to children," says Christy. “The best way to get children to eat healthy is to introduce them to healthy foods when they are young." 

As a dietitian, Christy has worked in the field of nutrition, and has worked with BistroMD’s founding physician, Caroline J. Cederquist, M.D., for many years.

“As an expert in the field of healthy weight management, Dr. Cederquist believes there is an appropriate and effective way to get your child to eat right," says Christy. "A strong, positive, emotional support system is the most important factor."

In her book, Helping Your Overweight Child, Dr. Cederquist writes:

“Solid, emotional support is a crucial foundation because the psychological and emotional stresses of obesity can be just as tough on kids as the physiological consequences. The first step in helping an overweight child is not the introduction of a new diet. Instead, tell your child that she is okay, no matter what she weighs. Say it loud and often. Let your child know that children come in many shapes and sizes, and none of them is inherently wrong. Your child is more important than what he/she weighs.”

The bottom line: if you need to encourage your child to lose weight, never use discouraging language, and always be a source of motivational and positive support.

“The word ‘diet’ can create confusion and fear in many children,” says Christy. “As a parent, you need to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with your child. You are just trying healthier foods, and practicing new methods of living healthy together."

Going through these healthy lifestyle changes as a family will also have a positive impact on your child. Eat healthy with them, and encourage physical activities where the whole family can get involved.

Do you have an opinion about the book, Maggie Goes on a Diet? We would love to hear it! Post it on our Facebook wall. Please visit, www.facebook.com/bistromd, to voice your opinion on this controversial subject.

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