If you can let yourself get past the title, the book is about a 14 year old girl who is overweight and insecure. During the story she takes the time and effort needed to embrace and adopt better eating habits and exercise, which results in her losing weight, becoming more confident and eventually becoming the school's soccer star. The author intended the book for readers ages 8 and up and he clearly chose the word "diet" in the title to spark interest. I totally identify with the girl, her plight and her journey because I was an overweight teen. And I wish someone had helped me with my weight battle. Because the memory of feeling fat, unattractive, and downright lousy about myself remains quite strong to this day. And my mom and dad seemed oblivious.
So let's plow through the controversy and then we'll get back to me. A recent survey suggests that parents and kids skirt the discussion of weight, despite raging obesity statistics, because the conversation never feels good. So author Paul Kramer, in viewing the weight reality we face in the US and worldwide, decided to write the book and choose a title that would force us (kids and adults) to reckon with reality and begin having the discussion about "healthy weight." Being an author myself, and having used words in a book title that were most definitely supposed to inspire discussion and action, Fat Families Thin Families, I am sure Mr. Kramer was committed to using the word diet. I'm also sure his editor and publisher hoped it would inspire book sales and health talk. So the question is, will the parents whose kids need this "talk" most, be brave enough to buy the book or at minimum allow the book's release to simply spur an overdue talk. I guess time will tell.
My personal feeling is that many kids who grapple with weight issues from a young age mostly come from (a) parents who currently or in the past struggled with weight (b) parents who had eating disorders and run their home with incredible food strictness (c) a small subset of children who just seem to have a genetic predisposition to put weight on more easily and who live in a home environment that then encourages (by default) easy weight gain. You can argue with that assessment, however I speak from both personal experience and from professional experience as a nutritionist. Do I wish more parents would wake up and realize the power they wield as role models and captains of the family food experience? Yes, I do. Do I wish more parents would seek education and the tools they need in this tempting world of fast food, sedentary habits, financial challenges and urban food deserts so they thwart obesity? You bet. But I typically get lots of excuses and a cry for help when poor health habits are entrenched and moderate to serious health conditions associated with childhood obesity appear, namely diabetes type 2, hypertension, hyper-cholesterolemia. By then it's not too late - but it is really, really hard to swap out behaviors and to make sure the new disiplines persist as lifelong habits. I hated being overweight. As a child there was little I could do. As a teen it upset me enough to inspire change. Doing it without my parents support caused me enormous suffering.
So do I think Maggie Goes on a Diet is a timely book? Yes I do. Do you need to buy it - not if the fact that you've heard about it has inspired you to begin a healthier journey with your own family. Want a more forgiving approach written for parents? You can read my book, The 4 Habits of Healthy Families. It was inspired by a journey similar to Maggie's but you won't find the upsetting word "diet" at the core of the program. Not surprisingly, it also didn't inspire controversy and huge sales.
Published On: October 06, 2011