Is there really a book out there geared towards 6 year-olds going on a diet? You betcha. Why stop with women’s magazines that tout thin, blemish-free, flawless women or teen magazines that tout the same for young girls? Might as well get 6 year-old girls into the mix so they can learn early what is beautiful in this society. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the book Maggie Goes on a Diet. A portly little girl standing in front of a mirror holding up a tiny pink dress and looking at it longingly.
The author (male) justifies his book by stating “Maggie does want to look better. She does want to feel better and she does not want to be teased.” He argued that the book addressed “the issues that kids face today.” But as the author of the article states, why couldn’t you show Maggie playing soccer or eating fruit versus staring at herself in the mirror while holding a size 0 pink dress in her arms? By putting her at the mirror, you are reinforcing the notion that the reason to diet is to be able to fit in those size 0 dresses because it is only then that you are beautiful.
This country has an obesity problem that needs to be controlled – no doubt. Kids need to be more active and eat healthier foods. But the reason for doing so is to be healthy so that you can run and jump and climb hills and not get diabetes. Not to ensure that you look like the model on Cosmopolitan. And the word diet has such a negative connotation for girls and women. It denotes nothing related to health but rather everything related to body size and superficial beauty. I can’t imagine a book like this being written by a woman.
After having seen Maria go through the name-calling at her pre-school and Kindergarten, it saddens me to see this book in print. I think there is a much better way to address being healthy. I don’t know this author and he could have very well been trying to show how Maggie could feel better by eating better and exercising but he has a responsibility to think hard about how his words and images will be felt, especially by 6 year olds. Maria could not understand why kids would call her “fat” or “big.” It made her retreat from activities and feel self-conscious. Those comments, thankfully, have stopped for the most part. She would never talk that way about anyone else; she has learned from her experience. She understands what it means to be healthy and why we don’t shovel food in our mouth – because when we do so we don’t feel good and its hard to move and we get tired…. We exercise in order to be able to keep in shape and move when we want to move and climb up mountains when we want to climb and ride our bike for miles when we want to do so.
Maria is gorgeous and strong and happy, and we work hard to keep her on that path. This book has no place on her shelf.