We do not see children under 12 at Foodtrainers. My feeling has always been that parents versus children make most food decisions, prior to that age. If necessary, I will consult with parents of young children or refer them out to a therapist if I feel a serious issue exists.  My reaction to an upcoming book entitled “Maggie Goes on a Diet” about a 14-year-old losing weight may surprise you.
We’re away in San Francisco and I was just getting up after a long day (actually two days) of travel yesterday. My husband called me over to the TV saying, “you’ve got to see this.” George Stephanopoulos was interviewing the author (plus, plus-sized himself) about his controversial new book. I don’t recall but the subtitle was something like “diet book for young girls.” I watched the segment, did some research googling and came to the conclusion this isn’t a terrible idea, it’s just an unfortunate title.
For starters, this is not really a diet book at all. In the story, with cartoon-like illustrations, Maggie is overweight 14 year old is subject to teasing from her friends at school. Maggie joins the soccer team and starts to make healthier food choices. She ends up the star of the soccer team, loses some weight and feels better about herself. I think the word diet sends the wrong message because it insinuates something severe. On one of the message boards a comment read “what’s next lingerie for 12 year olds?” This implies that something inappropriate is written about. What’s described isn’t severe and isn’t unlike what I would do if a 14 year old came to my offices.
Those buying the book are primarily parents, if I had overweight child and wanted to broach the topic of weight loss this may not be a bad conversation starter. I have a tween son and there’s a book my friends suggested when having “the talk”.  There’s something nice about reading “a story” or looking at pictures to open a dialog up with children. I’m a proponent of telling my kids about things my way before their peers give them the wrong information or they have fear about something they don’t know about.
Why not explain to kids what a diet is, why we may gain and lose weight, why people are different sizes and how to be sensitive about this? The notion that this will create eating disorders is ludicrous to me. Children are more likely to pick up on disordered eating my watching a parent “diet” than my being informed about weight and food and exercise in an age-appropriate manner.  I talk to preschoolers about nutrition. Granted, I don’t talk to them about calories but I tell them how various foods function in their bodies, how activity helps their bones etc.
The author of “Maggie Goes on a Diet” previously wrote a book about bed wetting,
It seems his goal is to cover topics that affect a lot of children but may be touchy to discuss. Some have mentioned that Paul Kramer has no degree in nutrition but this isn’t a nutrition book. And from his size, perhaps (and I don’t know this for a fact) he has some experience growing up overweight. I will buy “Maggie Goes on a Diet” when it comes out in October even with the silly title.
Have you heard about this book? What are your thoughts about it? Do you think it’s OK for a teenager to lose weight in a controlled manner?

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