Our June 2011 Mama of the Month, Dr. Logan Levkoff, was recently on GMA talking about Maggie Goes on a Diet. The book has been making more than a few waves with its subject matter (spoiler alert: Maggie goes on a diet). Dr. Levkoff rightly points out that we need to teach our children that it’s not just what’s on the outside that matters. She also reminds us to practice a little self-editing and not be so judgmental, especially when little ears are listening. It’s never right to make fun of someone because of how they look. Never. Our children deserve better.
Maggie Goes on a Diet, by Paul Kramer, tells the story of Maggie, a 14-year old girl who is relentlessly teased about her weight by kids at school, then improves her eating and exercise habits to lose weight and subsequently becomes a soccer star and Miss Popularity. If only life were so easy.
Others in the public eye and around the Internet have been more vitriolic in their reaction to the book. Many feel Maggie could trigger eating disorders, which are already on the rise among young girls.
An alternative point of view was presented by Karen Kaplan of the L.A. Times last weekend. While she does seem to take issue with the way the book was written and who it’s geared toward, Ms. Kaplan actually applauds the book’s general message by using a slew of research-based evidence to promote the idea that such changes in diet and exercise are good for our budding young women who are overweight. Well played, Ms. Kaplan.
Different reactions, but could it be that everyone is right? The sad truth is that we live in a country that is experiencing a simultaneous and dramatic rises in obesity and in eating disorders. There is no doubt that eating right and exercising is good for you. There is also no doubt that many could be on the verge of an eating disorder given the plethora of images of perfection women young and old are exposed to on a daily basis. I don’t know many older women who are perfectly happy with their bodies, so how can we teach our young women to be so?
We also live in a society that can be cold and harsh with people casting judgment through ever medium available. Everyone is searching, everyone is insecure and the result is often a breaking down of others to make ourselves feel good, much like the kids in Maggie probably were doing because you know they weren’t perfect either, but the book didn’t have time to get into that.
And that brings me to one point almost everyone seems to agree on about this book: it’s a book about a 14-year old, but it’s written in rhyming verse, as a picture book and geared toward the 4- to 8-year old or 6- to 12-year old set (depending on whether you find it at Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com, respectively). None of my children – the oldest if whom is 4 – know what a diet is and therefore would have zero interest in a book about a diet. Dinosaurs, dogs, dress-up, dirt and daddy comprise their d-word vocabulary right now and that’s fine with me.
But that doesn’t get me off the hook. These are the years that their personalities and perceptions are forming. It’s up to me to set an example. As such, I’m taking Dr. Levkoff’s advice and exalting in inner beauty more than outer and living with an open, un-judging mind (remember what Plato said: be kind to others, for everyone is fighting their own battle). I’m also taking the advice of Ms. Kaplan and her evidentiary support by eating right, exercising and relishing all of the good, fresh food that’s available and even including them in the cooking and selection of food. I’m also trying to be as comfortable as I can in my own skin because it’s mine and I like it and I want my children to feel the same.
Here’s to hoping my kids will notice all of my efforts, or at least some of them!