Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blog #88: Kids & "Diets"

I have already posted today, but this needs said. Kids should be taught healthy eating and exercise habits. They should learn how to be mindful about their food choices and eat to nourish their body as well as find active forms of play because our bodies deserve to be taken care of with love. They should be taught what foods are good for them all the time, and what foods should be considered special treats. With that being said, the word DIET should never, ever be a part of their relevant vocabulary. I'm pretty much against the idea of "dieting" in general because it is a temporary change in habits for the sole purpose of weight loss. It works, habits go back, and weight comes back. Ultimately, it is an unsuccessful money sucking venture. Conversely, a healthy lifestyle and taking good care of yourself by making choices that make you feel your best will be what brings about a healthy body size and shape (which is most certainly not always a size 2 or 4 frame). THAT is why I have an immediate problem with this book, being released soon: 
There are so many things wrong with the cover image ALONE, that I can't even begin to go there. Read more, including the appalling blurb here.

Most people recognize right away that this is absolutely NOT how to go about teaching healthy self care habits to our kids, but some people (ahem, psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, featured here on, go figure, Fox News website.) (Another aside, isn't it funny how the author and the only person I've seen so far in outright support of this book are both middle aged men? Tell me, what insight do they have on the intricacies of the minds of these preteen girls?)

Here are a few tidbits from his article, and what I think about what he had to say.

"Nutritionists and child psychologists who charge that Kramer's book will cause eating disorders presume that telling children to eat healthily—even if that means eating less and exercising—will make them sick"

Immediately a sweeping generalization here. In fact, the issue is less the concern that a young girl will read the book and immediately start starving herself, and more that she will read the book and have one more thing tell her that being thin means being healthy, loved, and happy and that being large is always unacceptable and unworthy of love. Diets DON'T work. They lay the ground work for black and white thinking in regards to food and body which can lead to even more pathological methods of controlling weight.

"The same people criticizing Paul Michael Kramer and his Maggie Goes on a Diet are the people handing out ribbons and trophies to their kids whether they win or lose. They're the people who are letting their kids use Facebook and disseminate mini-reality-bending, narcissism-inducing autobiographies of themselves to hundreds of fake "friends." They're the people who are buying candy and ice cream for their overweight sons and daughters because saying "no" might injure them in some mysterious way that has never been proven—ever. These are the people who also, by the way, fuel America's false economy with fake stimulus packages and bailouts and the printing of fake currency."

Again, really? I don't believe in any of those things. I can't stand it when I see anyone under 15 on Facebook, I believe that kids should eat foods that provide nourishment and sustenance and energy. I believe kids should be physically active and that life isn't fair so trophies/ribbons need only be given to the teams that earned them with victory. I believe in portion control and telling your kids "no" for their own health benefit.  I DON'T believe in telling a story about a 14 year old girl that went on a diet and because she lost weight had her dreams come true because that is NOT reality. The sequel to this book would probably be something like "Maggie Gains Her Weight Back" followed by the next in the series, "Maggie Goes on Another Diet"  and then "Maggie Stops Eating,"and so on because dieting is very rarely permanently successful. 

A better story would be "Maggie Learns About Healthy Choices" wherein a 14 year old girl decides she's worth more than the way she's been treating herself so she decides to eat more vegetables and drink more water (but still allow herself treats on occasion) and plays soccer because she wants to have fun while being more active. As a result, she is healthier and happier and feels better about herself, oh and hey look, as a by product she lost some weight too.

I have seen my body as an enemy since the age of about 11 and "dieted" countless times since then. Poor body image is toxic and can lead to overall low self esteem and only continue to perpetuate itself in a vicious cycle. When you feel good about yourself, truly, you WANT to do things that are good for you. However, you can't diet your way to a better self image, and the book's implication that you can is very irresponsible. 

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