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Entries in Maggie Goes on a Diet (1)

Tuesday
Aug232011

Author Defends Book about Teen Dieting

The children's picture book "Maggie Goes on a Diet " has come under fire for sending the wrong messages about childhood obesity. (amazon.com)(NEW YORK) -- Author Paul Kramer defended his controversial children's book Maggie Goes on a Diet by saying a book about a dieting teenage girl helps kids make healthy choices.

"My intentions were just to write a story to entice and to have children feel better about themselves, discover a new way of eating, learn to do exercise, try to emulate Maggie and learn from Maggie's experience," Kramer told ABC’s Good Morning America Tuesday. "Children are pretty smart...and they will make a good choice if you give them that opportunity."

Kramer's book won't be released until October, but it's already generated controversy. Negative comments from worried parents and weight-loss experts about the book's weight-loss message have flooded the Internet.

One person wrote, "Terrible reflection on our society, boycott the book...This is awful."

The book starts with an overweight Maggie who is teased and made fun of at school, and seeks comfort in food. It ends with a fit, healthy Maggie who is the school's soccer star. The thinner, more popular Maggie is more self-confident and has a more positive self-image.

"Maggie is accepting that kids are mean and kids can be mean and she has decided to do something about it, to take things in her own hands, try to change her own life, try to make herself healthy by exercising. She does want to look better. She does want to feel better and she does not want to be teased," Kramer said.

The picture book targets young readers. Barnes & Noble's website says the book is for readers 6 to 12 years old; Amazon's site says ages 4 to 8.

Weight-loss experts say that the storybook plotline doesn't reflect what happens in real children's lives. Joanne Ikeda is the co-founding director of the University of California at Berkeley's Center on Weight and Health.

Highlighting imperfections in a boy's or girl's body "does not empower a child to adopt good eating habits," Ikeda said.

In real life, dieting down to a smaller clothing size doesn't guarantee living happily ever after.

"Body dissatisfaction is a major risk for eating disorders in children all the way up through adulthood," she said.

Furthermore, role models like Maggie can perpetuate the idea that "if you don't look like Cinderella, you're a failure," Ikeda said. "I wouldn't want a child to read this...because they might, in fact, try to do this and fail. What is that going to do to their self-esteem?"

Ikeda spoke to ABC News without seeing the book.

Kramer argues that people are judging a book by its cover instead of waiting to read the book when it comes out.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio