A Diet Book For The Preteen Set: 'Maggie Goes On A Diet'

September 2, 2011 Angela E. Gambrel

"Maggie Goes On A Diet" is described by and other retailers as an inspiring tale about a 14-year-old who loses weight and becomes the school soccer star. The premise behind the book is to show how Maggie gains confidence and develops a more positive self-image after losing weight and achieving her goals.

There is just one problem. This diet book's reading level and content makes it more appropriate for girls of elementary and middle school ages. The exact group that is beginning to struggle with body image and weight issues. The exact group that is vulnerable to developing eating disorders.maggie-goes-on-a-dietThe book is due to be released in October, but those within the eating disorders communities already are expressing their concerns about this book. The book features a teenager, but clearly is aimed at the younger set. No teenager is going to pick up this book for inspiration and weight loss tips.

My first concern was the book's cover itself. It eerily reminds me of some pictures I have seen depicting anorexia that show an emaciated young woman looking in the mirror, only to see an overweight person staring back at her. In this case, an overweight Maggie stares hopefully into a mirror, holding up a slinky pink dress, and envisioning herself as thin.

That is my second concern. Maggie clearly is unhappy with herself, and dreams of being thin. This book is just another example of how society creates an atmosphere in which women are made to feel that being thin is the ultimate goal in life. Maggie is not staring into the mirror and seeing herself wearing a cap and gown, graduating with honors from high school. Maggie is not staring into the mirror and seeing herself as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Maggie is not staring into the mirror and seeing herself as anything other than having achieved the all-important trait of being thin.

Forget intelligence. Or artistic ability. Or even athletic ability until she loses weight. Maggie only achieves her goals after she loses weight.

Why not write a book showing kids of all sizes and shapes achieving their goals and having fun? Why not a book in which the heroine's brains are more important than her weight? Why a diet book that will obviously be read by young children, not teenagers?

Young children are growing children, and they do not need to be put on diets. Yes, I know that is probably politically incorrect in a world obsessed with obesity. And I won't deny that obesity isn't a problem.

But diets are not the solution. Diets don't work, and that is easy to see because if diets did work there wouldn't be about five million of them on the market. The Internet, magazines, and television are filled with diet ads. Your Facebook page is filled with diet ads. The track record for diets is very poor, and thus people keep inventing new diets knowing people are desperate to lose weight and will try anything (anyone remember Olestra?)

I also believe promoting a diet to young girls in particular can be dangerous. This group is vulnerable. They are endlessly scrutinizing their bodies and comparing their perceived flaws with the faux perfection they see on the Internet and in the fashion magazines. All it takes is a book like this to convince an eight-year-old that she is fat and needs to lose weight, and then you have a young girl who is either afraid to eat or tries such things as throwing up after eating in fear of gaining weight.

This brings me to my final point — the message that Maggie is somehow not good enough just the way she is. In a different world, Maggie would be encouraged to develop her self-confidence and go out for the soccer team without losing a pound. Unfortunately, we don't yet live in a world in which people are accepted just as they are.

That's too bad. A kind word and some encouragement would help Maggie much more than any diet that will most likely fail in the long run.

APA Reference
Gambrel, A. (2011, September 2). A Diet Book For The Preteen Set: 'Maggie Goes On A Diet', HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 20 from

Author: Angela E. Gambrel

September, 3 2011 at 3:07 pm

This kind of book shows how society is sick nowadays...
It makes me feel very sad and worried about the teenagers that may read this kind of trash, and I if I say it, it's because I've got a fourteen years old teenage daughter who is suffering from anorexia nervosa. At age of 10, she was a little bit over the normal weight, but she was healthy, happy and beautiful. But because our society focus on IMAGE, SKINNY GIRLS as a symbol of SUCESS AND HAPINESS, she became obsessed with weight loss and diets. She is very ill for over an year... Started a threatment on a clinic to avoid osteoporosis and to cure other health problems she has now, caused by anorexia. She started it after reading a famous book named "Skinny bitch: a no-nonsense, tough-llove guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!" Do I need to write any comments on this book? Sad...

September, 3 2011 at 8:07 am

this is kind of disgusting. rather than put maggie on a diet, why don't her parents help her understand the root of her issues? i.e., does her self-esteem suffer BECAUSE of her weight? or is she using food to comfort herself because, i don't know, her dad drinks too much or something? it would make a helluva lot more sense to teach maggie healthy eating habits and encourage her to play soccer at her CURRENT weight and learn other ways to self-soothe than to give her the messages this book is obviously touting. we're all about the quick fix, the bandaid solution, the "let's address this cover-up issue so we don't have to talk about the REAL problem."
wow--obviously i have an opinion on this issue. ;)

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