Michelle Goes on a Diet… That lasted 20 years by Michelle May, M.D.
My poem and the video, Michelle Goes On a Diet… That Lasted 20 Years, was inspired by a very controversial children’s book (for ages 6 and up) that was slated for publication in October 2011: Maggie Goes on a Diet. My poem was originally published on the Health at Every Size Blog.
The description of Maggie Goes on a Diet on the author Paul Kramer’s website reads:
“Maggie has so much potential that has been hiding under her extra weight. This inspiring story about a 14 year old who goes on a diet and is transformed from being overweight and insecure to a normal sized teen who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image.”
If you can judge a book by its cover (and the clips of the poetry and pictures inside shown on Good Morning America), there are many problems with this book. It is typical of the reactive, misguided, and potentially dangerous responses to all the talk about childhood obesity. While I completely agree with promoting balanced eating and enjoyable activity through effective approaches, this book sends the wrong messages to kids and parents:
- Being overweight gives other kids the right to tease you (ironically this author also has a book on bullying!)
- You have to lose weight to be “normal”, successful, and acceptable
- Diets work for long term weight loss (they don’t)
The REAL story is that millions of us started dieting at Maggie’s age or earlier and spent the rest of our lives dealing with the consequences: yo-yo dieting, weight cycling, poor self-esteem, disordered eating, and eating disorders. Dieting hasn’t worked for adults and it won’t work for kids!
I co-authored four books for children for the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Americans in Motion (AIM): F is for Fitness, A is for Active, F is for Feelings, and E is for Eating – that encourage healthy attitudes and behaviors in young children toward eating, physical activity, and emotional well-being. None were about dieting and all promote the concept of health at every size. (Over 325,000 copies of those books were requested for physicians’ waiting rooms!)