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Controversy Over Children’s Obesity Book

September 4, 2013

Originally published Sep 26, 2011

It won’t hit bookstores until next month, but already Maggie Goes on a Diet has proven at least polarizing for some, and downright angering for others. And while there is tremendous support for the book elsewhere, for Joanne Ikeda, a nutritionist emeritus at University of California-Berkeley, the fictional story about an overweight teenager just isn’t empowering.

Highlighting imperfections in a boy's or girl's body "does not empower a child to adopt good eating habits," Ikeda told ABC news in a recent article, though she had not yet read the book.

Aimed at pre-teens, the book features 14 year old Maggie who “goes on a diet and is transformed from being extremely overweight and insecure to a normal sized girl who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image,” according to the publisher’s summary.

"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 told ABC as criticism increases.

Whatever your opinion, fictional Maggie is alive and living in Georgia.

Georgia has the 2nd highest rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) underscored the crisis at a recent news conference. “Unless we change our state’s obesity issue, today’s obese children will become tomorrow’s obese adults with higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension leading to increased healthcare problems and costs.”

Fitzgerald is eager to see the book, but reserves an opinion.

In defense of Maggie, author Paul M. Kramer told ABC’s Good Morning America
his “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’s book is not available in bookstores, but Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble are accepting advance orders online.