So there’s a book that’s been talked about quite a bit in the fat community lately: Maggie Goes on a Diet. And this book is revolting in so many ways that I, frankly, am having a hard time figuring out where to start. Let me show you the blurb from Amazon to give you an accurate feel for why I’m struggling here.
This book is about a 14 year old girl 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.
This book, like all children’s books, has a target age range. For this particular book it’s 4-8. That’s right folks, this body-shaming gem is aimed at kiddos that aren’t even in elementary school yet. They’ve barely learned to eat solid food, so we’d best step in and make sure we get ’em started early on calorie counting and shaming themselves thinner. Because a child’s self worth is, and should be, based on their weight.
The book goes on to tell the story of Maggie, a girl who’s constantly teased and bullied for being fat. She has no friends, hates her life, and wants to make her life better. So what does she do? She loses weight and joins the soccer club. No one bullies her anymore, she makes friends, and her life is good again. Mixed up in the above story are several issues that are incredibly problematic, especially when presented to a child.
First and foremost is the focus of the book’s cover itself– fitting into that pretty dress. Even if you were to believe that thinner = healthier, you’d have to admit that this is an incredibly damaging image. It teaches us that our self worth should be defined not by who we are, not even by how healthy we are, but by our dress size. That criteria and that criteria alone is the mitigating factor between self loathing and self loving. Her joining the soccer team is an afternote, as if thrown in when the author realized he needed to include some form of exercise in the magical self-acceptance potion.
Then we get to the part about bullying. Bullying is a very real and often times very scarring part of any fat person’s past. That time you dared wear a skirt short enough to show off your knees and had people mercilessly taunt you in the halls, or the time you went jogging and had people shout questions like “How long have you been beached, you whale?” This book paints the bullies as a natural part of our life cycle, almost. As if their purpose is to keep people from getting too fat. Because if they do you see, we have these bullies here to put you back in line. They’ll embarrass and shame you into losing weight, and then by Cheesus the pounds will just melt like magic! The bullies aren’t punished. We aren’t told that what they’re doing in wrong. In fact, it’s shown as an important step in the process of Maggie’s decision to lose weight. Any child reading this could easily surmise that bullying is in fact helpful. If you have a fat friend, as a thin person what you should be doing is bullying them so they’ll be encouraged to do the good thing– losing weight.
This whole mess also implies that fat people can’t have friends, as an added bonus. No one loves her because she’s fat, but then she loses weight and not only does it fix all her bullying and self-esteem problems instantaneously but people also suddenly love her! She has friends as she rightfully should, because as we all know having friends and being loved is a thin privilege. Fat people shouldn’t be liked because then we might be encouraged to stay fat– or worse, recruit others to our fat lifestyle. We’re like gay people only we have cheeseburgers instead of rainbow flags.
Which brings me to my favorite part, which is that Maggie losing weight fixed all of these things. That it was just a matter of trying. See, fat people? All you have to do is really want it bad enough and those pounds will vanish faster than Sarah Palin’s sanity! The missing link all the weight loss industries have been searching for has been found! STOP THE PRESSES! We just have to try! And as soon as we lose weight we’ll have zero self esteem issues, because really the only reason we hated ourselves was because we were fat. Not because we had general low self esteem (and possibly depression as well). There’s no chance that we’ll lose all that weight and go “Well now I’m not a lardass, but look at how huge my nose is/how yellow my teeth are/how dry and hideous my hair is.” Because as women we aren’t trained to hate our bodies in some fashion no matter how they look. That’s a complete fallacy propagated by feminist media to deny rich white men the right to profit off of the poor self esteem of women.
So who is this genius? This revolutionary? This fortune teller, able to derive the secrets of self-hatred and weight loss and impart this precious knowledge upon an entire generation of children who aren’t yet blessed with eating disorders?
I love the double standard here. And by “love” I actually mean “it sends me into a screaming fit of red-tinted rage.” So here we have an overweight man, a man who not only can have zero idea what it’s like to grow up as a fat girl, a man who doesn’t even have any daughters, telling little girls that they have to make sure to stay thin and pretty to fit into their nice dresses — oh yeah and exercise and eat healthy, I guess that’s kind of important — who not only isn’t following what he’s teaching but isn’t even speaking from any kind of relatable experience. He could have chosen to write about overweight boys, of course, but when was the last time you saw media focus on chubby boys having to get thin enough to fit into their little suits to impress girls? Let me save you some Googling time: never. Men aren’t supposed to get thin and pretty for girls. It’s the ladies job to be thin and pretty enough to attract men. This book is insulting enough on it’s own, but having it written by a man is kind of like a straight man writing articles about how if gay men just stopped acting so gay, they’d integrate better and people would like them. If you changed a core part of yourself that I can in no way relate to, you’d be more pleasing to me. And since I’m in the place of privilege, more pleasing to me = inherently right, whereas you as you are now are inherently wrong.
And believe it or not, the book itself isn’t even what enraged me. No, it was the comments on Amazon.com’s feedback page.
Being fat is never a product of just being ‘the way you are.’ Being fat is a product of bad parenting, poor diet, and lazyness (for kids) and just plain poor diet, lazyness, and subbornness in adults. Put some effort into making yourself healthy. Maybe…don’t consume 3000 calories and 100 grams of fat a day. This book will help make kids understand diet and excercise as a way to feel good about one’s self because let’s be honest, whenever you work hard at something, you feel great about it and it raises self esteem.
There you have it, ladies and gentleman! The cure has been found! But surely a comment as ignorant, as completely off-base and clueless as this has to be the fluke. I’m sure the majority of the commenters agree that regardless of your views on health and obesity, teaching your child at the tender age of five that your goal should be slimming down to fit into that pretty red dress is beyond damaging.
The real world is not like that. You need to focus on what YOU can control. A real fat person who is bullied cannot magically transform his/her peers from bullies into positive, supportive role models. But that person CAN lose weight and get healthy.
It’s not the bully’s fault your fat! Stop being fat and you won’t be picked on, duh. Why would we want to correct the behavior of a child who’s taken it upon themselves to torment another child when the other child clearly deserved it? I bet they were asking for it, all that flab hanging out from that short skirt. What were they doing dressed like that alone in a dark alley anyway?
Because you SHOULDN’T accept obesity, dammit! Stop promoting apathy towards it! Just because you accept the person doesn’t mean you accept all their behaviors, however destructive. Would you say that about alcoholics or drug addicts?
Ah, yes. While it certainly true that some fat people have eating disorders (which only get worse the more you shame them for how they look, by the way. It’s part of why they fucking have them in the first place), but I always love it when people compare it to drug and alcohol abuse. Because yes, my pizza habit is the exact same thing a shooting heroin. Try reading up on Godwin’s law and get back to me when you’ve figured out the connection.
Maybe your chart is telling you it’s easier to eat cheap crap and people do it because they are LAZY, not poor.
Another favorite argument of mine. Fat people are fat because they’re too lazy and constantly make bad choices. It has nothing to do with the fact that fatty foods are almost purposefully more expensive than healthy foods (thank you, food lobbyists!) and that poor people therefore have far fewer food options available to them. It has nothing to do with body metabolism, because naturally if you’re fit and exercise you’re going to be thin. There’s no such thing as a fit fat person.
As rage-inducing as this entire experience was I did manage to come out of it with a couple of neat, uplifting things.
Here’s a bunch of different photo manips people have done of the cover, encouraging Maggie to love her size regardless of what Mr. Kramer’s endless pools of knowledge and experience would seem to dictate.
The other is this book that was inspired by the release of Maggie Goes on a Diet: Michelle Goes On A Diet.. That Lasted 20 Years.
A cautionary tale for those who influence the lives of children. This inspiring story is about a 10 year old who goes on a diet and is transformed from a happy little girl to a body conscious teen who becomes the poster child for yoyo dieting for the next 20 years. Through mindful eating, joyful movement, and self-care, Michelle becomes who she always was: A whole person body, mind, heart, and spirit, whose worth does not depend on the shape of her body or any other external measure of her value. 100% of the profits from the sale of Michelle Goes on a Diet are donated to non-profit organizations that promote Health at Every Size® and the prevention of disordered eating.
I’ve put that book in my cart; I’ll definitely be providing some feedback after my read. I have a few fat-positive books in my reading queue at the moment, which has me all a-tingle. I think this one’s worth putting in your cart if for no other reason than to stick it to Mr. Kramer.
* Since it’s original information release, this book has changed it’s age rage to 8 and up. Apparently he draws the line at preschool now. Good for him.