Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Diet book for 4 year olds- because 8 year old is just too old to start hating your body

Maggie goes on a diet. Everyone else is adding their two cents so I figured I'd chime in as well. As everyone probably knows already, this is a children's book targeted to children ages 4-8 (according to amazon) or 6-12 (according to Barnes and Noble). The age range listed on amazon is slightly more disturbing, but children 4-12 shouldn't be reading this book either. In fact no one should be reading books about dieting and body shaming, but kids are particularly vulnerable. Everyone trying to defend the book is going on about how no one's even read it (it's not available until October). All I have to say is- can we get real here? Can anyone really claim that something like this is okay? Or parrot the 'ole "don't judge a book by it's cover" line? We have the cover as well as a description and that's more than enough, thank you very much. Let me tell you a little something about eating disorders- and be prepared, I won't be nice and I won't be my usual eloquent self. I will curse and I will get mad.

To the people defending this book or defending diets and weight loss programs for children- are you fucking kidding me? Do you even have an inkling of the horrors that people who struggle with disordered eating and eating disorders face? Do you have any idea what it's like to live in a fat body at 14 years old (the age of the girl in the story)? It would be one thing if this book was about exercising and eating right and being healthy- it's not. It's about a fattie getting thin and solving all of her life problems. Bullshit. Not only can she be a soccer star while also being a big fat fattie, but she can be happy and healthy and wear a pink dress in her size.

I also have a problem with the photo- that's not a size 14. Images like this severely distort how we think about body sizes. Or, as my husband calls it, social body dysmorphia. This is a size 14. The girl in the picture looks closer to a size 26 or so. I know sizes look a bit different on teens, but come on. This is me at a size 16 at age 16 (only two years older than Maggie here. Yes, it's a picture of a picture. So sue me.) There's nothing wrong with being a size 26 but there is something wrong with distorting what we imagin when we think of sizes because it helps push those ideals lower. It simply highlights the sensationalist nature of this book.

What, you think this won't contribute to the same diet culture that creates and perpetuates those eating disorders to begin with? It's true that no one thing suddenly causes an eating disorder or self esteem problems. It's not just this book that's the problem. The problem is that our entire culture supports the ideas in this book. It's not about this one book, it's about the fact that kids already have enough body hate thrown at them, they don't need mommy and daddy reading them books about hating their bodies when they go to bed at night.

Let me regurgitate some facts for you (yes, I used that word on purpose):

  • half of little girls 3-to-6 think they're fat 
  • eating disorders (specifically anorexia and bulimia) in kids under the age of 12 rose 119% over the past 9 years
  • Eating disorders on the whole rose 15%.
  • A majority of 5-year-olds would rather lose an arm than be fat (did you read that? I fucking said FIVE YEAR OLDS)
  • More than 60% of teenage girls skip breakfast at least once a week and nearly 20% skip it every day.
  • An estimated 1 in 3 of all dieters develop compulsive dieting attitudes and behaviors. Of these, one quarter will develop full or partial eating disorders.
  • In a study of children aged 8-10, approximately 50 per cent of girls said they were unhappy with their size.
  • In a study of girls aged 9-15, more than 50 per cent claimed they exercised to lose weight, nearly 50 per cent claimed they reduced food intake in order to lose weight, and approximately 5 per cent claimed to use their parents' diet pills or laxatives in order to lose weight.
  • One out of three women and one out of four men are on a diet at any given time.
  • In 1970 the average age a girl started dieting was fourteen; by 1990 the average age dropped to eight. (This book apparently thinks that's too old since it's targeted at 4-12 year olds).
  • 51% of nine and ten year old girls stated they felt better about themselves when they were adhering to a diet.
  • Frequent dieting is highly correlated with depression
  • 79% of teenage girls who vomit and 73% of teenage girls who use diet pills are frequent readers of women’s health and fitness magazines.
  • 81% of ten year old girls are afraid of being fat.
  • 42% of girls in first through third grades state they want to be thinner.
  • 30% of women chose an ideal body shape that is 20% underweight and an additional 44% chose an ideal body shape that is 10% underweight.
  • Kids as young as four are being hospitalized for eating disorders (four- keeping in mind this book targets kids as young as four according to the amazon website)

I could go on, but I don't think I need to. 

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