From the Library: Maggie Goes on a Diet & We Search for Fat-Friendly Children's Books

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The cover of Maggie Goes on a Diet shows a fat girl standing in front of a mirror looking at an image of a thinner version of herself. In both images of the girl, she is a white girl with red hair up in pigtails. Wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, she is holding a slim dress up to herself in the mirror.In this week's douchey children's lit news, Aloha Publishers is catching heat for a picture book they'll be releasing in October called Maggie Goes on a Diet, written by Paul Kramer. Here's what the publisher tells us of the book's content, which is targeted at young children:

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.

Where do you begin to unpack the problems with a book like this? Let's start with the cover, which shows a fat Maggie holding a too-small-for-her dress up to herself while she looks into a mirror at a skinnier Maggie. This image perpetuates the idea that hidden inside of every fat person is a skinny person waiting to get out (Tasha Fierce writes more on the "skinny girl in a fat body" trope here). The message behind this book is clearly telling young girls that they'll only be happy and "normal" if they're thin, AS IF THEY AREN'T FED THAT MESSAGE OFTEN ENOUGH ALREADY.

Shame on you, Paul Kramer. As someone who also wrote a children's book that takes on childhood bullying, you should know that the last thing any child who is already at risk of being teased needs is to be told that they're too fat to be "normal".

This book is unfortunate, and made more so by the fact that there are very few children's books that encourage fat-positivity. When I sat down to write this post, I wanted to create a list of books that counter the message presented in Maggie Goes on a Diet (cause rather than a diet, I'm pretty sure what Maggie could use a healthy dose of children's books that promote fat-positivity). I was sure that there would be plenty fat-friendly kids' books. Boy, was I wrong. Fat-positivity has yet to make a lot of headway in children's literature. Too often, fat characters that manage to make their way into children's books are demonized or seen as being lazy and obsessed with food.

Like I said, they're few and far between, but a few do exist. Rebecca Rabinowitz created a list of fat-positive children's books for Shapely Prose in 2008. Rabinowitz wrote, "I wish the list were longer, but these are, sadly, all the fatpol-friendly children's books I have found so far." Her list includes books like Hotter than a Hot Dog by Stephanie Calmenson, Begin at the Beginning by Amy Schwartz, and I Like Me by Nancy Carlson. Unfortunately, Begin at the Beginning, originally published in 1983, was re-illustrated and published in 2005 with a skinny character in place of the original main character, a fat girl artist. And then there's I Like Me, a super cute book about a young fat girl who likes her "round tummy," but, as Rabinowitz points out, "Carlson's choice to make this protagonist an anthropomorphized pig may trouble seasoned activists or readers who've been called pig-related names. (Reclaiming fat pride is key, but I'm not convinced that we need to reclaim a connection with actual pigs.)" So even the too-short list of books that made Rabinowitz's list are potentially problematic.

The cover of My Great Big Momma shows a fat woman wearing a red short-sleaved dress. She has blush painted onto her cheeks, and is looking down at her son, who is hugging her leg with a big smile on his face.But here's a fat-friendly book that was released after Rabinowitz put her list together: My Great Big Mamma by Olivier Ka (2009). This book tells the story of a young boy who doesn't like the fact that his big mamma is going on a diet: "She wouldn't be prettier. She'd be thinner, that's all. And less cuddly, and less soft." While there aren't any fat children for fat kids to identify with in this book, the child loves and sees absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that his mother is fat, which counters messages that children are given by reading books like Maggie Goes on a Diet.

Are there fat-friendly children's books that I missed? Please, let me know in the comment's section!

Speaking of fat acceptance, our Portland-based book club is going to spend this fall discussing books that take on fatphobia. We'll be reading Losing It: America's Obsession With Weight and the Industry that Feeds on It by Laura Fraser in September, Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body by Susan Bordo in October, and in November we'll be discussing Lessons From the Fat-O-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby. Find out more about our book clubs here.

by Ashley McAllister
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46 Comments Have Been Posted

Mary in The Secret Garden is

Mary in The Secret Garden is portrayed as becoming healthier physically and emotionally when she gains weight. Not that The Secret Garden doesn't have other issues.


<p>So Maggie is neglecting "so much potential" because she's not close enough to the feminine ideal to trade jeans and sweatshirts for pink dresses half the width of her head?</p>
<p>I just got mental hives looking at that cover.</p>
<p>As for fat-positive children's books, I'm afraid I don't know of many. My copy of <a href="">Ogden Nash's <em>The Adventures of Isabel</em>, the one illustrated by James Marshall</a>, features a bigger (and bespectacled!) Isabel without comment, which is cool.</p>

So Totally Emily Ebers by

<i>So Totally Emily Ebers</i> by Lisa Yee: Emily is a recurring character in Yee's MG series who is very happy with her physical self even when other people are not. She eats chocolate and lives!

It really is a shame that a

It really is a shame that a man, or woman can live their whole life without realizing, or experiencing their body's full potential.

We are all decendants of a great race, fit people have always been idolized for a good reason. Being fit doesn't mean "anorexic"


Anon, I am a thin person and can honestly say I have no idea what you're talking about. "Potential" to do what?! I DO NOT want my body "idolized" and think the media's emphasis on thinness is disgusting.

I did not say anything about "anorexia," but since you brought it up, it's more than encouraged for women, and some men, of all sizes, and yes, books like this are hugely damaging. The unhealthy myth of a perfect size is not good for anyone: Even those who <i>kind of</i> fit commercial body standards are constantly pushed to lose weight, be smaller, take up less space.

I've struggled to be okay with my body for many years, including periods of time in which I ate nothing, ate lots, exercised constantly, or did not exercise at all. My weight <i>never significantly changed</i>. This idea that you can tell how "fit" a person's habits are by their size? It's a fantasy.

I'm bugged by several sides

I'm bugged by several sides of this issue, because there's no question that childhood obesity is a problem that needs to be addressed, but at the same time, books like these are certainly not helpful in the long run. Why always write exclusively about girls needing to lose weight? Last I checked, boys aren't exempt from this issue, nor should they be. It's great that the main character of this book becomes a soccer star, but why is it so important that she lose weight in order to fit into skinny culture and couture? Why not because she'll avoid diabetes or a heart condition later in life? Even then, obviously fat doesn't always equal ill, so I'd love to see children's literature that actually focuses less on damning terms in general, such as "acceptance"/"normal"/"fat"/whatever, and just focuses on developing and maintaining good health and self - esteem in general, fat or thin. Awesome Johnny can't lose weight because of a medical condition, or maybe he's just a big kid, but has perfectly healthy habits, and so he manages to defeat bullies purely with his awesomeness. Because he's (or she) is awesome regardless. Why continue to parrot every diet ad campaign in existence?


I Was A Fat Soccer Star

Daniel M. Pinkwater

"Fat Camp Commandos" , and, really, pretty much everything else he writes.

And there's "The Afterlife Diet" for the adults.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things ( by Carolyn Mackler is a great YA novel. The book starts out with its main character hating her weight and portrays a really honest and emotional path for its protagonist through bullying, self-loathing and a set of horrifying (and very familiar) personal rules about how to portray herself while fat before she gets to self-acceptance.

Definitely not for young kids, though -- like I said, it's honest, so there's a decent amount of self-hatred and one really memorable scene of self-injury. Bonus points for a happy ending, and double bonus points for the B-plot of dealing with a family member accused of date rape. I love Carolyn Mackler.

I second the mentioning of

I second the mentioning of <i>The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things</i>. I picked that up at a local bookstore when I was about 14 or 15 and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was perfect for me at that age. I was so happy to read a book about that had a main character have to deal with the date rape, body image, online chatting, etc. There was even a mentioning of an Ani Difranco song...I forget which one...I haven't read it since, so there may be some problems with it going back now, but from what I remember it was pretty damn cool and refreshing.

Another YA title

My Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaughn about a girl who starts writing a fat acceptance column in her school newspaper chronicling her experiences, as well as her boyfriend's, who is considering gastric bypass surgery.

Cover Art

The picture on the cover is especially disturbing, not only because of the "skinny person waiting to get out", but also because of the disconnect that so many women have with their bodies. Girls need to learn to live in their bodies fully and know the pleasure and joy of having a strong body no matter what size or shape it comes in.

I had I Like Me as a kid!

I had I Like Me as a kid! That pig is so glamorous.

My Mom gave me that book a

Why do we need fat-friendly books for kids?

In all honesty, although I agree that the image on the cover is disturbing, I don't get why we should be ramming into children's heads that fat is OK. I second one of the opinions above that we should rather focus on teaching kids the value of healthy diet (meaning: proper nourishment) and regular exercsie. With the levels of obesity in both adults and children sky-rocketing, encouraging fat-friendly books is as irresponsible as promoting anorexia or bulimia.

We should be teaching kids

We should be teaching kids that fat is okay because fat does not equal unhealthy. We should be teaching them that fat is okay because some of them will grow up to be fat even if they eat healthy and exercise, and they shouldn't hate themselves for it. We should be teaching kids that fat is okay so they don't bully fat kids they see at school. We should be teaching kids that fat is okay so they don't hate themselves, or anyone else, based on size. Also stop equating being fat with having an eating disorder. Fat does not automatically equal disordered eating and it is fucked up to imply such.

Well this is your personal view

And your personal battle, since you claim to be a big-size advocate. For all I know there is a really small percentage of people whose obesity or overweight is the direct result of health problems or genetic make-up - but excessive weight is usually the cause of more health issues and mental well-being. It's been proven that people in developed countries eat much more than they need, consume food of low quality but high in fat and calories, and exercise next to nothing (especially when they drive their cars and use the drive-ins all the time). Kids are not taught to make conscious chocies about the food, and it is at home that they should be shown how important it is, so that they can avoid messing up with their systems. This does not eliminate the need to make them aware that there are SOME people whose excessive weight is the result of genes, but let's be honest - this is NOT what makes 95% of fat people fat.

I think books for kids teaching that you respect yourself and your body if you treat it with healthy food and proper exercise will do us much more good than books with the general leitmotiv "you're-beautiful-even-though-you're-so-fat-that-you-can't-see-your-toes" - this is wrong, just as bullying fat kids is. The thing is, to keep a healthy diet requires attention and making good choices, not stuffing your face with crappy food in front of your TV. I'm talking here about personal responsibility of every individual human being on the face of the earth, not just about patting every fatty on the back and saying "have a chocolate, this will cheer you up."

I agree that we should

I agree that we should encourage kids to make smart choices about their health, about their diet, and exercise. I would have no problem if this were a book about a girl who found out she was high risk for various health problems because of her weight and general health and decided to do something about it. If she decreased her junk food intake, started eating more fruits instead of deserts and started an exercise program. If the focus were on her doing these things so she can be healthier, have more energy, and maybe do some activity she had trouble with before (such as soccer) due to to lack of endurance.

Now I haven't read the book (it's not released yet, right?) But from what I can tell it's not about this. It's about a girl who wants to loose weight so she can fit into the pretty dress. Once it becomes about beauty it gets very subjective, and large percentages of women and girls aren't going to ever fit the ideal, because their shoulders are too broad or their legs are too short. Just keep it about health, and acknowledge that heavy people can be healthy, and thin people can be unhealthy.

more than your share

It's wrong to eat more than your share in a world where people die due to lack of food. It's wrong to be a burden on the health care system of this country (80% health care costs related to obesity) by choice.
Why would we want to teach otherwise?
Looks like the book also teaches some personal responsibility, enpowerment and good choices.

Obesity is a medical

Obesity is a medical condition, not a moral failure.

Not all overweight people "eat more than their share".
Once a person becomes overweight (often due to injuries, illness, and medications; not "by choice"), it requires very few calories to maintain that weight. They may have even become overweight on fewer calories than a sibling or spouse.
Obesity (at least in the US) is more prevalent among the poor; a rich, thin person could easily spend enough money on a single meal at a restaurant or a bottle of wine to feed a family of four for a week...or a month! Isn't that "wrong"?
A bulimic person could appear very thin while purging food that could have fed those "starving children in Africa"--
but will not be judged as harshly as the fat person who eats 1/4 that amount of food.
Many overweight people eat less than thin people, who have faster metabolisms or are more active.

Weightlifters, marathon runners, and other athletes eat huge amounts of food to fuel their workouts--
they COULD just stop exercising, since it's so "wrong" to eat more than the exact number of calories an "average person" needs in order to survive!


Lots of good debate! As a Chiropractor, I can tell you there are few good effects from carrying excess weight. Not everyone who is overweight eats too much. Being overweight is not a moral failure, and being healthy doesn't mean you will look skinny. You may still look chubby. I had a patient who visually was really heavy. But he was in such incredible aerobic shape, he would have trashed me in a mountain bike race. If his lab work was good, I would probably have just made sure what he was eating was healthy and kept him exercising. So what if he was chunky at that point? My wife reads as obese on height weight charts, but her diet is excellent and she exercised regularly. And she can bench 135 for sets, with rock hard arms and the loose gut.

The emphasis should be on good diet, exercise and health for life. That's the problem with the book cover: a short term diet doesn't work, if you're just doing it to get into a little dress. The good thing is, she got into a regular exercise habit. I understand there are huge societal issues with body image for women. But the important thing is health. If an individual cannot handle seeing a book that's at least trying, then take a clue: work on yourself, and write a better book! Contact the publisher, the author and try and make a difference. Like maintaining good health, it requires persistence, trial and error, forgiveness and an open mind. Lets all grow up and work together on this. Maybe then these kids won't need as much medical care in old age as the baby boomers, who are the first really overweight generation to come along. What's on their minds? Medicare! Because they're riddled with largely self inflicted diseases, because no one told them modern food was crap that would kill them.


I do not see a "like" or similar button, but this is me clicking it for this reply!!! Right on the money in all regards... quit complaining and take some action! Set an example--write your own book, or simply lead a healthy lifestyle and be a role model! Don't like the book? Don't buy it! I know I won't... but I will also be leading by example with a healthy (not fat or skinny or otherwise) lifestyle to better my own confidence as well as that of my daughter's.


Question, is it acceptable to encourage a child to diet if that child is medically obese? I understand that this is not necessarily the issue with this book, bu it is certainly worth considering that obesity is a serious medical condition.

no, i don't think it's ok.

no, i don't think it's ok. encouraging a child to diet is telling them that there is something wrong with the body, which is what maggie goes on a diet is doing. also, deciding that someone is unhealthy based on her weight is a judgement and its not ok. it's ok to tell kids to eat their veggies, but singling out "obese" children isn't ok!

ps. there are plenty of skinny kids who could use to eat more veggies.

Kids shouldn't even be

Kids shouldn't even be concerned about weight, any negative attention drawn to it can seriously mess up their self image for years to come. Children's books should be about adventures, having fun, being reassured that everything is okay, and most importantly BEING A KID.
The things you learn when you're a child are your foundation as you grow up. Focusing on weight instead of health is just fucked.

comment policies?

Just out of curiousity; where is the comment monitoring here? There are some seriously damaging comments going on in this thread full of body negativity and hate speech towards fat. Cosmo totally has a site as well for those types of feelings...

Hi Monty, We're working to

Hi Monty,

We're working to promote fat acceptance here, and that goes for the comments as well. From my perspective as a moderator though, this particular thread has been pretty productive in that people are staying on-topic and being respectful. While not everyone has been fat-positive in what they've had to say, their comments have served to further the discussion by allowing others to respond, which is what we hope for on the blog.

That being said, if you (or anyone else) feel uncomfortable with specific comments or feel they're in violation of our policy (linked to in my signature below) please let me know. We try to stay on top of the threads, but it always helps to have feedback from our readers.


Seems to me the book promotes

Seems to me the book promotes self-satisfaction and happiness through hard work and perseverance. I applaud the author for encouraging this behaviour, which is, alas, so rare to see these days.

Seems to me the book is going

Seems to me the book is going to promote eating disorders and self-hatred in a lot of young girls.

Are you serious? Where does

Are you serious? Where does the child binge and purge? Where does the character use laxatives and force herself to vomit? Those are symptoms of eating disorders.

Live it before you judge.

Are you serious? You don't

Are you serious? You don't have to binge and purge, use laxatives or vomit to have an eating disorder. Eating disorders can just as well be excessive exercise or simply restriction of food, and as well as that a book like this can cause disordered thinking/body dysmorphia, which in my opinion is almost as bad as when those thoughts manifest themselves as actual physical symptoms. I have battled with food issues for a while, and while my disordered thoughts never turned into a full-blown eating disorder, they have still impacted my life and made me extremely anxious around food. Don't limit yourself to only a tiny set of symptoms when describing eating disorders, because there is a simply enormous spectrum that you have missed.

Let's NOT Talk about It

I just completed my dissertation on weight and identity issues in women, and in my research, I found that women who ended up having healthy weights and normal BMIs come from environments where weight is simply not important. We don't need fat-friendly books, and we don't need fat-hating books either. From my research, if you want children to be healthy in terms of their weight, simply do not make weight a big deal. The women I interviewed that had healthy BMIs came from families that did not talk about weight or have food rules. Parents would simply fix healthy meals, and their children were able to eat what they wanted. Showing that a girl is ostracized or unsuccessful because of her weight is exactly the opposite of what my research shows is helpful to people.

Don't get me wrong, I think that the obesity epidemic is alarming and rampant. But I think we are going about solving it the wrong way.

In addition, let's address the fact if this book were about any other ostracized social group, it would not be ok. For example, if this book were about a little girl who thinks she's gay and then becomes straight and successful, we would be livid. But the fact that the obese are one of the few acceptable groups that it is still ok to stigmatize, makes this book appear to be ok to people. What about the civil rights of the obese? Don't they have a right to not be mocked or made fun of because of their condition? When will it not be ok to make fun of this group?

Mom, What is this? Mom, will you cood this?

The Book, Maggie Goes On A Diet, sends the wrong message! Kids can be taught about eating healthy w/o using a fat girl wanting to be skinny.

Paul Kramer's intentions might have been good, but conveyed the wrong way. Children are visually captivated by images. Healthy eating can be taught more positively in a fun storybook such as, Frujunga Gets Spiced.

For example, I didn't know what an eggplant or head of spinach was until I was 17---- because mom never cooked it. With a book like Frujunga Gets Spiced, children learn to question various fruits and veggies their parent may have never introduced.

Out of a child's curiosity for taste, their parent may begin to add more healthy varieties to the table. The book, Frujunga Gets Spiced, educates children using positive characters like Applelue, Banana Anna an so on. Frujunga Gets Spiced is sold on Amazon.

I am a 6th grade science

I am a 6th grade science teacher. I do not encourage any of my students to diet. I encourage them to make healthy choices. They are also told that everything they do will have a benefit or a consequence. I also provide a positive, healthy example. If they choose to follow my example, that is fine. If they choose not to follow, that is also fine.

I think I'm going to write a book about children who choose to adopt a healthy lifestyle and the benefits that result.

addition to comment of yesterday

The more I think of how people are focusing on eating disorder behavior, the madder it makes me. As the mother of a recovering anorexic female, I can tell you from personal experience that my daughter did not choose to eat healthy and exercise properly.

This book does not promote binging and purging, use of laxatives, forced vomiting, or taking two bites of food and exercising for the next 4 hours to get rid of it. It also does not promote skipping meals. This book promotes a young lady who makes a very mature decision to "change her diet" (maybe the title should be "Maggie Changes Her Diet") and develop a healthy lifestyle.

A diet is anything you eat. If you change the diet, you change what you eat.

Society has dictated how people should look. If you want to scream and holler, then do it toward the magazines who promote girls/women who wear size 0. How about Hollywood who thinks most people of worth should be thin and slender?!

See this book for what it is. An opportunity for kids to know they have the choice to change their diet if that is what they want to do. It's their body, and their choice.

Excellent comment!

I hope you will keep your word and write the book you mentioned in your previous comment. Kudos to you!

Society has dictated how

<i>Society has dictated how people should look. If you want to scream and holler, then do it toward the magazines who promote girls/women who wear size 0. How about Hollywood who thinks most people of worth should be thin and slender?!</i>

you seem to be under the impression that this book is not demonstrating how people should look, when in fact, the cover of this book does just that. it's a photo of a young girl holding a much smaller than her dress up to her body! which demonstrates that she feels inadequate because of how she looks, NOT that she doesn't feel healthy! the cover of this book is not about health, it's about the very same notions that are perpetuated by Hollywood and these magazines you refer to.


This blog and the podcast have captivated me, this is a subject that I am extremely passionate about and have been for years. Body image and young girls.
Having survived a life threatening eating disorder for 15 years I can honestly say this book sounds like an eating disorder dummbed down for children. How dare someone make a book for children telling them all the things an eating disorder tells you? I have vivid memories of voices in my head telling me, "Just lose weight and your life will be great. Everyone will love you, you'll have success, friends, acceptance." This is a constant battle that women fight in their heads everyday and to preach it to children is inhumane. Having almost died to be thin, i can tell you that no amount of weight loss will bring anyone the success and acceptance you think it will when you start out on a "diet". A picture book for children encouraging dieting is inhumane. Diets are the reason people are overweight, they don't make you thin.Yeah, I said it. Diets make you emotionally attached to food and ruin your life. I think children need a book encouraging them to listen to their bodies: eat when they're hungry, stop eating when they're full, and to play (not exercise) when they have energy. There are many words here that are triggering to children, including the words "diet" and "exercise". Children should NEVER be encouraged to diet, no one ever should. Because it puts one's body in starvation mode and then all of a sudden you have emotional issues with food because you start defining yourself as good or bad by the things you eat, which should never be the case. EVER. This transition happens so fast and suddenly your emotionally attached to food and feeling guilty for eating something and feel that you've already ruined yourself for the day and you'll start the diet again tomorrow and it follows the same cycle for years until you hate yourself, your body, the fact you can't stay away from food, all because you went on a diet. How anyone could encourage this behavior in children (and illustrate it no less!) is inhumane. The word exercise is triggering to children as well, because it leads children to judge themselves and it seems to be more of a chore. I encourage people to use the word "play" when aspiring to lead a active lifestyles.
If I had a daughter I would shield her from this book with all my might. Its so hard to think about all the media getting shoved down young girls throats these days, encouraging impossibly thin bodies and that if we were to just lose a couple pounds our lives would be so much better. I feel that its books and media and messages like the one this book is promoting that are encouraging eating disorders in children and adolescents. If you ask anyone who's ever had an eating disorder, they would probably tell you they would never even wish it on their worst enemy. And preaching a message like this to children, encouraging disordered eating (i.e: dieting, eating emotionally) is inhumane.

My story I wrote in response to that unacceptable children's boo


@Copyright September 2011, Size Of My Life Inc.

By: Karen Cigna

Marge’s mom called to her that it was time to get up and get ready for school. Marge wondered “How come her mom did not know, although Marge always told her, that Marge woke up every day at 5:30 a.m., a half hour before her parents’ alarm clock went off every morning?” Marge answered her own question “Because my mom never hears anything I say.”

In fact, not only did Marge wake up every day at 5:30 a.m., she had the same conversation inside her own head every day. It went something like this:
“Today, I do not want to wear the jeans and shirt hanging on the handle of my closet, which I settled on after two hours of trying on all of my clothes last night, and deciding, that I looked fat and ugly in everything I own! Why do I have to take after my dad’s family? Mom says the fact that I have a small waist and that I have bigger thighs and a bigger butt than most of my friends (which she also describes as my being “bottom heavy” or “pear shaped”) is, unfortunately, something I will always have to worry about, being short at five feet and three inches. BTW, which means by the way, whenever she says this, which is at least once a day, it makes me want to scream !

Yesterday, I asked Mom to please, please, please take me shopping for some new sweaters, because the boys in school, had been saying “Large Marge, we love your tight sweaters, the tighter the better for those boobs on the move”. Really, what is their problem, I am only a thirty-four “B” cup, is it my fault my boobs popped out before most of the girls my age. Besides I know I do not wear my sweaters too tight, because I pass mom’s and my dad’s inspection every morning, and they are the first to tell me that my boobs look too big, if they do in a particular sweater. In fact, dad will usually say something like this, if he thinks something makes my boobs look too big “Ellen (my mom), does Marge need a better support bra, because that sweater is doing nothing for her upper body.” Mom, tells dad and I she is not taking me shopping until I lose at least five pounds , because she refuses to buy me a bigger size in clothing.
This is so annoying, when did everyone become obsessed with the size of my body , including me?

It seems like all my parents used to talk about was my school grades, what number grade I received on a test, and whether or not I was going to make Honor Roll, now all they talk about is “Marge that outfit makes you look like you have a stomach roll, and what do the numbers on the scale say you weigh?” My mom loves to remind me “Marge, remember you can never be thin enough or smart enough.”
The girls in gym class say that I am so lucky to be one of the first to have boobs and need a real bra, not just a pretend, training bra. My soccer coach overheard them saying this when we were in the locker room changing for practice, and yelled at all of us, that she “ Would rather hear us talking about the size of our soccer skills, instead of the size of our bodies, to finish changing, and hustle our butts to the field.”

Coach also says that I am the best forward on the team, I have a strong and powerful kick, and that if I spent some time running, on my own, every day to get my stamina up, I would be the strongest player on the team. She says I need more focus. I guess I know what she is talking about, as to the focus thing, I spend too much time on the field comparing my body to every other girls’ on the team, that I miss too many chances to make a goal. It is almost as if I am moving down the field in a fog, until I hear everyone screaming “Marge you got this one, let’s score!”

That’s it my mother, my father, the boys at school who call me “Large Marge” (whether it is because of my boobs or not) the girls in school, who are so skinny and have no thighs, butt, or boobs, and always talk about how fat they are (they must really think I am “Large Marge”) and my soccer coach are all soooo right I am soooo fat, and I am starting a new diet today.

I am making a list of what foods I can’t eat on my new diet. I will not eat any carbohydrates, or as mom says “carbs”. Especially bread or pasta (mom always talks about how much weight those foods make her gain whenever we eat them, although I never see a change in her body after she eats them). Definetly, positively, no chips or candy, even right before soccer practice, when most of the girls are having one of these snacks. No French fries, hamburgers, pizza, cookies, cake or ice cream. No peanut butter and jelly on a bagel for breakfast, no pancakes, French toast or eggs and bacon on Sunday mornings. No milk, especially chocolate milk, no bananas, nuts, cheese or anything else fatty.

“Marge, hurry up your breakfast is getting cold”, mom calls, as I finish brushing my hair. “I am not very hungry this morning mom”, I say, because if I skip breakfast, think of all the calories I can skip as I start my day, I will be so ahead on my diet!
On the bus I sit next to my best friend Lizzie. She weighs the same as me but is five feet seven inches, which just because of her height makes her so much thinner than me. I tell Lizzie about my new diet, the list of foods I will no longer be eating and my plan to only eat a salad and diet soda for lunch. “Marge are you kidding me?” she says, “What are you going to eat, you basically just made all the foods served in the school cafeteria at lunch, off limits. You will be starving by the time we have soccer practice!” I say “That’s the point! Think of all the calories I will burn from starving all day and then during soccer I will burn even more calories, not having eaten more than a salad today.”

Lizzie, goes on to say “Marge I think you are making a big mistake, my mom always talks about eating everything, but listening to your body, eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full.” I say “We’ll see, all I need to do is lose five pounds and then my mom will buy me some new sweaters”. I say that as I think “Lizzie and her mother do not know what they are talking about , after all, they are tall, but my mom is always dieting and is always hungry. In fact, she says if she ate what she was hungry for she would be as big as a house.”

At lunch I and Lizzie and a few other friends of ours from the soccer team eat together. I buy a salad without any dressing and a diet soda. Lizzie has a chicken cutlet sandwich, with mayo on a roll, that her mom made for her, a snack bag of ruffles chips, a water and an apple. I eat every drop of my salad, and Lizzie is right I am starving. I watch Lizzie eat, and amazingly she seems to eat half of everything her mother packed for her. “Marge you want some of my lunch?” Lizzie asks. I say “No, You eat it.” She says “Are you sure, I am full, I do not want any more, I am going to throw it away, if you do not want it”. All of these words seem like a foreign language to me. In my house there is never talk about being full or not wanting any more food. The talk is always about how much we should or should not be eating, and what we should or should not be eating. I have noticed that not only does Lizzie talk like this, but so does her three year old brother, her mother, her father and her older sister. I wish I could be like Lizzie and her family when it comes to food, but I have the curse of the “pear shaped” family.

It is time to change for soccer practice, I look around at the girls in the locker room, to see who is the fattest and I am sure it is me. I look at how flat everyone’s stomach looks, and I think , a few more weeks of salad and that is how my stomach will look. I keep this thought in my head as I watch the girls all share their pre-practice snacks. There are so many different choices, granola bars, raisins, chips, grapes, starbursts, but I am not having anything.

We hustle onto the field. I am really trying to keep my focus on the game, but half way through practice my stomach is grumbling, and it is starting to hurt. I tell myself, that this is good, my diet is working. I am also so much more tired than I usually am at practice, and I miss a possible goal. The coach makes me do an extra lap around the field at the end of practice. She says it is “So I can focus on my “lack of focus” during the game”.

Lizzie is waiting for me in the locker room, she offers me some Gatorade, no thanks I say. “Wow”, she says, “You are really sticking to this diet of yours.” I feel so proud of myself, it makes it easier to watch all the girls drinking Gatorade and eating snacks after practice. We get on the school bus to go home, and my stomach feels so empty, I love this new feeling.

I start trying to figure out how I can eat as little food as possible for the rest of the day, and especially at dinner. Even with soccer practice, I will still be home before my parents, and it is my job to start getting dinner ready. I will make a deal with myself to not eat anything before my parents get home, instead I will make a list of things I can do instead of eat. I will: start dinner; set the table; do my homework; pick out clothes for tomorrow; pack my backpack; and clean my room, and then and only when my parents come home, I can eat one serving of that part of dinner that has no carbs, or fat.

It is three weeks and I have been doing everything I started doing on the first day of my diet, three weeks ago. I have lost ten pounds. Mom said we could definetly go shopping for new sweaters this weekend. I am so happy, I wanted to lose five pounds but now I have lost ten pounds! Mom and dad say I should keep up the good work, which is a little confusing because I thought I looked good at this weight, but maybe they are right maybe I should lose more weight. All my extra running is helping also. I now get up at 5:00am and run until 6:00am so I am home just in time to hear mom’s alarm go off.

Everyone seems really happy for me, except for my best friend Lizzie. She wants me to stop losing weight. What is up with that? Is she jealous? Lizzie says “Marge, I know losing weight was important to you, I thought you looked great before you went on this diet, but if you wanted to lose weight I understand, but now that you have, please eat something other than salad for lunch, and please eat something, even if it is fruit, before and after soccer practice. I tell Lizzie “You are so dramatic, I am fine”.
It is two months since I started my diet and I have lost seventeen pounds. My mom is so excited she can’t wait to take me shopping. My dad is calling me “Skinny Minnie”. All I know is, I need to buy some really warm clothing, because although it is May, I am cold all the time. I have a chill I cannot get rid of. I am not sleeping well at night. I dream of eating candy and ice cream, I am so afraid if I let myself taste candy, chips or ice cream I will not be able to stop eating. However, I seem to be tired all the time and fall asleep in class. I was dizzy the other day at soccer practice and fell down . Lizzie is convinced I fell because I am dizzy from not eating, she could be right, but I will never tell her that
I have to get changed for soccer practice we have a big game tomorrow against our biggest rival so everyone is pumped up for a good practice. I take my place as a center forward, at the center front line, and I have the ball, I am passing it to Lizzie who is immediately to my right, and then everything goes black. I wake up on the side of the field, with all these faces looming over me, and coach holding something in front of my nose, which I later find out is smelling salts. I try to sit up too fast and I get dizzy and start to throw up, but nothing is coming up, which I guess makes sense because I did not even eat a salad today. The coach tells me to take it easy and just rest, an ambulance is on its way, and I say “No. Coach I am fine, really.” Coach says “Marge, I am telling you do not move, this is the second time you fell at practice in the same week, Lizzie told me you were dizzy the other day, and today you passed out cold. You will go in an ambulance to be checked out .” I am so mad at Lizzie right now, what a snitch. Lizzie mouths sorry, as the ambulance attendants take my blood pressure, which they tell coach is extremely low for my age. Coach rides with me in the ambulance to the hospital. I feel really scared, but I am not sure why. Then I realize, I am afraid that at the hospital they are going to examine me and they will know about the fact that I have been taking laxatives, because I stopped going to the bathroom, and my stomach felt so bloated. Will they be able to tell that two weeks ago, I could not take the starving anymore, because I am so weak and have no will-power and that I binged on boxes of cookies and bags of chips and then made myself puke. What are they going to see, figure out, know? What will they tell my parents, who coach called to meet us at the hospital?

I am sitting on a hospital bed and wearing one of those backless hospital gowns. The emergency room doctor finished his examination of me, and said “Marge, I see you have lost seventeen pounds in s short amount of time”. All I can think is “Oh no, he knows”. All of a sudden I hear the emergency room doctor is telling my parents that my electrolytes are extremely low, which is most likely caused from anorexic behavior or starving , as well as bulimic behavior , binging and puking. He picks up my hand and points to the knuckles of my pointer and middle fingers, where he shows them the evidence of the skin scraped away by my teeth , which is caused when I stick my fingers down my throat to gag myself until I puke. He examines my teeth and explains that he is checking for signs of the tooth enamel being worn away by the stomach acid that comes up with regurgitated food.

He says since there does not appear to be much, if any, enamel worn away on my teeth, I am probably only in the early stages of bulimia. My dad says that’s good then isn’t it?”. The doctor says there is nothing good about bulimia, it is like being pregnant, you can’t be a little pregnant or a little bulimic, you either are or you aren‘t. He indicates that although my weight is not so low as to require hospitalization he recommends immediate counseling with an eating disorder specialist. He talks about the fact that he has seen too many girls start out on a diet and die. He points out that the word DIE-t, actually contains the word DIE. The nurse give us all types of pamphlet s on “eating disorder awareness”, including a pamphlet about exercise bulimia. My mother is crying, my father keeps saying don’t worry “Skinny Minnie” we will get you help. The nurse who is giving us the pamphlets says sir, “I hate to intrude, but calling your daughter “Skinny Minnie” and putting an emphasis on her body size is not in her best interest”. My father , of course, tells the nurse to mind her own business.

Coach is in the waiting room, and my parents tell her what the doctor and nurse said, they also tell her they can’t believe any of this is true, after all, what is wrong with a little dieting. Coach says that she has had some concern for me, she has been noticing the weight loss, the refusal to eat or drink anything before or after practice, as well as that I am less focused than I have ever been. She explains she was hesitant to define what was going on as an eating disorder because she knows from experience that if a student has an eating disorder, a coach or teacher “ labeling” it as such, usually makes the student reinforce the disordered eating patterns, as they refuse to admit anything is wrong. She further explains that not only does the student revert into denial, the parents usually follow suit. She goes on to say she agrees with the doctor and the nurse and is suspending me from the team until I get a doctor’s note that says I am receiving treatment for my eating disorder and I am both physically and mentally, healthy enough to engage in the sport. Specifically, coach informs us that she is sending me to Ms. Lively, the school guidance counselor, who will help me coordinate my treatment plan. My parents are furious at coach and so am I. Mostly, I am furious at Lizzie, she is the one who snitched to coach on me.

The next day I go to school and everyone is talking about the ambulance, and my passing out. The boys are actually saying it was “Large Marge’s boobs on the move that tipped her over and made her pass out” Yes, even with my weight loss, my boobs, are big as far as the boys are concerned. I am told to report to the guidance counselor instead of going to gym. I have seen her around, she is beautiful, I would not say she is thin or fat, she seems just the right size for her. Some girls say she should lose weight, and others say she has a hot curvy body that men love. All I know is she always has a great smile, wears such nice clothes and looks so comfortable in her own skin.

When I walk into Ms. Lively’s office, she says please take a seat Marge. She asks me if I want some bottled water, I take one and say thanks. She asks me if I like being called Marge or do I prefer Margie. The funny thing was I never thought about it before, but the truth was I felt like Marge sounded too old for me, I liked Margie. She said Margie, I would like to help you work though your eating disorder. I said “Thanks but I do not have an eating disorder”. She said I understand you do not want to admit you have an eating disorder because first of all you do not want to acknowledge you have a problem and secondly, you do not want to give up the behaviors of starving, then eventually binging and vomiting. She gave me a test to take home , a test about an eating disorder! She asked me to read through a list and see how many of the things on the list I related to. All I could think was “Are you kidding me, as if I do not have enough to do between school and soccer practice, now I have a take-home test?” Then I realized ,right now, I did not have soccer practice I was indefinetly benched.
The next day on the bus Lizzie asked me if I was still mad at her, and I said yes. I did not talk to her on the bus, and instead did my “take-home eating disorder test. I was surprised to see how many things on the list applied to me. I still did not believe I had an eating disorder, but I was starting to think I wanted to know more about this eating disorder thing.

At school Miss Lively asked for my test, and we talked about how many things on the list applied to me. Then we talked about eating disorders being deadly. At first I thought she was just trying to scare me, but the more I heard the statistics, I started to believe maybe this is really a big problem, for a lot of other people, not me, but for a lot of other people, especially young girls.

I met with Miss Lively like this twice a week. During the times we met we talked about a lot of different things. First we talked about the fact that before I dieted I may not have been considered “skinny”, but my body size was within a healthy range for my height. We talked about the fact that I often felt uncomfortable about my sexuality and the changes my body was undergoing as a result of puberty, especially, since the boys made fun of my breasts, and my parents seemed to always be scrutinizing the way my breasts and body were changing. We talked about my mother’s preoccupation with her own weight, as well as mine, and Ms. Lively suggested that just because my mother valued appearance above all else maybe, just maybe, I did not want to believe my value as a person was solely based on my appearance. We talked about my trying to love myself and be my own friend and I came to realize just how mean, violent and self-destructive bulimia was .

I told Ms. Lively how I envied Lizzie and her family, because they seemed to have such a “normal” relationship with food, in that they ate when they were hungry and stopped when they were full, and were not overweight. Ms. Lively explained, that this is how she, herself eats, and that there was a time when she, also, did not believe it was possible. She continued to explain that if I choose to see food as just food and not as comfort, fun, a reward, a way to deal with boredom, being sad, being mad, or being happy, it would be easier to start noticing when my body was physically hungry and when it was physically full.

During one of these two weekly meeting we would eat lunch together, and she taught me how to take time to taste my food, and decide if I really like what I was eating. She taught me I did not have to treat my body like a garbage pail, and that I could stop eating if I did not like something or was full. That it was more of a waste to eat something I was not hungry for than to throw it away. She taught me to trust my body and my hunger, and to know that I was not going to be this out-of-control person stuffing and gorging myself if I truly listened to my body and it’s physical hunger. As I started to eat again, without puking, and as I included a nutritious food plan, I noticed that I was no longer freezing all the time, nor was I dreaming of food.

All of a sudden it was the end of June, and the school year was coming to an end. Ms. Lively, gave me some assignments to do over the summer including seeing an eating disorder specialist. She said she was hoping to be able to help me get back to active status on the soccer team in September. On the last day of classes before the summer vacation Ms. Lively called me into the office and asked me to eat lunch with her one last time. After we ate she gave me a box, wrapped in paisley paper. When I opened it here was a box and the box had writing o nit that said “The size of my life is not defined by the size of my body. The key to the size of my life is knowing and voicing what is in my own heart .” Honestly, it sounded a little corny and sappy to me, but the box was pretty, it had stickers all over it that said things like courage, dream, love, adventure, breathe, laugh, dance, sing. Ms. Lively said I should open the box. Inside there was another box, a smaller one , the size of a jewelry box, and when I opened it there was a silver key on a chain with the words “Size Of My Life” inscribed on it.
It was very pretty. I said thank you, although I was not sure what all of this meant. Then Ms. Lively said, Margie, I know you have had a hard year, and you came here and confided in me about your secrets and I want to share a secret with you, when I was your age, fourteen, I also started out to DIE-t , and I ended up with an eating disorder similar to yours, and it took me a very long time before I realized that no matter how small the size of my body was, and no matter how small the size of my clothing was, after I starved and whittled my body away, I was never happy in my own skin, until I learned to love myself from the inside-out.

Ms. Lively continued on to say “Maggie I am so proud of all of the hard work you have done, and will do this summer, so I wanted you to have the, very, key I had made for myself, when I first recovered from bulimia, to always remind myself that I would no longer define the size of my liife by the size of my body". I gave Ms. Lively a hug, I could not believe she trusted this secret and this key to me, but I felt very special.

Ms. Lively will always have a special place in my heart because she helped me to learn how to eat all over again. She helped me to learn to look at myself as being more than just the size of my body.

In fact, over that summer, with my eating disorder specialist, I learned that my body size was just one part of me. I decided that I would not define myself by the size of my body but by the size of my life, which included everything I loved, my friends, my family, school, soccer, my ability to laugh and make silly jokes.

My eating disorder specialist, also helped me to realize part of my extreme behaviors with starving , binging and puking were because I did not know how to communicate what I really needed and wanted from my parents, when I did not want them to be talking about my body and judging it as if I was not even in the room, and that controlling food was the only way I felt any sense of control over all the changes around me, my body and my life.

I also learned that my starving caused my metabolism to slow down and made it difficult for my body to digest and release the normal waste products, and that is why I found myself needing laxatives to go to the bathroom. I was also warned that abuse of laxatives could literally cuase my sphincter muscles to lose the ability to work. OMG (Oh My God)! that may have been TMI (Too Much Information)!, but I guess I needed to know it, so I would no longer hurt myself

I stopped comparing my body size to the size of other girls, including my best friend Lizzie, and I saw people as being more than the size of their body, I thought of them by their smile, laugh, ability to fake-out an opponent on the soccer field and make a goal.

The following September, when I saw Ms. Lively in the hall way I finally, understood why she looked so comfortable in her own skin, because she valued herself from the inside-out, and you could see it in the way she walked and smiled. My soccer game was never better, because I ate in a healthy way that allowed me to have all the energy I needed for soccer!!! Lastly, when the boys called me Large Marge, I just focused my anger on dribbling that soccer ball straight down the field, and scoring a goal, instead of focusing my anger on myself and my body.

NOTE TO PARENTS: Our children are at a higher risk than ever for eating disorders. DIE-ting is often the road to DIE-ing. We have an important responsibility to our children, each other and the world at large, to teach and encourage a healthy relationship with food, exercise, and body image , which is life-giving. If your child is gaining weight consider the fact that their brains and bodies are not fully formed yet, and that any food choices you may be encouraging should provide for proper nutrition and balance. Look at your own relationship with food and your body, and consider just what you are teaching your children about how you feel about your body, yourself, their body and them.

By Karen Cigna @Copyright Septmeber 2011, Size Of My Life Inc

fat-positivity is greatly needed

Growing up, I really could have used some fat-positive children's books! From the age of 7, my older sister convinced me that I was fat, even though my pediatrician and my mom told me I was within the "healthy range". It wasn't until after I became disabled (at age 13) that I actually became fat. As you can probably imagine, my sister's taunts became more hurtful, especially as I became more aware of how I am "supposed" to look. It's terrible to grow up around fat-negativity.

It looks like you spend a lot

It looks like you spend a lot of effort and time on your blog. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles.

I completely disagree with

<P>I completely disagree with the idea of making young children be even more exposed to society's obsessio with being thin. This can not only cause a problem with children's self-confidence throughout their young life, but it can also remain with them through their teen and adult years. I think it's ridiculous how there are 2.nd or 4th graders who look into the mirror and worry about their weight, or ask their parents if they can go on diets. Society encourages and inciates this type of behavior. However, I also feel that stimulating kids to be fat by having "fat-friendly" books (like, seriously, what?) is not healthy for their development as it is demeaning to kids and parents who actually deal with themselves or their children having medical problems that cause them to gain weight. We shyould defintely be focusing on being healthy having a healthy life-syle so our children can follow in those footsteps. People <EM>and </EM>children can be built differently. Just because you're a little muscular or skinny doesn't mean you are fat, or anorexic or whatever.....</P>

Being fat shouldn't be

Being fat shouldn't be embraced or encouraged. Being healthy in every way possible should be and with that comes the losing of weight - hence extra fat! Yea its true that there are people who are naturally bigger than others but in the sense that their structure is bigger, not the amount of fat on them. I know someone who has a size 0 frame and always has as well as always eats junk and never works out. She is out of shape and knows it and needs to fix that. I know another person who is a size large but eats incredibly healthy and runs 5 miles every morning. He is in better condition than the girl is. My point is that the problem isn't promoting negative things but not promoting healthful practices correctly. Fat- positive books doesn't help kids like you think they do and neither does the way Kramer portrayed his book. Both types of books are in the extreme ends. Fat-Positive books makes kids believe that it's okay to not try to be healthy and to be happy about whatever happens to their body overtime, and books like Kramers may be perceived that in order to be better than another they need to have strict eating and excercise habits. What kids need is the support to be healthy, encouragement to achieve their goals and praise when they succeed their goals - excercise related, eating related, orother goals not related to either of these categories!

There is the side of saying

There is the side of saying this is what you should look like.But if she wants to be skinny she is also being shown it takes hard work and exercise.If you have some one overweight and wants to be skinny why not let them do it.If you want to teach your kids to just keep being fat don't exercise be happy with who you are until you can't walk and die young from a heart attack go ahead.But for the kids that are already happy and want to be skinny read a book that shows how to get there.Just let the girl better herself instead of teaching her to deal with and be happy with who she doesnt want to be..Oh a book that will help get her healthier and happier must be the worst thing for her to read huh??idiots

From the Library: Maggie Goes on a Diet & We Search for Fat-

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