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Controversial Children's Book Uses Four-letter Word: DIET

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Maggie goes on a Diet book review

Is “Diet” a four-letter word? According to many critics it is when the word “diet” is directed toward young bodies and impressionable minds as it is used in the controversial children’s book “Maggie Goes on a Diet.” However, not everyone who is an expert on childhood obesity and on how to combat the problem is in total agreement with its critics. Dr. David Katz and MindStream Academy—a co-ed health and wellness boarding school for teens—provide four powerful thoughts to keep in mind when it comes to shaping how your kids see their bodies and their health.

According to a summary of the controversial children’s book “Maggie Goes on a Diet,” Maggie is a 14-year-old girl with potential that has been hiding under her extra weight. To overcome her weight-related insecurity, Maggie 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.

This controversial children’s book has met with a significant outpouring of rage and calls for bans from both parents and educators due to fears that the book will adversely affect self-esteem, lead to unhealthy eating habits and cause the development of weight-related neuroses. Dr. David Katz, an renowned expert on childhood obesity says, “Those armchair critics may be right, which is unfortunate, because when you take away that one inflammatory word from the book’s title—diet—its message is fairly solid.”

Dr. David Katz is the senior medical advisor for MindStream Academy, a co-ed health and wellness boarding school for teens who want to get fit, lose weight, build self-esteem, better manage stress, and take control over their health and wellness destinies.

“Essentially, the public is outraged because this book’s title contains the word ‘diet’ and is aimed at young girls (and presumably boys, too),” says Dr. David Katz. Dr. Katz believes that what the controversy is telling us is that the way in which we frame issues are very powerful. Maggie’s story is full of good information, but the operative word used to describe her quest—diet—is surrounded by negative connotations that parents quite rightly don’t want their children to take to heart.

“As a parent,” Dr. Katz says, “it’s important to know how to communicate the importance of a healthy lifestyle to your children (which Maggie Goes on a Diet seems to get right!) without perpetuating the stigma and obsession with thinness that dieting sparks (which is why the book is so controversial).”

Eight Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Their Weight

To help parents with children who are overweight deal with the problem in a positive and effective manner Dr. Katz and MindStream Academy offer four powerful things to keep in mind when it comes to shaping how your kids see their bodies and their health. The following is provided directly from their news release.

1. The power of words. We all know that words have the power to hurt just as much as sticks and stones do. And as the controversy over Maggie Goes on a Diet demonstrates, “diet” is a very inflammatory word indeed. To some extent, it does imply that a person’s current weight and/or appearance isn’t okay, and it’s true that diets often do spark unhealthy obsessions with food, body image issues, eating disorders, and more. That’s why Dr. Katz recommends making “diet” a four-letter word in your home, never to be uttered. “Don’t ever refer to weight loss in your home as a ‘diet,’ whether it’s your kids, you, or both who are trying to shed pounds,” he confirms. “The damage you might be doing to your kids far outweighs any changes you might achieve on the scales. Plus, the big problem with going on a diet is that you’re on again, off again. Most diets are by definition not sustainable. I think we can all agree that the notion of a child going on a diet, rather than living a healthy lifestyle, is deeply concerning.”

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2. The power of the message. Not using the word “diet” is a good start in helping your children to develop a good attitude toward their health, but the absence of one word isn’t enough to achieve that goal. You must also make sure that the overall message you send to your children regarding weight and health is affirming and positive. Start by realizing that our society is too preoccupied with weight in general, and avoid defining your kids and their goals (and also yourself!) in terms of pounds. “Never send your kids the message that they need to lose weight, get thinner, drop pounds, look better, etc.,” Dr. Katz specifies. “If you do, they’ll still develop unhealthy attitudes even if you never so much as utter the d-word. Instead, always frame your message in terms of your kids feeling better about themselves, having more energy, becoming healthier and happier, etc. These are sustainable goals that won’t damage your child’s self-esteem.”

3. The power of motivation. It’s a generally acknowledged truth that you’re more likely to do something if it feels like fun as opposed to work. So put that principle into action when it comes to helping your kids live a healthy lifestyle and motivate them with things they’ll enjoy instead of saying, for example, “Eat your veggies if you want dessert,” or, “You need to play outside for an hour before you can watch TV.” Let’s face it—those rules just feel like chores. To help get the healthy fun started, here are some creative examples from MindStream:

• Make fitness fun and affordable by giving physical activities a competitive edge. For example, the first one to do this gets this.

• Institute active family traditions such as “Family 5K Fridays”—go to the park together and walk a 5K. Along the way, you can catch up on each other’s weeks and enjoy the great outdoors. You’ll be surprised by how quickly your kids will see these 5Ks as “fun” rather than “exercise.”

• Bring your kids into the kitchen and let them help you create healthy meals. You can explain why the dishes you’re making are nutritious, and your kids will take pride in their creations and want to eat them. To up the ante, you could even have a miniature Iron Chef competition in which everyone has to create a healthy dish using a key ingredient.

• Plan to plant a family garden. Ask your kids to help you water, prune, and harvest your crops—you may even allow them to choose what fruits, veggies, and herbs to raise. And as with cooking a meal, raising food will cause your kids to feel pride in the harvest and want to eat it.

“When you make exercise and healthy eating fun for your kids, they’ll become lifetime habits—not just a quick weight-loss fix,” says Dr. Katz. “Try to help your kids be self-motivated when it comes to their health instead of just following the rules because Mom and Dad say they have to.”

4. The power of action. Dr. Katz has touched on this point before, but it bears repeating in more depth: Getting healthy and staying that way are not quick fixes. They are lifestyles that depend on taking responsible action consistently. Make sure your kids know that when it comes to their health, they won’t get something for nothing (which, funnily enough, is what many diets seemingly promise). To feel good and be healthy in the years to come, your children must understand the power of action.

“Actually, Maggie Goes on a Diet demonstrates the power of action very well,” points out Dr. Katz. “Maggie wants to change her habits, get fit, and feel better, and she does the work to achieve those goals by using her feet and fork responsibly on a consistent basis. She becomes comfortable with the concept of moderation, and of balancing treats with exercise. Not understanding these things has played a big role in why our nation has become unhealthy and overweight—we want a quick fix and are willing to temporarily engage in extreme behaviors, but we aren’t willing to permanently change our actions.”

“Ultimately, you can help your children achieve the results that Maggie did—a healthy body, higher self-esteem, and sustainable habits—without embroiling them in the controversy her story has caused,” concludes Dr. Katz. “It’s too bad the book wasn’t titled Maggie Takes Charge of Her Health!”

Source: MindStream Academy http://www.mindstreamacademy.com/