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Dieting Book for Children Causes Controversy

The childhood obesity problem has caused many eating disorder experts to caution parents about proper guidelines for implementing healthy changes. Instead of talking about dieting, losing weight and counting calories, say experts, the focus should be on getting more active, eating healthy and improving general well-being.

As discussed on the Time Healthland website, a new book for kids may encourage kids with the wrong messages. "Maggie Goes on a Diet" promotes the opposite message recommended by eating disorder experts, telling a story about a 14-year-old girl who gets teased about her overweight body and then catapults herself to popularity through dieting, weight loss and participation on the soccer team.

Author Paul Kramer says that his books deal with the real issues that kids face today. While it’s hard to dispute that obesity is one of those issues, experts say that his book glorifies the stereotypes and behaviors that increase a child’s risk for dangerous eating behavior patterns.

In addition, say experts, the link between weight loss and popularity reinforces what many children fear: that what they look like determines who they are.

Cynthia Bulik, director of the Eating Disorders Program at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, says that the book sends the wrong message. Bulik explains that dieting is not the right strategy for kids. Kids need to be taught within the frame of developing a healthier lifestyle, not calorie-counting and eliminating foods from their plate.

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