We have known the dangers of childhood dieting for a very long time. Restricting calories in children can cause metabolisms to slow down and impact growth and development. Not all children are overweight because they eat too much. Enter Paul Kramer who has the audacity to write and publish a book called: “Maggie goes on a Diet.”
My first question, the one no one interviewing him seems to want to ask, is: what does a pasty, fat white man know about female teenagers and obesity? Talk about white, male privilege. He feels free to reify beliefs about the obese while clearly being so himself. Why does he think he has the right to exploit young women who are struggling with their weight by writing a prescriptive book for them when he cannot deal with his own weight issues?
We have only seen glimpses from this book. However, what we have seen shows that Kramer does not even understand obesity. He shows a young 14-year old Maggie standing in front of the fridge and eating food for comfort. He gives the bullies a pass by forcing Maggie to change rather than holding those who torment her accountable for their behavior. Perhaps worst of all he demonstrates that once Maggie becomes ‘thin’ and a soccer player she gains a certain amount of fame and people know her name. Implying that Maggie is only worth recognition when she is thin is a horrible message to send to young women. I am sure that Maggie has other things going on for her besides the shape and size of her body. What about her mind or her other accomplishments? The message that women are defined by their bodies is one that has over stayed its welcome.
I was that obese child. I was put on diets from age 8 on. Every time my mother put me on Weight Watchers I gained weight. I was never that child eating in front of the refrigerator at night. I would not have dared eat more than what was provided by my parents. Regardless of what they did or what they restricted I did not lose weight.
I was bullied all the way through school. I can remember having to get home before the bullies knew I left or they would chase me down and beat me up. A woman who lived in our complex would let me come to her house right after school. Her house was closer to the school than ours. I would wait there until everyone had cleared before I went home. I never told anyone about the bullying. I tried to solve the problem myself by staying out of their way and being very quiet. It never worked.
I am incensed that a man has chosen to write a book telling young girls to lose weight. I hate his display of white, male privilege. Obesity is a complicated disease. It is not simply a matter of calories in, calories out. If it were, I would weigh 125 pounds.