Friday, August 19, 2011

Make Your Voice Heard re: "Maggie Goes on a Diet"

If you are among those concerned about the soon-to-be-released children's book, "Maggie Goes on a Diet" and want your concerns effectively heard, the EDC invites you to use the following tips for writing a letter and/or an OpEd. (A sample letter for you to edit with your personal information/concerns, follows this list of tips).

To write an OpEd piece in your local press:

  • Start with a powerful opening statement
  • Make it personal and specific
  • Make sure your main points come early and you stay focused on one message
  • Email and/or call the editor to confirm your letter’s arrival. Persistence counts, but so does politeness
  • Give your real name and contact information
  • If sending by email, send in the body of the email, not as an attachment
  • All newspapers get many more op-ed columns and letters than they run; the bigger the circulation of the publication, the more competition for space
  • KISS –Keep it short and simple. Use short sentences, and stay focused on your core message
  • Do not send identical op-ed pieces or letters to the editor to more than one newspaper in your area; let the editor know that your op-ed is “exclusive” to that paper
  • Be prepared to shorten and re-submit your article as a letter to the editor in case it is not accepted as an op-ed
  • Don’t overlook TV and radio stations – some accept essays or letters for broadcast
  • Check the facts, and say only what you can verify factually from outside sources unless you are telling your experience
  • Don’t just complain; offer a specific action
  • Read your letter aloud to yourself to check for errors
  • Have other people check your letter for spelling, grammar and meaning before sending
  • Monitor the paper for your letter.
  • Email us a copy of your letter/OpEd!
  • End with your contact information: Name, Address, Daytime telephone, Email

SAMPLE letter for you to edit with your personal concerns/contact information:

"Dear Mr. Kramer,

As someone whose life has been directly impacted by dieting and eating disorders, I am writing to express my concerns of your soon-to-be-released book "Maggie Goes on a Diet".

According to the plot-summary of your book, the main character Maggie "goes on a diet and is transformed from being extremely overweight and insecure to a normal sized girl who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, "Maggie" becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image." The plotline, title and cover illustration ("Maggie" gazing into a mirror while holding up a dress smaller than her body, viewing a thinner version of herself) of your book stand to perpetuate these harmful myths: when a girl loses weight she becomes happier; there is a 'normal' size; dieting transforms a person; people of various shapes, weights and sizes can't be a star soccer player; and wearing a smaller dress is a laudable goal for a young girl. I find it especially concerning that you define the "Maggie" on the cover of your book as "extremely overweight". You cannot tell if someone is overweight or normal, let alone "extremely overweight", just by looking at them. By defining “Maggie” as “extremely overweight”, your book serves to increase stigmatization and discrimination based on body-size. Since you also published a book on bullying, I call your attention to be more aware of the harm in judging someone on their outward appearance. A teenager from Michigan recently took her own life after being teased about her size. She was not overweight, but kids teased her for being "not skinny". It is important to teach children, and adults, that what is a normal size for one is not necessarily normal for someone else. Healthy bodies come in varying shapes and sizes.

While childhood obesity is an issue in our country, bullying based on body-size, dieting and eating disorders also wreak havoc on millions of Americans. According to the FREED Act, the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders, between 4 and 20 percent of young women practice unhealthy patterns of dieting, purging, and binge eating; eating disorders usually appear in adolescence and are associated with substantial psychological problems, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide; for children 12 years of age and younger, hospitalizations for eating disorders increased by 119% between 1999 and 2006; and body dissatisfaction in young girls has been shown in White, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian girls. It has also been shown that dieting is one of the leading pre-cursors to developing an eating disorder. With Eating Disorders being the deadliest of all mental illnesses, I hope you see why I feel your book's implied messages are dangerous at best, lethal at worst.

I encourage you to reconsider publishing this book. I also encourage you to speak with experts in the field of eating disorders to create a new book that teaches kids a non-diet approach to healthy living, as well as size-acceptance. In doing so, you can still accomplish what seems to be your intended goal – helping the nation's most vulnerable population: our youth; and you can do it without causing them harm.

I look forward to your response.


1 comment:

Emma Murphy said...

Whilst I want to reserve judgment until I have read the book, my initial reaction is disbelief and disappointment. I know one of my professional organisations, the Academy of Eating Disorders, are already discussing our initial reactions and I hope there is a united, coherent and strong reaction to the book if it is "exactly what it says on the tin".