On Judging a Book By Its Cover

In the last post, I revisited an even older post where I discussed a book called “Maggie Goes On A Diet”. I had seen it discussed on many tv shows and news broadcasts, and was horrified by the excerpts they showed. Having decided at age three that I was too fat, (I wasn’t) I was terrified of what such a book could mean for little girls in similar situations. In the interest of making my point and being my usual sassy self, I was pretty hard on both the book and its author, Paul M. Kramer.

Well, apparently Mr. Kramer found my blog, because I received this comment on my last post:

Hi Kelly,
I am Paul Kramer, the auther of “Maggie Goes On A Diet” and now the alternate version called, “Maggie Eats Healthier”. While I do not think it was appropriate or fair of you to write and say bad things about “Maggie Goes On A Diet” especially since you have not read the book. I will excuse you for jumping to conclusions and judging a book by its cover and by hearsay and innuendo. Would you be willing to actually read this children’s book and then judge it again by its content(heart) and can you and would you
be able to judge it without bias and give it the opportunity it deserves? I hope so. My email is below.

He made a good point. I hadn’t read the book, I was just going off of what the media had told me. And really, isn’t that a lot of what I’m fighting against, writing this blog? I responded to him via comment and email.

I appreciated his willingness to approach me to open a discussion and not just dismiss me as a random “hater”. He appreciated my willingness to reconsider my position. I knew I’d be able to be honest with him, as he told me, “Whatever you may have to say about it, you will have had the benefit of reading it first.” (Mr. Kramer gave me permission to quote anything from our conversations here.) He sent me the new version, “Maggie Eats Healthier”

Source: ibtimes.com via Kelly on Pinterest

 

 

Now, while I’m still cautious about eating a lot of things, I’m not above eating my words. Mr. Kramer has a good message to share in a very well-written book. He has tackled a very tricky issue in a very different way than the media portrayed it. Let this be a lesson to us all: the media doesn’t always tell you the whole story. Ba dum bum tchhhhhhh.

Coming from my life experiences, I tend to see things through a different lens than someone who has never had an eating disorder, and a different lens again than people who need to lose weight for health reasons. As a result, I still had some issues with the book, and I took the opportunity to share my experiences with Mr. Kramer.

I liked that Maggie eating healthier included a variety of REAL foods, not any of that diet crap, and she allowed herself an occasional treat. One of my early issues with the book, however, was that Maggie’s “before” binge was on bread and cheese, both of which are on my “healthy” meal plan, but which I would have cut out of my diet in a heartbeat as a child, out of fear of ending up like “before” Maggie. She does eat sandwiches in her healthy meal plan, as well as dairy, which I like. I asked Mr. Kramer about the “breads and cheeses”, and he told me:

I could have been any kind of food. I choose bread and cheeses including some cheddar because it sort of rhymes with better.

That makes sense. And while it doesn’t change how my eating disordered brain twists it, it was not intended as a caution against those foods.

There were a few moments later on that bothered me, but they were just nit-picky things that we both agreed were a matter of perspective. My only other major issue with the book is the focus on the amount of weight Maggie loses in specific numbers. From my email:

I like that you focus on Maggie getting healthier, and that you cite that as the reason behind her improved skills and social life, but I think you could do that without the focus as much on the numbers involved. Eating disorders thrive on competition, and knowing that Maggie lost 51 lbs in 10 months would have given me a goal, no matter what my starting weight was. Children should focus on the health aspect, not learn to define their worth by their dress size or the number on the scale.

He conceded that I had a valid point. It was nice to be able to open up a conversation with him on this subject, and in such a respectful way. I think we both learned something, and were able to appreciate how different perspectives can make the same things look very different.

One benefit of this book is that it allows children to make their own decisions about healthy eating. Nobody tells Maggie how or what to eat, she just decides she’s sick of being out of breath when playing sports and that she wants to improve her health. That is a good goal for anyone. A lot of problems occur when parents put the focus on weight and appearance, because it can get confused when children begin to associate love with thinness. While I immediately fear how far it could be taken in the wrong direction, it has been inspirational for children who don’t know how to make changes in their own lives. Here is the link to feedback Mr. Kramer has received from experts.

As Mr. Kramer said,

. . . the only silent rule was to love yourself by eating more nutritiously . . .

and that’s something most of us could learn from.

I would like to apologize publicly to Mr. Kramer for judging him and his book without giving either a fair chance. I should also apologize to Dr. Michael Salzhauer for my comments on his book, “My Beautiful Mommy”, which I also have never read. In his case, he is simply trying to explain plastic surgery to children without telling them, “Mommy has issues with herself, and thinks they’ll be fixed if she changes the way she looks”. The issue is not with the book, it’s with the example being set for children by their parents.

I would also like to thank Mr. Kramer for challenging me to have an open mind, and for giving me the opportunity to better myself as a person. In the age of a hate-filled internet, we need to hold each other accountable to basic human decency.

On that note, I’d like to leave you with a poem written by Mr. Kramer. It sums up the sentiment beautifully.

BORN NAKED AND EQUAL

Look people right in the eye,

for no person is better than you.

You have the right to be who you are,

turning away, you choose to do.

You need never be ashamed.

You were chosen by the process of birth.

You are not inferior to anyone.

Naked and equal everyone entered this earth.

Some had less fortunate beginnings.

Some had more challenges than others.

Many had to overcome constant obstacles.

Many grew up without fathers or mothers.

We are all God’s children.

Our existence we need not justify.

Be not afraid to stand straight and tall,

then look everyone right in the eye.

Paul M. Kramer

July 17, 2006

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “On Judging a Book By Its Cover

  1. Pingback: It’s been a while . . . | Be Anything But Quiet!

  2. Pingback: Stuff like this makes me wish I’d titled the blog simply, “WTF?” | Be Anything But Quiet!

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