"I've got a story for you, kids, and it's all about mum's calorie intake..."

Diet advice in a kids’ book. Is that the best or worst idea ever?

School kids get all sorts of weekly home readers.  Their variety knows no bounds. This week my son is reading about animals that live in ponds and sharing toys at a park.

However, when one child in Melbourne was sent home with a book called Mum’s Diet, his mum was far from impressed.

The book is written by children’s author Joy Cowley. Basically it shows a mum lamenting her weight and her children trying to reassure her, before telling their mum that they are sick of eating salads.

Kids who eat salads? I’m shocked.

But the mother who posted her fears on Facebook, Ivy Thompson – who runs a site called PaleoInMelbourne – was upset about something else.

“This has to be the worst reader ever???! Its called ‘Mum’s Diet’ and contains everything you need in order to create disordered and emotional eating in kids from the mere age of 7,” she wrote on her Facebook page

Mum's Diet - Maybe not the best-ever topic for a kids' book? Image via Paleo In Melbourne

“It's a pretty sad read but more than anything it highlights a culture of body-shaming, self-loathing and self-enforced low-fat, low-calorie dieting that have been so common in the last 30 years.

"Kids hear how we talk about ourselves and the food we eat. Your issues rub off onto them, and they might very well grow up with the same problems and body-image issues that haunted you.”

Facebook comments agree with Ivy and range from, "Shocking" and "I am horrified" to "What a disgusting book".

This book is not going to win any prizes, but my question is this:

What is the big deal about discussing dieting in front of children? We explain everything else to them - sex, terror, death - but if a parent goes on a diet it is suddenly shrouded in secrecy.

We've been brainwashed into believing that if children see parents dieting, they'll develop eating disorders or poor body image. It should be empowering.


What's so bad about children reading about parents who diet and being able to discuss them?

Most parents go on diets sometimes - especially mums - and I'm sorry to break it to you, but even if you do the opposite of the mum in the book and actually attempt to diet secretly, kids are smarter than that. They know when you are dieting. They know when you are eating or not eating. They know when you've eaten too much.

A page from the book. Image via Paleo In Melbourne

They absorb all of this but apparently good parents don't voice honest opinions about their bodies or food choices. Apparently, we're being forced to accept our bodies or worse still, pretend we accept them.

Doesn't that teach our children that not liking some parts of your bodies isn't normal?

Shouldn't we open up the discussion instead of hiding it behind messages of loving your flaws and eating mindfully?

I say, get real.

This book is a good idea. We should be able to teach children that sometimes it's okay to not like parts of your body and to try to improve them. It's empowering.

Diets are not the devil. Hiding the truth from children is far more damaging.

Now there are calls for this book to be removed from the home reading list in schools. I really hope this doesn't happen.

Do you share in the outrage over this book? Or do you think anxiety around talking about weight and dieting has gone too far?

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