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Hippo Hips —

October 7, 2011

Recently, we’ve all experienced collective rage at the bullshittery that is “Maggie Goes on a Diet,” a diet book for 6-year-olds. Yesterday, erylin shared her experience in combating her 8-year-old daughter’s self-hatred by “punishing” her with affirmations in the mirror.

The Eating Disorder Foundation, shares these depressing statistics:

  • In 1970 the average age a girl started dieting was 14; by 1990 the average dropped to 8.
  • One half of 4th grade girls are on a diet.
  • 51% of nine and ten-year-old girls stated they felt better about themselves when they were adhering to a diet.
  • 81% of ten-year-old girls are afraid of being fat.

In the UK, children as young as six have been hospitalized for eating disorders, while in Ireland children as young as four hospitalized.

Long-time reader, Karen, reminded me that it’s never too young to start building up your child’s self-esteem against the coming tide of self-loathing and self-dissatisfaction.

With that in mind, I’d like to recommend two children’s books that we’ve been reading to our daughters for some time that have incredibly positive messages and are fun to read.

The first I would call the answer to “Maggie Goes on a Diet.” In many ways, it’s like a child’s introduction to Health at Every Size®. It’s called, “I Like Me!” written and illustrated by Nancy Carlson.

The protagonist (do children’s books even have protagonists?) is an adorable pig who loves to prance and dance and play, and loves herself even when she makes mistakes. When the cake she’s making doesn’t turn out ideally, she tries and tries again to get it right without beating herself up.

She also loves her little piggy body, “I like my curly tail, my round tummy and my tiny little feet” and the illustration shows her patting her belly.

But best of all, she talks about taking care of herself and her body, by keeping it clean, feeding it nourishing, healthy food and exercising with not a single mention of whether said habits help her reduce her round tummy.

Written for ages 2-6 and illustrated with eye-catching, positive images, “I Like Me!” encourages children to love themselves and treat themselves good, and to not get discouraged.

Carlson has another book called “Get Up and Go!” about exercise, which I have not read. However, the description from one paternalistic BookList review suggests it may be HAES-friendly as well:

The helpful statement “Exercise burns up the junky food you sometimes eat” is undermined somewhat by the large illustration and comparatively lengthy description of a particular example: “a triple chocolate, caramel, marshmallow cream sundae with extra whipped cream, and a cherry on top”; but this passage is sure to bring a response when the book is read aloud in the classroom.

Don’t show the children ice cream! This will induce the gluttony for sure!

The other book I would recommend has become a favorite of mine and our girls, even without its positive messages of self-love. “I Like Myself!” is written by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by David Catrow.

The vivid illustrations and Seussical rhyme follows a little girl as she delights in being herself, even when she’s taunted by others or being just plain weird. Each page is filled with unique, colorful, imaginative pictures as she exudes pride and individuality.

And toward the end, she explains how even if she had a snout or horns or stinky toes or hippo hips or purple polka dotted lips, she would still love herself because she would still be herself.

The book also has a positive natural hair message for young black girls as well, showing her with an enormous, kinky nest of hair and saying, “Even when I look a mess, I still don’t like me any less.”

Written for pre-schoolers to second graders, “I Like Myself!” is delightful for children and parents alike, and the positive message of self-acceptance makes it all the bettter.

So, if you’re looking for some ways to inspire self-confidence and pride in children, I highly recommend these two books, and let Maggie learn about the failure rate of dieting the hard way.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2011 11:48 am

    yay thanks for this. i get so sick of the world feeding my girls the “you arent worth anything because you aren’t skinny” message. ironically enough our “fatter” child eats healthier naturally (and has since toddlerhood)…she the one asking for more tomatoes, or skipping meat to have more salad. Its the thin as a rail older child that i have to stop from eating the whole cake, or a 3rd donut.

    • October 7, 2011 12:07 pm

      erylin, that’s so weird. Our younger, chubbier child LOVES tomatoes (no clue where she got those genes from) and is a fairly wholesome grazer, while the other, rail thin one is voracious. I think it has to do with their metabolisms, but who knows!


  2. Karen permalink
    October 7, 2011 3:52 pm

    My boys are grown, but I still have young nieces. Thanks for these recommendations – I plan on giving these as gifts this year!

  3. October 7, 2011 4:53 pm

    I love these kinds of books. We need more.

    I remember being little and eating way more than I could ever eat now. Maybe that’s because I was put on a diet at a young age. I was even told to lie about my age because the diet plan wouldn’t let in girls as young as I was at the time. When the group found out I was too young, they let me stay because I “needed the help.”

    I’m so much happier loving myself.

  4. October 8, 2011 1:16 am

    I want to send 1 each of these to my neice! Thanks, Shannon.

  5. MrsS permalink
    October 8, 2011 6:02 am

    Thank you for the recommended books. They are definitely on my to-buy list.

  6. February 22, 2014 11:56 pm

    I read _I Like Me_ when I was a child! It is a great book.

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