Fiction and Nonfiction for Tween Girls

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One of the obvious drawbacks of childhood obesity is that it hangs around and becomes adolescent obesity and, eventually, adult obesity. Sure, many people have overcome their propensity to be overweight, and they are heroes. Ruby Gettinger and others have documented their own histories, including the recognition that food addiction was controlling their lives, and what they had done about it.

And how much better it is if the problem never develops in the first place! This is why the Archive page of Dr. Susan Bartell’s Girls-Only Weight Loss website is such a treasure. We’ll just pick one at random — “Don’t Model Yourself After Models.” Back in 2006, a major world-class fashion show, the Pasarela Cibeles, made its famous decision to reject skeletal runway models. Dr. Susan says,

The Spanish government realizes that while it is important for girls not to be overweight, the opposite — being super skinny, like runway models usually are, is dangerously unhealthy. And when girls watch those models show off clothes, it sets a bad example and also makes girls frustrated. Some girls even try to get that skinny and develop eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

Dr. Susan is a psychologist, consultant, and an award-winning writer. Her collection of insightful and helpful articles is a splendid resource for young women struggling with weight issues. She points out to kids the things they might not have thought about, like, for instance, product placement in the media. It’s a good idea for anybody, not just a young person, to stop and consider, “Am I buying this thing just because my favorite actor had one of these in a movie?”

Once a person starts thinking about stuff like, “Why, really, do I buy Coke instead of Pepsi?” or, “Why, really, do I buy Pepsi instead of Coke,” you never know what could happen. He or she might move on to think something like, “Why don’t I just drink some nice water instead?”

Here is Dr. Pretlow’s comment about the book, Dr. Susan’s Girls-Only Weight Loss Guide:

Dr. Bartell’s book is the first I’ve seen that deals with the connection between feelings, overeating, and overweight in childhood. She is right on point. Her book contains excellent tips for improving self-love and for coping with emotions without resorting to food.

Tweens are not-quite teenagers, roughly ages 10 to 14, and they have their own set of problems. These are addressed in a fiction book for tweens, Don’t Call Me Cookie, by Vanessa Pasiadis. The author earned a Master’s degree from the School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. She puts her accumulated knowledge to work as a teacher and health care consultant, and by placing good advice in a framework kids will enjoy, a story.

Twelve-year-old Cookie Lemon wants to be an actress, but meanwhile she’s dealing with obesity. With help from a savvy pediatrician called Dr. Max and a wonderful teacher, Ms. Martiss, Cookie not only sets out on a better path, but brings along her best friend and even her parents. The book has been endorsed by Children’s Hospital of Cleveland and other worthy institutions.

In a print magazine called The Hermenaut we have found a terrific article called “Fatty Fiction.” The author, Lynn Peril, re-examined half a dozen books that she had read as an overweight young girl. They were published between 1955 and 1982, and the main characters were always girls who were unhappy and/or unpopular because of their excessive weight. Even worse, Peril says the girls in the young-adult novels were passive and unwilling to fight back when bullied. Generalizing about this sub-genre of fiction tailored for teens and tweens, Peril says,

The plot hinges on her struggles to lose weight, and the denouement is reached when the young girl achieves her goal. Along the way, her emotional and social problems are resolved, the result (overtly or not) of her weight loss. Often there is a moralistic bent to the story, urging the presumably porcine young readers to diet.

Peril says that fatty fiction went out of style when anorexia nervosa became a bigger problem than obesity. Now that the polarity has reversed again, what is fiction for young girls saying today?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Archive,” Girls Only Weight Loss
Source: “Don’t Model Yourself After Models,” Girls Only Weight Loss, 09/18/06
Source: “Book Aimed at Young Readers Takes on the Important Topic of Childhood Obesity,” PRLog.Org, 11/17/10
Source: “Fatty Fiction,” Hermenaut Number 14
Image by stars alive (Keirsten Balukas), used under its Creative Commons license.

6 Responses

  1. Thank you for posting comments about Don’t Call Me Cookie. in your Childhood Obesity News blog. I am so pleased that you recognized how effective it is to teach young readers about important health concepts in ” a framework kids will enjoy, a story.” That is exactly what my advisor, Steven C. Shapiro, MD and I wanted to achieve when we started this project several years ago. In a non-preachy and playful way, Don’t Call Me Cookie teaches young readers about the importance of exercise, good nutritional habits, personal power and self-respect. The story is intentionally light and refreshing. Just enough interest was created to keep the story moving without blurring the key messages to catch the ‘tween reader at a specific developmental stage before poor nutritional habits form and self-esteem issues arise.

  2. Hey Pat,
    thanks so much for your awesome comments about my website and book–I get so many emails from girls, but it’s great to get one from a professional too! Dr. Pretlow’s work is really impressive as well!
    Thanks again, Dr. Susan

    1. What a nice world it will be when everybody is at a healthy weight, with hearts and minds freed up to tackle more momentous issues. Meanwhile, may your work and patients prosper!

  3. Firstly, I would like to take the time to address that some people are just built larger. They just simply are. No matter how much they jog, lift weights, eat right, etc. etc. they just are fuller figured. It is so unfair to lump everyone into a general category–on either end of the spectrum. I like the idea of this book, but I don’t like the idea that we should be teaching our children–mainly girls–to get over self-neglect or super-self-consciousness about their bodies by focusing on their bodies.
    I think young women and girls should be handed tools for reforming what they have inside, rather than focusing on what is on the outside. That’s why I like the idea of this book but I don’t like the website that was presented ( One reason being, I read an archived article where the doctor discussed a situation of step-sisters and how the person who wrote in, “Lydia” describes two daughters–one is “somewhat over weight” and one is “model-type”. Dr. Susan goes on to state– “other than being born with good genes and taking care of her body.” when discussing the “model-type” daughter. Nowhere did this Lydia person talk about how this thin girl exercises or whatever. Do you see the assumptions? This Dr. Susan assume that because Lydia said her step-daughter was “model-like” that she obviously must take care of herself. The doctor did not know this for certain. The “model-type” might be stupidly (yes, stupidly) starving herself for all she knew. She didn’t consider having the mother talk to both of the girls and open a way for the two girls to communicate with each other, bond as sisters. This article bothers me to no end.
    If people are concerned for the true inner health of our children–and this website is targeted at girls only, it seems which again, contradicts this whole “worried about our children” theme–then you would choose what you say wisely. I’m not saying walk on eggshells, but look at the deeper meanings–because a lot of people do. To her credit, I will say these are good words, “Everyone is different and I will focus on what I love about myself, not what I dislike. You may need to say this several times a day until you believe it.” I would also like to say that there is nothing wrong with a diet–this word has been attached way too long with weight loss and eating disorders. EVERYONE is on a diet (definition: the sum of the food consumed by an organism). So take that and run with it however you wish I suppose.
    The younger set may not outwardly understand how these words affect them, but to read something like that truly hits them not in a place where it may hit someone who sits on the side of older age. Also, if you are truly concerned, then you need to help young males focus on how to accept that they are just built smaller, less muscular, chubbier, etc. etc. etc.
    That is all.

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comments. It would be a wonderful world if everyone concentrated on their inner beings rather than their looks, and judged others by their characters and personalities rather than their outward appearances. You make a very good point also about the word “diet.” It’s too bad that people have gotten into the habit of saying “diet” when they mean “reducing diet.” As you say, whatever a person eats is their diet.

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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