Karin Kaplan Grumet, RD, CEDRD, joined us for an interview on her book, I AM ME!. What follows are our questions in italics and Karin’s thoughtful responses.
You’ve published your first book, a children’s book, entitled I AM ME! What motivated you to develop it?
During the pandemic, I was getting so many calls from moms of kids around ages 6-8 concerned about how their daughters (and often sons) were struggling with bad body image, comparing themselves to their friends, and obsessing about food and weight. The need for nutrition therapy was becoming greater and greater and the age range for treatment was becoming younger and younger. This sparked my desire to write a book that parents can begin to read early on to their children who are as young as kindergarteners or first graders. There are not enough reading materials out there to teach children the importance of loving the body they are given without needing to change it to meet any “ideal.”
I understand some schools have included I AM ME! in their curriculum. Who is your target audience?
Ideally, my target audience is children as young as kindergarten or first grade. Ultimately, I would like this book to be read over and over again, not just in the home, but in school systems as well. I have also written a list of discussion questions for a deeper look in the classroom with students and teachers to review alongside the book. It has already begun in some schools near me and the feedback is amazing. This dialogue can also provide parents at home an idea of how their children view their body and food in a way they never knew. And, the earlier we can begin educating our children about self-love and acceptance, the less disordered eating there can be. As I told Amazon, the words are powerful and can be used from ages 7-97! Before I found an illustrator, I had been reading and continue to read the words/manuscript to my adult clients and they have found it to be quite rewarding on many levels.
Although quite delightful with its rhyme and illustrations, please share the serious message you send with your words.
Yes, this is a book written with a whimsical rhyme and beautiful illustrations, however, the words contain a lot of reason as well. The message is to teach our young children and readers about self-acceptance, not comparing yourself to others, and appreciating and loving yourself and your uniqueness. It was written with the intent of starting the conversation early so that children can begin to understand that the “ideal” does not always lead to joy and happiness, and that food is meant to be enjoyed and not obsessed about.
What are some of your favorite points you choose to communicate to your clients about food?
I have been working with children and adults of all ages now for close to 25 years. What I wish to communicate most to my clients is to erase the dialogue of “healthy vs. unhealthy” or “good vs. bad” foods and start using the word “balance”; to understand that food is meant to be enjoyed and taste good and has no power over the way we think and feel. As long as we don’t give food any power, then we become powerful in order to control our own thoughts and feelings separate from food and weight. Another important message that I always like to communicate to my clients is to focus on who you are and your character instead of whom you think you should look like based on others’ judgments. Dieting doesn’t work. We all know this and we need to show our children, by example, that they are amazing people just the way they are.
As the mother of two teenage daughters, what have you observed about today’s culture in regard to body image?
Look, I have two teenage daughters living in suburban New Jersey so I’ve been around the block. I know the tik tok generation and the instagram and facebook world. I know that puberty is tough. I know that kids can be cruel and judgmental. Teen awareness of body image and ideals about appearance begin early in their life. By the time kids are in kindergarten and first grade, they have already formed attitudes and behaviors around body image, whether through media and/or family.
How can parents use I AM ME! as a parenting tool? What steps can they take?
I also know that we, as parents, have an influence on our child’s body image, too. It is so important to mirror positive behaviors, to be a positive body image role model, to talk to our kids, and to actively listen to them and their feelings. As parents, I believe we have a bigger role today than ever before. Parents need to be sure they are making balanced eating choices and never restricting any foods or food groups from their or their children’s menus. As parents, we can show our children that we are proud of traits in ourselves that aren’t related to the appearance of our bodies; we can lead by example by accepting and valuing others no matter what they look like and never commenting on others’ appearances or bodies. We can show our children, like my book says, that food is “meant to be smelled and tasted and yummy,” and can never affect the way we think or feel about ourselves. This dialogue and experience alone can help our kids learn to quiet the diet culture voice and build new and healthier ideals. My hope is that I AM ME! will help parents begin this conversation. It can be a parenting tool to really help decrease diet culture and body dissatisfaction in our world and embrace self-love, body love, and kindness. We can all use a little bit of that, don’t you think?!
About the author:
Karin Kaplan Grumet, RD CEDRD is a registered dietitian and nutrition therapist with over 25 years experience counseling children and adults of all ages. Karin is passionate about the prevention and treatment of eating disorders and disordered eating and is committed to helping anyone seeking freedom from food obsessions and diet mentality. She is on a mission to continue the discussion about body and self love at an early age and to help decrease the diet culture and body dissatisfaction in our society, in both the school system and at home.
Karin is the founder and owner of KKG Nutrition located in Summit NJ . When not in the office, you can find her with her two beautiful daughters and husband…often on the tennis court.