WW (or the group formerly known as Weight Watchers) introduced a new weight-loss app for kids, and experts (along with the rest of the general common-sense thinking population) believe the app will breed unhealthy thought patterns about weight in children. Umm, you think? Calling the app irresponsible, a coalition of Canadian health care professionals say that the food-tracking app for children is a ‘recipe for disaster,’ that will do far more harm than it could ever do for good in children who may be susceptible to eating disorders. We just can’t believe that in this day and age, this is even something someone would consider a good idea, much less app- and advertising worthy.
Has The World Lost All Common Sense, Or Is It Just WW?
According to a CBC article, Canadian dietitians, eating-disorder clinicians and health-care professionals believe that WW’s new weight-loss app for kids is not only irresponsible, but dangerous. WW is the new name for Weight Watchers, as they probably guessed that being healthy didn’t necessarily have everything to do with just watching weight.
Ary Maharaj is an educational coordinator with the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC). Maharaj says that children already go through so much at these vulnerable stages of puberty and body changes. To gamify habits that encourage food restriction and reward those efforts is harmful.
Josée Sovinsky is a registered dietitian and nutrition therapist who specializes in eating disorders. She says that many of her clients are those who developed eating disorders when they were children and still struggle as adults to have healthy food/fitness relationships.
It’s Dinner Game Time
WW rolled out the Kurbo (I mean, really? CURB-O?) app for kids and it’s targeted for children as young as eight-years-old. EIGHT-YEARS-OLD! Those kids are just babies barely in and out of second grade and this app wants them to enjoy ‘success stories’ of kids’ weight loss with before and after photos. (Is it just me, or is that creepy ANYWAY and screaming for some sketchy people to join just to look at kids?)
Kurbo basically sorts foods into red, yellow and green categories based on the Stanford University-developed Traffic Light System. Things like fruits and veggies are green foods while sugary and fatty foods end up in reds. Things you should eat moderately like bread end up in the yellow column. It’s a free app in Canada and in the U.S., Kurbo coaches can be bought for one-, three- and six-month subscription fees. Yes, for just $69, $189 or $294 respectively, U.S. parents can buy a food coach for their children to tell them how to develop anorexia. Okay, not really, but maybe?
What Would WW Do?
Gary Foster is WW Chief Scientific Officer and says that they’ve carefully developed the app to be holistic, rewarding and inspirational to kids, teens and families. It is designed to build and sustain healthy habits. The Kurbo creators say their purposing is based in science and uses World Health Organization data that says childhood obesity is an epidemic of the 21st century.
The thing is, health-care professionals don’t agree this is the way to go about beating that epidemic. Body beliefs about one’s self and food that develop during childhood don’t go away as humans age and that’s where children can become acquainted with disorders that go well into their adulthoods.
Rewarding kids for losing weight without giving any other indication about what ‘healthy’ looks like is simply wrong.
Money, Money, Money
The long and short of it is that WW is a for-profit company. Maharaj says that they want to rebrand diet as wellness but health is more than weight and they’re looking to create life-long customers. The issue is that those life-long customers may likely suffer disorders that the app creates and they’re not easy to ‘fix’ in adulthood.
Yeah, not sure where ANYone thought this was a good idea, but here’s hoping the folks at WW realize that healthy is definitely NOT just a number on the scale. Especially in children.