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There’s a new app out from Weight Watchers for kids as young as 8 called Kurbo. Kids enter their height, weight, age and health goals, then begin tracking what they eat in a game-like environment that encourages them to aspire to before and after pictures.

Listen, Weight Watchers is a part of the $70 billion diet industry, and they are smart. They know women (likely the ones that would sign their kids up for this) have gotten increasingly fed up with “diets,” so they have REBRANDED their restrictive-based approach to nutrition/weight loss in order to stay relevant and keep the cash flow coming in strong.

ww kurbo

As @fionawiller put it: “@ww does not care about kids. They don’t care about health. They care about their bottom line. That’s it. Offering “free” services to kids isn’t out of generosity, care, or concern of teens health or wellness. It’s about creating a repeat customer for life.

Not the kind of repeat customer that goes back because they feel good, satisfied and love the product. The kind of customer that goes back because they feel ashamed, like a failure and don’t know what to do. They know the statistics on ‘dieting.’ They are intentionally exploiting the diet failure rate (97%) to further their bottom line and masking it as ‘care.’”

Kurbo has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with targeting parents concerned with their kid’s weight to line their pockets. Which makes sense in this fatphobic world we live in that’s based on thin = good/healthy and fat = bad/unhealthy, and tells us we can control our body size if we just eat the right foods/amounts of them.

Study after study shows a restriction-based approach to eating (this includes physically restriction from eating something, but also language like good/bad, right/wrong, should/shouldn’t) is a primary risk factor for preoccupation with food, future weight gain, poor mental health, reduced self-esteem, negative body image, and eating disorders (consistently found to be the single largest predictor of eating disorders, which also has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness).

Putting a child (or anyone) on some type of plan that has ‘highly-encouraged-guidelines’ around what/when/how much they can eat is not going to be helpful – and likely (97%) going to be harmful.

It teaches them that their body is a problem, that their body can’t be trusted, that food needs to be earned, that controlling and worrying about what they eat is normal, that eating certain types of things are bad/wrong, and all of this snowballs into a poor relationship with food & body – for YEARS.

I see this every day. Nearly ALL of my adult clients who come to me struggling with their eating habits and hating their body tell me they started restricting and micromanaging food when they were young.

If this was really about health, then why are weights being tracked? Why is weight loss being promoted as the “success story”?

kurbo

In the app, foods get assigned to a traffic-light system of green/yellow/red. Another coach logged her real meals, as a pretend 14 yr old, and got EIGHT REDS. People may think you just get a RED for something like McDonald’s french fries…but no…much more: full fat yogurt, walnuts, 1/2 avocado, tuna salad… 😠

⁠For the well-intentioned mamas out there, I know you have love and have concern for your child. In a world where children get bullied for their size, it totally normal to want to protect your children from pain. ⁠Remember that they learn from and depend on you.

There are so many other ways to teach kids healthy behaviors, which will then help them reach and easily maintain their happy, healthy, natural weight in an even more sustainable, enjoyable way (even the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out and said not to put kids on restriction-based protocols with food).

Some helpful ways to do that:

  • Steer clear of weight talk, and instead focus on emphasizing healthy lifestyle behaviors (even beyond food – like moving their body in a way that feels fun, getting good sleep at night, drinking plenty of water, etc)
  • Teach them about body diversity, expose them people who look different from them, from all backgrounds, abilities, sizes doing cool, awesome things
  • Teach them how to feel empowered making choices that feel good in and fuel their body, education and tools to confidently nourish themselves for life
  • Teach them that their weight has nothing to do with their health, success or self worth (it’s an outcome, not a behavior)
  • Teach them that they are enough and worthy of respect/love, regardless of their size, shape, or weight
  • Set an example and show this same kindness to yourself, avoiding body bashing and diet talk

That all sounds great and all…but does it work?? A restriction-FREE approach to health?

Here’s a testimonial example from a teenage girl I worked with earlier this year. 
 
weight watchers ww kurbo kids
 
I also asked her at our last session what she feels her biggest accomplishments were in our time together, and she listed:  “Much better self image and body image, relationship with food, self confidence, I don’t need to restrict myself from food, I’ve found great alternatives for lots of foods that make me feel  better, I feel happier, I don’t feel sick almost everyday, I feel like I fit in more, I know how to lift myself up when I feel bad, I can make healthy delicious food choices, I understand food labels, and I know how to make lots of healthy, yummy food”
 

If you would like to speak out against WW and their targeting of young children, consider signing this change.org petition. There is power in numbers and lending support in this way could make a significant difference.

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