Just last week, Weight Watchers (WW) launched a new program specifically targeted at children 8-17 years old, Kurbo. It’s no secret that we have an international health crisis on our hands, but we also promote body distortion at every turn. This app promotes both weight stigma and disordered eating within our youth.
How Kurbo Works
After entering their name, height, weight, and gender children choose one of seven goals. These goals include: eat healthier, lose weight, make parents happy, get stronger and fitter, have more energy, boost my confidence or feel better in my clothes.
After that, they rank the goals from 0-10, o being least important and 10 being most.
Kids then track their foods following a green, yellow, or red light system. The color of the light corresponds to both what and how much the child eats in an attempt to encourage the “healthiest” choice.
For about $69 per month, you can also sign up for a coaching service. With this, a coach will guide you in how to make the “smartest” decisions in regard to your goal.
WW claims that Kurbo is meant to address the spiraling youth-health crisis in the United States. Furthermore, they boast methods backed by the likes of Stanford University’s pediatric obesity program.
Declining health in children and rises of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are undoubtedly issues within the US. However, weight loss isn’t necessarily the answer to these problems.
Even though weight loss can correspond with declining risks of high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, several studies find that over 90 percent of people who lose weight gain it back in the long run anyway. Proving that no matter what you label it as, diet culture is ineffective.
Moreover, labeling foods as “good” and “bad” encourages the disordered cycle of restriction and bingeing.
“More than 55 percent of high school girls and 30 percent of boys report engaging in harmful practices including fasting, taking diet pills, vomiting, and abusing laxatives to lose weight,” according to a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Another major issue with this system are the goal selections, specifically the “make parents happy” option.
No one should feel that their bodies dictate the level of affection they receive, much less children. A child shouldn’t be made to feel that a parent’s love corresponds with what they put into their bodies.
Better Ways to Help
I’ll be the first one to agree that America’s youth needs a health reformation. But this doesn’t only encompass weight loss.
We need to teach our children how to listen to their bodies again, instill within them that health looks different on everyone, and stop using food as leverage.
Inquire into how specific foods make your child feel. Does sugary cereal make them sleepy, does an apple and some oatmeal give them a bit more energy?
This process is sometimes labeled as intuitive eating and is by far the most effective avenue of health-related goals.
We discredit all the potential children hold within themselves through boiling their worth down to a number. While WW isn’t precisely saying that, children will pick up subconsciously on the praise received when their weight goes down.
Allow them to see these things on their own through guidance and leading by example. Realizing that foods don’t define our worth and that sometimes the healthiest choice is that cookie and sometimes it’s the veggies and hummus.
Let’s end the cycle of body image issues, weight stigma, and disordered eating by saying no to programs like Kurbo and embracing intuitive eating.
Cover image via Time Magazine
Also published on Medium.