We MUST band together and STOP diet companies from creating another generation of dieters.
You may have seen the news that Weight Watchers (or newly branded WW) has launched a “healthy eating” app for kids called Kurbo. Don’t be confused by the term “healthy eating”- this is a diet in disguise because it focuses on weight loss. There are even “before” and “after” pictures of kids praised for weight loss. It’s honestly very difficult to look at.
The app praises itself for “education” and teaching external cues (red light, yellow light, green light foods).
I downloaded the app myself and was appalled when putting in some of my children’s foods: smoothies, peanut butter sandwiches, pizza, almond butter, cheese crackers were all yellow and red foods. One of my kids eats a very limited variety of foods (another topic for another post) and if I took away his “yellow” and “red” foods he would not be getting nearly enough nutrition to sustain growth, sports, and activity.
No where did I see any place to “track” hunger, fullness, satisfaction.
There was no education for eating disorders. There was no support for parents about feeding difficulties, positive body image, or behavior change in children. The foundational principles of family feeding were no where in sight.
Basically, this diet company has decided to target young kids to create the next generation of “dieters” and it saddens me so much.
Sometimes I think I am changing the world with my nutrition philosophy, and other times (like this) I just feel like my eating disorders private practice Eat With Knowledge will have business for the rest of my life. The society we live in reinforces diet culture, weight loss messaging, and contributes to the mental health issues, the perfect storm for eating disorders and disordered eating.
Here are a few articles to read if you are curious about thoughts and opinions about this new direction for Weight Watchers:
- From a mom point of view, Silene Malano: The WW App for Kids Is Deeply Problematic for Me as a Mom
- From a dietitian point of view, by Christy Harrison: I Help People Recover From Disordered Eating. Don’t Give Your Child This App.
- Concerns about Kurbo, by Virgina Sole-Smith: A New Weight Watchers App for Kids Raises Concerns
- Weight Watchers is Harming Kids for Profit
- Body Kindness podcast episode 125: Kurbo app from Weight Watchers is upsetting parents and professionals
What you can do:
- Do not encourage children to diet. If you’re concerned at all about health and nutrition with children, I love the work of Ellyn Satter. I would also encourage any parent to work with a Registered Dietitian about family feeding. Usually this work is without young children present in sessions (unless they are already showing signs of disordered eating).
- You can absolutely talk about health and nutrition (and movement too) with kids. But do not connect these with body shape and size, as our shape and size is mostly determined by genetics.
- Celebrate body diversity whenever possible. Talk about how all bodies are good bodies and how all people of different sizes and shapes can live healthy lives.
- Pull in teaching moments about body connection as much as possible. Talk about hunger, fullness, satisfaction with kids and introduce the principles of Intuitive Eating if they are old enough to understand.
- Sign this petition to support WW taking this app down.
I feel very passionate about helping children, teens, adults, and families create a healthy relationship with food. Dieting is never a part of this equation because of the harm it causes in a person’s life. Join me in signing the petition stated above to remove the new app Kurbo from children’s lives and lets promote health and happiness for all kids without dieting.
P.S. Elyssa and I see kids as young as 7-8-9 years old in our practice for eating disorders and much younger for feeding issues, such as extreme picky eating. If you are interested in working with Eat With Knowledge for nutrition counseling, you can book an appointment here.
Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of Eat With Knowledge in Nyack, NY. She is on a mission to help people heal from diets, and find peace and balance with their food choices. She leads a team of dietitians who support the philosophy, “Feel Fabulous about Food!”