Weight Watchers (now renamed WW) has just launched their new weight loss app aimed at children.
Yes, you read that correctly — children.
According to their press release, Kurbo by WW is a “scientifically proven behavior change program designed to help kids and teens ages 8-17 reach a healthier weight.”
At $69 a month, Kurbo has breathing exercises, goal trackers, and a Snapchat-like interface — you know, to keep things fun.
Kids will also be able to log their daily food intake using Standford University’s “traffic light” method. Foods are separated into green, yellow, and red categories. Green foods can be eaten freely (think fruits and veggies), yellow foods should be eaten in moderation, and red foods, like candy, soda, and fast food should make kids “stop and think” before they consume them.
While WW believes they are tackling childhood obesity, countless research shows they’re actually doing more harm than good.
The only thing this app is going to lead to is obsessive behavior, eating disorders and a morphed body image. Trust me, I should know.
I entered my first Weight Watchers meeting at the suggestion of my doctor when I was eight years old. I was an active equestrian and had a pretty healthy diet. Home-cooked meals were a staple and eating out was rare.
But when my doctor would ask me what I ate in a day, she didn’t believe me. If the doctor felt there was something wrong with me then she had to be right, right? Come to find out years later that doctors realized that BMI and body fat measurements overestimated obesity in African Americans.
I was the only child at the Weight Watchers meeting and the feeling of embarrassment washed over me. I stepped on the scale, logged my improvement, and listened to these women’s stories about overeating and their relationship to food. That wasn’t me. But those meetings would forever change my relationship with food. In fact, it’s thanks to Weight Watchers that I developed my first eating disorder.
At just eight years old, I made it my mission to not go over my points or to make sure I had at least ten extra points left to eat whatever I wanted. I became obsessed with seeing the number on the scale and if I didn’t meet my goal weight, that would determine what I ate for the day. School lunches would go uneaten but I would binge eat when I got home. At birthday parties, I would only have a thin slice of cake, yet the feeling of guilt still set in. I wasn’t even in middle school yet.
As I got older, I began counting calories, taking supplements, and water pills. In college, I developed orthorexia — a fancy way of saying I became obsessed with working out. It didn’t matter if I was tired or in pain. If I had to miss a workout day for whatever reason, I thought about it all day. And I would skip meals since I wasn’t able to burn the calories I was taking in.
After a workout injury, I realized just how warped my relationship with food was. Even now, at 27, I can admit that I don’t have a healthy relationship with food and I don’t think I ever will. I believe wholeheartedly that Weight Watchers was a catalyst in my disorder. I still have a fear of food and feel guilty if I have fries, pizza, or other comfort foods. I find myself talking myself out of feeling guilty if I don’t work out. I can’t weigh myself or use apps that track my food intake because I know it will turn into a compulsion. I even forced myself to take flat tummy teas, even though they made me sick.
WW’s Chief Scientific Officer, Gary Foster, Ph.D. said that Kurbo is “part of the solution to address the prevalent public health problem of childhood obesity.”
What he doesn’t realize is that this app is going to create a new generation of kids who have eating disorders. Kids are going to feel guilty for eating junk food with their friends. Kids who are going to make themselves sick by making sure they reach their fitness goals for the day.
No matter how WW decides to market Kurbo, the app is about weight loss, not about living a happy and healthy lifestyle.