When information broke this week that WW (previously Weight Watchers) was rolling out a brand new diet and weight reduction app known as Kurbo, Whitney Fisch — a social employee, faculty counselor and mother of three — felt compelled to share her outrage on-line.
“You NEED to Shut. This. Down,” she wrote on Fb. “All bodies, especially growing + developing bodies, deserve respect + the ability to grow into whatever shape they’re meant to grow to be.” She was, she stated, writing “with the fury of 1,000 suns.”
Fisch is hardly the one mum or dad who has slammed Kurbo by WW since its launch Tuesday. (WW really acquired Kurbo in 2018, then spent a 12 months retooling it and including what Time described as a “Snapchat-inspired interface.”) WW calls Kurbo a “scientifically-proven behavior change program designed to help kids and teens age 8-17 reach a healthier weight,” derived from Stanford College’s Pediatric Weight Management Program.
However many dad and mom and physique positivity advocates are calling it flat-out harmful.
“This is a TERRIBLE idea,” Kristy, a mom of an 11-year-old woman who’s recovering from anorexia and over-exercising, wrote in an electronic mail to HuffPost. (She requested that solely her first identify be used to guard her daughter’s privateness.)
Though Kristy has no direct expertise with Kurbo, she stated she has seen how know-how marketed to advertise “healthy” behaviors can gasoline unhealthy ones in kids combating physique picture points. Her daughter used a health tracker to obsessively log what number of energy she burned in a day. “I was shocked at how she used it,” Kristy stated.
The Kurbo app makes use of what WW calls the site visitors gentle system: Youngsters are urged to eat loads of “green light” meals (like fruit and veggies), to be “mindful” of their parts of “yellow light” meals (like lean protein, entire grains and dairy), and to cut back consumption of “red light” meals (like sugary drinks and “treats”).
The app is free, however WW additionally affords subscription-based plans for one-on-one classes with coaches stated to be consultants in diet, train, and psychological well being. (The corporate doesn’t have a set threshold for credentialing, although coaches do undergo a minimal of six to eight hours of preliminary coaching, in addition to three and a half hours of constant training, a spokesperson for WW advised HuffPost.)
And in step with WW’s current rebranding and public pivot towards selling “wellness” quite than specializing in weight reduction, the app additionally encourages children to trace behaviors like day by day bodily exercise and deep respiration.
“This isn’t a weight loss app,” Gary Foster, chief scientific officer at WW, advised HuffPost. “This is an app that teaches in a game-ified, fun, engaging way what are the basics of a healthy eating pattern.”
“I think there could be some misperception that somehow we’re saying, ‘All kids should lose weight, you’re not OK as you are,’” he added. “What we’re saying to kids who are trying to achieve a healthier weight — kids and families — is that this is a reasonable, sensible way to do it.” Reaching a “healthier weight” could be very totally different for youngsters and adults, he stated, as a result of kids are continuously rising.
However consuming dysfunction remedy professionals stated there is perhaps a disconnect between what WW appears to be attempting to do and what the tip consequence could also be.
“While the intention of the app is to promote health and wellness, there is the risk that it could do more harm than good,” stated Kathryn Argento, a registered dietician with The Renfrew Heart, a nationwide community of consuming dysfunction remedy facilities for ladies and women. “Targeting kids as young as 8 years old to focus on … their bodies can lead to an intense preoccupation with food, size, shape and weight.” There’s proof that physique picture anxiousness can start in kids as younger as age 3.
“No matter how hard it tries to market itself as a wellness company, WW is about weight loss. Kids are way smarter than we think they are, and every ‘big kid’ who was put on a weight loss program knew exactly what their parents were trying to do.”
– Ginny Jones, Extra-Love.org
On the identical time, public well being consultants have recognized childhood weight problems as a serious concern. In accordance with present nationwide estimates, roughly one in 5 kids in america are overweight, which may enhance their danger for fast well being problems, like Sort 2 diabetes, in addition to long run issues, like heart problems.
But public well being organizations and pediatricians emphasize that this can be a advanced well being subject, and there are actual questions on how efficient weight reduction plans for youngsters even are.
“The evidence suggests that these types of tools may be helpful adjuncts to weight management, but there are few studies in pediatrics to confirm that they lead to a ‘meaningful change in their weight trajectories,’” Dr. Ihuoma Eneli, director of the Heart for Wholesome Weight and Diet at Nationwide Youngsters’s Hospital, advised HuffPost. She stated additionally it is unclear how properly children adhere to a lot of these applications, pointing to a small pilot examine of the app that confirmed pretty low compliance.
For all of Kurbo by WW’s advertising and marketing round its “holistic” strategy to well being, many dad and mom and advocates fear the one message children will hear is that there’s something about them that’s unsuitable and that should change. The “success stories” on Kurbo’s touchdown web page spotlight what number of kilos kids misplaced, not, say, what number of minutes a day they now meditate. WW’s decades-long legacy as a weight reduction firm is tough to shake.
“There’s no way that these kids don’t realize that the app is supposed to help them lose weight,” Ginny Jones, who based a web site devoted to preventing consuming issues in kids, advised HuffPost. “No matter how hard it tries to market itself as a wellness company, WW is about weight loss. Kids are way smarter than we think they are, and every ‘big kid’ who [has been] put on a weight loss program knew exactly what their parents were trying to do.”