When the news broke this week that WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) was rolling out a new nutrition and weight loss app called curveWhitney Fish – a social worker, school counselor and mother of three – felt compelled to share her anger online.
“You need to close this. Underneath,” I wrote on Facebook. “All bodies, especially developing + developing ones, deserve the respect + ability to grow in whatever form they are supposed to grow into.” She said she was writing “In the anger of 1000 Suns”.
Fish is hardly the only parent to have criticized Kurbo by WW since his release on Tuesday. (WW actually acquired Kurbo in 2018 and then spent a year retooling it and adding what Time is described as a “Snapchat-inspired interface”.WW Kurbo describes it as “a scientifically proven behavior change program designed to help children and teens ages 8 to 17 reach a healthy weight”, derived from Stanford University’s Child Weight Control Program.
But many parents and advocates of body positivity describe it as extremely dangerous.
“That’s a terrible idea,” Kristi, who is the mother of an 11-year-old girl recovering from anorexia and overexertion, wrote in an email to HuffPost. (She requested that only her first name be used to protect her daughter’s privacy.)
Although Kristi has no direct experience with Kurbo, she said she has seen how technology marketed to promote “healthy” behaviors can fuel unhealthy behaviors in children with problematic body image. Her daughter used a fitness tracker to record the number of calories she burned in a day with great concern. “I was shocked at how it was used,” Kristi said.
The Kurbo app uses what WW calls Traffic light system: Children are encouraged to eat lots of “green light” foods (such as fruits and vegetables), to be “aware” of parts of “yellow light” foods (such as lean proteins, whole grains, and dairy products), and to reduce their consumption of “Red light” foods (such as sugary drinks and “sweets”).
The app is free, but WW also offers subscription-based plans of one-on-one sessions with coaches who are said to be experts in nutrition, exercise, and mental health. (The company has no set limit for accreditation, although coaches go through at least six to eight hours of initial training, plus three and a half hours of continuing education, a WW spokesperson told HuffPost.)
In line with its recent rebranding of WW and its general focus toward promoting “wellness” rather than focusing on weight loss, the app also encourages children to track behaviors such as daily physical activity and deep breathing.
“This is not a weight loss app,” WW’s chief science officer Gary Foster told HuffPost. “This is an app that teaches in a fun and engaging way what the basics of a healthy eating pattern are.”
He added, “I think there might be a misconception that we somehow say, ‘All babies should lose weight, you are not as well as you are.’” What we say to children trying to achieve a healthy weight – children and families – is that this is a reasonable and reasonable way. He said that achieving a “healthy weight” varies a lot for children and adults, because children are constantly growing.
But eating disorder professionals said there could be a disconnect between what WW seems to be trying to do and what the end result might be.
“While the app is intended to promote health and wellness, there is a risk that it could do more harm than good,” said Kathryn Argento, a registered dietitian with Renfrew, a national network of eating disorder treatment centers for women. And girls. “Targeting children under the age of 8 to focus on … their bodies can lead to an intense preoccupation with food, size, shape, and weight.” There is evidence of this Anxiety can start with body image In children under the age of 3 years.
“No matter how hard it is trying to market itself as a health company, WW is about losing weight. Babies are smarter than we think, and every ‘big kid’ who has been put into a weight loss program knows exactly what their parents were trying to do.”
– Jenny Jones, More-Love.org
Meanwhile, public health experts have identified childhood obesity as a major concern. According to current national estimates, Almost one in five children In the United States, they are obese, which may increase their risk of immediate health complications, such as type 2 diabetes, as well as long-term problems, such as cardiovascular disease.
However, public health organizations and pediatricians stress this A complex health issueAnd there are real questions about how effective weight loss plans are for children.
“Evidence suggests that these types of tools may be useful auxiliaries for weight management, but there are few studies in pediatrics to confirm that they lead to a” meaningful change in their weight pathways, “said Dr. Ehoma Ineli, Director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition. At Nationwide Children’s Hospital, according to HuffPost. And it is also unclear how much children adhere to these types of programs, pointing to A small pilot study From the app that showed relatively low commitment.
For all of Kurbo by WW’s marketing about its “holistic” approach to health, many parents and advocates are concerned that the only message kids will hear is that there is something wrong with them and that needs to be changed. The “Success Stories” on Kurbo’s landing page highlight how many pounds the children have lost, not, say, the number of minutes they ponder now. It’s tough to shake off WW’s decades-old legacy as a weight loss company.
Said Jenny Jones, who founded Dedicated site To fight eating disorders in children, tell HuffPost. No matter how hard it tries to market itself as a health company, WW is all about losing weight. Babies are much smarter than we think, and every ‘big kid’ [has been] They put together a weight-loss program they knew exactly what their parents were trying to do. ”