Why weight-watchers’ new app is a recipe for disaster.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know I’m anti-diet. Needless to say, I was devastated when I saw that WW (as they now like to be called) had unveiled a new weight-loss app targeted at children in the US. (It’s not currently available in the UK, thank goodness.)

Kurbo is a tracking app with the intention of encouraging children to lead healthy lives. Sounds great, doesn’t it? We all want to children to have the opportunity to grow and learn. Here’s why this app is not an appropriate tool for children’s health:

  1. Encouraging children to track and log what they eat is asking them to ignore their natural, hunger cues. Watching numbers increase on the app may provoke anxiety in children who may worry that they are eating too much. In turn, this might encourage restrictive behaviours which could lead to anorexia nervosa, or restrict and binge behaviours, leading to bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder.
  2. The app includes multi-day streaks, where children build up a record of how often they are exercising. Again, children may begin to ignore their body’s natural need for rest in order to keep their streak. This can lead dangerously towards exercise addiction.
  3. Using a traffic light system to monitor the different types of food that children are eating attaches positive and negative labels to food. This again leads to a restrict and crave/binge tendency. In fact, WW doesn’t fully believe in the traffic light system. When I looked online on their branded food products in stores, their snacks do not show the traffic lights which indicate through colours whether or not the product is low/medium/high in fat/sugar/salt etc. This leads me to believe that they are attempting to hide the true content of the snack foods.
  4. Finally, WW are not interested in the health of all children. Only those who can pay. The app has a 7-day free trial and then changes to monthly pricing, depending on how many months you pay for. A 6-month bulk costs a total of $294. @diets_dont_work_haes on Instagram made the excellent point that the majority of the children who are overweight in the US are from lower socioeconomic backgrounds with limited access to fresh vegetables and safe spaces to go outside and play. These children’s families will not be able to afford this app.

This app is targeting children 8 – 17 year olds, the crucial period for when an eating disorder is most likely to develop. Disordered eating and a poor relationship with food is a serious problem, even without a diagnosis. It can still lead to other mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.

If you are a young person reading this post, I’m so pleased you’re taking an interest in your health and wanting to look after yourself. You can do this in positive ways:

  1. If you don’t have safe, outdoor spaces to play or exercise, use the facilities at your school. The playground is a great space for running, playing or even speed walking.
  2. If you can, and it’s safe to do so, bike or walk to school instead of taking the car or bus.
  3. At home, you can elevate your heart rate and get yourself moving by turning the radio on and dancing to your favourite song! It’s important that you find ways to move that feel good for you.
  4. If you feel like you are reaching for sugary snacks or crisps quite often, have a think about why this might be. Are they the only snacks available to you? Or do you find yourself feeling certain emotions and reaching for certain types of snacks? Comfort eating is a normal and common response to emotions but if you feel it might be affecting your health, try talking to an adult or a friend about how you are feeling. It’s better to deal with the underlying problem, rather than covering it up with something else.

Finally, your weight, however old you are, does not signify your value as a person.

If you feel as strongly against the Kurbo app as I do, you can sign a petition against it here:

WW, Remove Children’s Weight Loss App Before Countless Eating Disorders Occur

Thanks for reading.

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