Please Don’t Let Your Kids Do Weight Watchers

Feeding Kids

As a pediatric dietitian and a mother myself, I am compelled to others about the new free WW (Weight Watchers) app for children ages 8-17 called Kurbo.

To put it briefly, I am horrified by this app. Subjecting our children to this goes against everything I have learned as a dietitian and my own maternal instinct. It teaches our children to fear food.

Kurbo encourages children to log their food choices and uses a stoplight system of “green,” “yellow” and “red” foods. Kids are allotted a certain number of red “stop and think” foods per day and if they go over it, their “reds” are docked from their allotment for the rest of the week. Teaching children this type of restriction would be bad enough *even if* “red” foods were the typical so-called “junk foods” such as soda and chips. Sadly, the app also designates nutritious, high-calorie foods including peanut butter, guacamole and yogurt as “red.”

Yellow “slow down” foods include chicken, salmon, bread and pretty much everything else with the calories children need to grow. The only “green” foods are vegetables and fruits, which, while nutritious, do not provide sufficient calories.

Although the app is free, it pushes paid “coaching” from unqualified professionals. I am outraged by the misinformation I have seen from these coaches so far, which include encouraging children to limit their choices to only low-calorie foods.

Positioning food in this way teaches children that there are good and bad foods. Children are black-and-white thinkers and this app is SURE to promote disordered eating and body image struggles. What child will ever enjoy a peanut butter sandwich, let alone an ice cream cone while thinking that they are red “stop” foods?

As a dietitian, I want to tell you that there is no such thing as good or bad food. There is nutritious food that makes up the foundation of our diets and there are delicious snacks and treats we enjoy regularly, too. All foods are good foods. ALL foods are GOOD foods.

I practice as a weight-neutral dietitian because research shows that the #1 outcome of intentionally trying to lose weight (whether by a child or an adult) is future weight gain!!! Moreover, teens who diet are FIVE to EIGHTEEN times more likely to develop an eating disorder. These struggles can last a lifetime. Please, do not subject our children to this!

For these same reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) directly discourages dieting or ANY talk of weight or weight loss in children. Dieting is NEVER appropriate for children. And make no mistake, this app IS a diet, not “teaching healthy eating.” Teaching kids to limit their peanut butter sandwiches is restriction and restriction = dieting.

Weight Watchers is out to profit from this app. Period. They do not have our children’s best interest in mind. If you have concerns about your or your child’s weight or eating habits, I beg you to find a qualified registered dietitian through EatRight.org or contact me directly for resources.

Moms, how do you feel about this app? I imagine that many of you have experience with Weight Watchers yourselves, whether positive or negative. I know you don’t want your children to experience the burden of weight struggles. What do you think is the best way to teach our children healthy eating and body positivity?

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