When information broke this week that WW (previously Weight Watchers) was rolling out a brand new nutrition and weight loss app known as Kurbo, Whitney Fisch — a social employee, college counselor and mother of three — felt compelled to share her outrage on-line.
“You NEED to Shut. This. Down,” she wrote on Facebook. “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 mentioned, writing “with the fury of 1,000 suns.”
Fisch is hardly the one mother or father 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 University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program.
But 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.)
Although Kristy has no direct expertise with Kurbo, she mentioned she has seen how expertise marketed to advertise “healthy” behaviors can gas unhealthy ones in kids combating physique picture points. Her daughter used a fitness tracker to obsessively log what number of energy she burned in a day. “I was shocked at how she used it,” Kristy mentioned.
The Kurbo app makes use of what WW calls the site visitors gentle system: Kids are urged to eat loads of “green light” meals (like vegetables and fruit), 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 provides subscription-based plans for one-on-one classes with coaches mentioned to be consultants in nutrition, exercise, and psychological health. (The firm doesn’t have a set threshold for credentialing, although coaches do undergo a minimal of six to eight hours of preliminary training, in addition to three and a half hours of constant schooling, a spokesperson for WW advised HuffPost.)
And according to WW’s latest rebranding and public pivot towards selling “wellness” reasonably than specializing in weight loss, the app additionally encourages youngsters to trace behaviors like day by day bodily exercise and deep respiratory.
“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.” Achieving a “healthier weight” could be very completely different for kids and adults, he mentioned, as a result of kids are consistently rising.
But eating dysfunction therapy professionals mentioned there is perhaps a disconnect between what WW appears to be making an attempt to do and what the top outcome 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,” mentioned Kathryn Argento, a registered dietician with The Renfrew Center, a nationwide community of eating dysfunction therapy facilities for ladies and girls. “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 nervousness 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, More-Love.org
At the identical time, public health consultants have recognized childhood weight problems as a significant concern. According to present nationwide estimates, roughly one in 5 kids within the United States are overweight, which might improve their danger for quick health problems, like Type 2 diabetes, in addition to long term issues, like heart problems.
Yet public health organizations and pediatricians emphasize that this can be a complicated health subject, and there are actual questions on how efficient weight loss plans for kids 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 Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, advised HuffPost. She mentioned it is usually unclear how nicely youngsters adhere to a lot of these applications, pointing to a small pilot research of the app that confirmed pretty low compliance.
For all of Kurbo by WW’s advertising round its “holistic” method to health, many dad and mom and advocates fear the one message youngsters will hear is that there’s something about them that’s improper 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 loss 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 combating eating 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.”