You may have seen that WW (formerly Weight Watchers) has launched a new app called Kurbo…for kids and teens. Here is a look at why this is NOT a good idea.

Success of long term weight loss

I have said this before, but we have NO evidence of long term weight loss, whether it’s guided by health professionals or with popular diets like Atkins, LEARN, Zone, and Ornish. Regardless of the type and intensity of the diet or program that has been followed, most of the weight loss interventions are only effective up to 6-12 months max!!!! What is more frustrating, that majority of dieters have regained weight within a 2-year period.

Although I have spoken about it here and here, here is even more info. In the Women’s Health Initiative, 20,000 women followed a low-fat diet for 7.5 years and the difference between their initial weight and at the end of the study were only ½ lb. Can you believe it! Imagine all the chocolate and wine you could’ve had, but didn’t with the fear of weight gain. Do you really want to restrict yourself from enjoyment for 8 years so that your weight goes from 200 lbs to 199 lbs??

Is weight loss the success to health anyway?

More and more, we are seeing that we can reduce the chance of getting a chronic illness by changing our eating, exercise, sleep, and stress habits, without actually changing our weight.  21 studies have shown that exercise alone will have a bigger impact on health and will help us feel more energized compared to weight loss.

What’s even more interesting is that yo-yo dieting and constant weight changes can increase inflammation. In fact, a study of 10,000 participants showed that fluctuation in the body weight increases the chances of strokes by 136%, heart attacks by 117% and death by 124% more than those who had small shift in weight of 1 kg (sorry to scare you).

Risks related to dieting

Did anyone say eating disorder? Eating disorders are the deadliest of the mental health disorders. Sure, dieting is not the only factor, but it is a factor, along with genetics, personality traits, and social norms. In fact, 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting and 20-25% of those individuals develop eating disorders.

Of course, you can’t blame kids and teens to have these thoughts or behaviors. Weight-related bullying during childhood and other societal norms can lead to an obsession on making oneself smaller during their entire life.

What is this new app for kids and teens?

Kurbo is an app that recently developed by WW and it follows the traffic light system targeted to kids of ages 8-17 years old. Here are the categories:

  • Green light: includes fruits and veggies, and is great to eat anytime.
  • Yellow light: lean proteins and most whole grains, and you’ll need to watch your portions.
  • Red light: candy, soft drinks, processed foods and… 2% milk, natural peanut butter, dates, and other high calorie foods. You don’t have to give them up–just stop and think how before having them in.

See, foods are categorized based on their amount of calories, not based on their nutritional value or how important they are for a child’s growth. Adolescents are in their highest peak for growth and they have very high rate of muscle and bone building. Restricting foods that are good sources of protein and minerals such as calcium, phosphorous and magnesium is very dangerous for this age category, as this can impose major health risks and even stunting.  So Kurbo doesn’t actually care about your child’s health, they care about their money they will spend as adults on other WW services because they’ll obviously need help later on.

Not only that, but the app encourages showing before and after pictures, as if the “bigger” body is something to be ashamed of. Did Kurbo forget that these are kids and that their bodies will keep changing in the next couple of years?!

What if you are underweight and want to use the app? Wait for it… kurbo will still suggest weight loss and how many red lights are allowed per week. Isn’t this insane? What’s even more shocking is that most of the Kurbo mentors have no nutrition education or certification and WW discriminates people based on weight, by firing employees if they gain more than 10 lbs.

So now what?

There are a couple of things that can be done. First, sign the petition to stop its use.

Second, if you are a parent and using WW, maybe it is a good time to ask yourself the following question. How long have I been on dieting? How much weight I did really lose? For how long? Am I really feeling better and more energized now? Am I enjoying my meals? Is this really working?

Third, once you’ve realized you’re better off without WW, be a good role model for your kids. Try to avoid conversations about weight loss in front of your kids, whether it’s about their body, your own, or of someone else. These will open curiosity in them and they will start seeing larger bodies as something that need to be changed, opening the door for disordered eating behaviors.

And finally, learn to spot disordered behaviours in kids such as intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, excessive concerns about weight, body shape or health,  social withdrawal, anxiety, perfect eating, body weight fluctuation, impulsivity, eating excessively in a short amount of time, and eating alone.

If you suspect disordered eating in your child or yourself, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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