In this episode, parents speak out about why they would not use Kurbo Weight Watchers App to help their kids lose weight or or build “healthy lifestyles”. Tune in to hear their heart wrenching stories of their own struggles with body shame and diets. Plus you’ll hear me share what I found deeply concerning about the Kurbo when I used it for just a few days— and perhaps most important, I’ll share inspiring insights for what you can do if you are a parent concerned about your kids health and weight.
Listen here to Episode 125 here:
Here’s why Kurbo is anything but healthy for kids….
I downloaded the app and in just a few minutes I was already aghast.
- Before and after pic of a child with “results not typical” centering weight loss and “I feel like I could run a million laps!” (hello, over exercise and valuing a result the child isn’t likely to achieve!) Hook ’em early on diets and body shame… (find this on my IG @rebeccascritchfield and IG stories!)
- Movement education features a round red raisin sweating, running on a hamster wheel, chasing a carrot. (not even joking)
- A game that asks you to compare foods, erasing “bad food” (including one where you had to choose between a fresh apple and UNSWEETENED apple sauce) — what?! My girls get both of these — usually fresh apple slices at home when it’s convenient to cut, share, and enjoy in one sitting at meal or snack time, and applesauce at school or after school care gymnastics, ballet, piano etc. You know, because they need ENERGY to move and play. Some of the other game comparisons included knowing that 1% milk was a “yellow light” food (despite that calcium remains a nutrient of concern for girls over 4 and boys 9-18 year per our national health and nutrition examination survey — America’s most robust assessment of meeting our nutrition needs). Almonds were another “yellow light” — despite their plant based vitamins and minerals. Baked beans were a red light! Seriously? Beans are one of the most affordable, plant-based protein, fiber, and heart healthy foods recommended by pretty much everyone. They say this because baked beans are sweetened.
- Policing individual foods as good or bad depending on their criteria (e.g. a hamburger). Just in case it isn’t clear why this is unhelpful (I get that…) Healthy eating patterns are important, but labeling individual FOODS for anyone, especially KIDS, is really bad news. It goes against even what the American Academy of Pediatrics advises to prevent eating disorders (and “obesity”) in kids. It’s much more helpful to focus on “add in” and balance. A cheeseburger has nourishment — protein, carbs, vitamins and there are options to add in fruits and veggies and milk to complete this meal. My girls love chicken nuggets and burgers and LOTS of foods. They LOVE candy and chocolate. It’s my job to teach them positive eating habits and connection to foods they like — not an app based on shame.
Kurbo even claims to reduce risk of eating disorders and yet, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a thorough position on preventing eating disorders in kids, including the evidence based links to dieting and eating disorders. Many of the “features” in this app are red flags when you compare to AAP guidelines.
I wrote about this for Washington Post last year when they were going to do a free teen weight loss program (they cancelled it after all!)
WW is a tech company, not a health company. They are not trying to help your kids, they are trying to hoodwink you into fee based coaching that upholds fat phobia and puts your kids at risk for poor body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders.
For good advice see a HAES informed health provider and listen to my podcast themes for helping parents model body kindness with their kids at any size:
- Podcast 37: Bringing Body Kindness in the Family with Leslie Schilling
- Podcast 42: Intuitive Eating For Families, With Elyse Resch, Co-Author Of Intuitive Eating
- Episode 91: Raising HAES – Body Kindness for families with Kristy Fassio
- Episode 92: Talking About Food and Bodies in the Home with Anna Lutz, RDN
- Podcast 115: Please Don’t Screw Up Our Kids! Part 1: A Conversation About Food, Weight and Body Image with Virginia Sole-Smith of Comfort Food Podcast
I also recommend the Intuitive Eating Workbook or teens! And of course, the guidance in body kindness can be modeled for kids in age appropriate ways. If you have questions about this or body kindness for kids and families, reply to let me know.
There are plenty of helpful health resources out there that don’t center weight loss as a desired and “healthy” outcome in your kids. Mental health **IS** health and lasting positive habits will grow from body kindness and strong mental health. THANK YOU for coming to my TED talk.
Diet Apps Are Putting Kids at Risk – Leslie Schilling, US News
F.E.A.S.T. Position Statement On The Weight Watchers Kurbo App For Children (F.E.A.S.T. is the global organization of parents of people with eating disorder diagnoses)
I Started Dieting At Age 4. I Know How Harmful Weight Watchers’ New ‘Kids’ Program Is – Savala Trepczynski, Huffpost
There’s a New Diet App for Kids, and That Scares Me – Alexis Conason Psy.D., Psychology Today
Putting Kids on Diets Won’t Solve Anything – Amanda Mull, The Atlantic
Please sign the petition: WW, Remove Children’s Weight Loss App Before Countless Eating Disorders Occur
Why Critics Think a Weight Watchers App for Kids is Totally Wrong – Sally Kuzemchak, Parents
A New Weight Watchers App for Kids Raises Concerns – Virginia Sole-Smith, New York Times
Weight Watchers Is Harming Kids For Money – Ragen Chastain, Dances With Fat
NEDA Statement On Kurbo By WW App – National Eating Disorders Association
Our Kids Do Not Need a Weight Watchers App – Christy Harrison, New York Times
Reader Story Transcripts
“I did WW probably 4 or 5 times. It “works” in terms of me losing weight, but I was obsessed with reading the labels, and tracking whatever they were having us track at the time. The first time I did it, I really did feel like I was learning “how a thin person ate” and that I would be able to maintain that forever. I didn’t, because I went back, again and again; each time gaining back what I’d lost and a little more.
“I would NOT let my kids use this because I know diets don’t work. Thinner does NOT equal healthy and I’m trying to teach my children to appreciate and love themselves for the way they are. More than that is the eating disorder my daughter developed, and the genetic disposition I know my other two daughters have. When my daughter was 12, she dropped a significant amount of weight when she stopped eating dairy. She was experiencing anxiety and panic attacks, which we didn’t know at the time, and we equated them to lactose intolerance, so she cut all dairy and dropped lots of weight. I still remember all of the comments people gave to me about her, or gave her directly, about how good she looked. I can’t imagine what that sounded like to a 12 year old. So, when she started gaining the weight back, she was unhappy. Society tells us we should be skinny, especially teens. I know how hard it was for me when I gained back after losing–I was embarrassed, ashamed, disappointed and frustrated–what was wrong with me? And that was as an adult, I can’t imagine what that was like as a pre-teen. My daughter told me recently, she remembered when my husband and I were following WW, and she’d see the things around, or even sometimes go to meetings/weigh-ins with us (we didn’t usually stay for the meetings when we had the kids with us, we’d just weigh and go). It gave her confusing messages about food–good food and bad food, and who knows what else. I will not purposefully put my kids through that. The before and after pictures of a child were hard for me. All three of my kids fit more into the “before” picture, and I feel as if society judges me as a mother for that, so then I feel like I’m doing the wrong thing. It’s a constant battle for myself, and I don’t want my kids to go through the same thing.” – Michelle
“I did WW both online and meetings. I lost weight and was miserable the entire time I was on the program. I OBSESSED about my points… how many points is that, how many points do I have left for the day, oh no I went over my points allowance….and on and on. I would never use an app for my child’s health or weight because that is an express lane to diet mentality and all the mental and emotional baggage that comes with it.” – Joanne
“I did WW as a kid. And as an adolescent. And as an adult, multiple times. My mom first pushed me into it around 10 years old, but I internalized all of the fat phobia and hatred they have. Their disordered eating rules are why I lost a ton of weight, then gained it back and more, more than once. I didn’t make the connection between restricting for WW and the bingeing that followed in college. I had no insight. Now I realize it doesn’t work, of course. I know it’s not WW that gave me and my bff in college eating disorders, but damn if they didn’t play into them. I would cry in the car over one pound gained when I was at my lowest weight ever. Who does that to someone and keeps taking their money? It’s like an abusive relationship I’ve had since I was a kid. And now I’m so glad to be free. I know they’ve always allowed kids on the program -I was one. But I’m shocked and saddened that they’re targeting them with marketing now. Kids are so impressionable and they have enough going on without a national company coming after them like this. It’s just so sad. I truly hope we can do something and save even one child from the pain and cycling this can cause.” – Anonymous
“I will never put my kid on weight watchers because I don’t want them to feel that they will be worthy of love by shrinking their body. I was put on weight watchers at 10 and developed a 13 year battle with an eating disorder afterwards and still as a 40 year old woman have to fight the thoughts that my body is how I earn love.” – Julie Newbry, Pleasant Grove, Utah
“I did WW off and on for years, but became very dedicated after the birth of my child to “drop the baby weight”. Looking back that was the most miserable, and exhausting time of my life. Measuring, counting points, every “bite, lick, taste ” as WW called it at that time. Then over exercising to the point of pain, and injury just so I could “earn” more points to eat, because I was hungry all the time. WW lead to disordered eating behaviors, and thinking. This new app for kids is disgusting, I would NEVER allow my daughter or any child I know to use it. Targeting children during a time when their bodies are meant to change and develop is so harmful, and i hope parents see through this shame filled money making attack on our young people.” – D.R.
“I was 12 when I first started WW – I’m now 61. Some 50 years of obsessing over food and body image and hating myself because I could NEVER “get there” And guess what? Also getting bigger – and bigger – every time I went off my strict WW plan. Parents, PLEASE don’t do this to your kids. We are not put on this earth to obsess over food and body image. We are not put here to hate ourselves. ALL bodies are good bodies! Allow your child’s body to be perfect just as it is, and don’t give them up to this sick way of being that our society insists on. It sickens me to the core to see WW come out with an app for children.” – Anonymous
“I did ww as an adult because my mom suggested it after several failed fad diets. She told me that they were great because they really teach you how to eat for the long term. I lost weight very short term and then felt starving until i gave up. I was using the points to eat the processed foods that were allowed, and then forcing myself to eat “free” foods that i hated for the rest of the day. Basically the idea of restriction had the reverse effect. I ended up unhealthier than when I started and I didn’t come close to the weight loss goal i had back then. Now as a parent of a girl, I am working to change the toxic messages I received to foster a body positive, self-compassionate self image. My job as her parent is to put an array of nutritious foods in front of her and she can choose what to eat. When I enjoy a sweet, she is welcome to share. We have open dialogue about how many different foods can be delicious and involve her in the process when we can. I would never use a ww plan with my daughter, never. Restricting calories or carbs, or valuing one body size over another, has no place in our home. Instead we focus on fun, function, movement, nourishment, and abundance.” -Christine L. from Washington
This makes me sad. I grew up with a parent who was constantly dieting (Weight Watchers was used for one attempt). At a young age, I learned about restriction, that my growing body was not ok, and that I could not trust the wisdom of my body (hunger and fullness cues).
As I grew up, I developed into a curvy girl (weight gain is part of puberty). I was sent to a nutritionist; restriction was reinforced. This started the cycle of dieting, weight loss, and weight gain. I developed an eating disorder, body image issues, and experienced weight shame.
I am sharing this with you all because of the damage dieting did….and I was set on the path to an eating disorder by well meaning parents and healthcare providers….who ultimately caused harm.
I have been in recovery for some time now. I follow Intuitive Eating (as created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch ) and have a regular movement practice. My body is larger (our brains consider dieting as a famine and compensate by holding onto weight as preparation for the next famine).
I am a therapist who helps people with body image, body shame, and eating disorders. I witness the aftermath of dieting programs in my practice. — Laura