Weight Watchers is targeting children as young as 8yr with a diet app called Kurbo. Get ready, I have some strong feelings about Kurbo!
Kurbo is bad news FOR ANY KID.
Kurbo teaches kids food monitoring techniques that will likely lead to food and weight preoccupation, disordered eating, and may put kids' emotional and physical growth at risk.
Let's step back. Intuitive eating teaches kids to listen, make sense of, and appropriately respond to hunger and fullness cues, while honoring food likes and dislikes. Dieting disrupts this beautiful, natural awareness by instilling an arbitrary set of eating and food rules to create a state of caloric and psychological deprivation. As a result, kids who diet are far more likely to develop issues of long-term disordered eating than they are sustain weight loss.
Back to Kurbo. This app asks kids to choose food by first translating what they want into stop light colors. For example, red foods = danger (and danger = fear). Fear of food causes eating-specific anxieties. Kids who are anxious eaters do NOT listen to their hunger and fullness cues - they are overthinking and worrying about their food choices and ignoring their bodies.
Starting in childhood, these early food beliefs are hard to undo. I've seen hundreds of adults who did weight watchers in their teens and 30 years later, they still can't eat a sandwich without calculating points. But there's more... Kurbo includes before and after pictures of kids with a 'gently-placed' asterisk to note "results not typical." This is objectifying and body shaming.
It's simple, really. Overthinking food and weight preoccupation leads to disordered eating, binge eating, restrictive cycles, yo-yo dieting - a potential lifetime of food and body issues. Our job is to teach kids to be a steward of their own unique body, teach them intuitive eating, offer them a variety of food at meals and snacks, and tell them that they are resilient, strong and beautiful no matter what society says.
There will ALWAYS be another diet or "lifestyle" but kids will ALWAYS have their own unique hunger and fullness cues to guide them through healthy, normal eating - let's kick Kurbo to the curb.
For more on this we recommend reading on opinion piece published in the New York Times by our colleague, Christy Harrison, also a non-diet dietitian. Here's the link https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/18/opinion/weight-watchers-kids.html