Weight Watchers is in hot water after launching a weight loss mobile app for kids and young teens. Critics are fuming that the app could encourage eating disorders.
The Kurbo App was released on 13 August by WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers before it rebranded in 2018) and is described as “a scientifically-proven behaviour change program designed to help kids and teens ages 8-17 reach a healthier weight.” The app is intended to track food consumption, physical activity, and weight loss in kids.
The healthy-eating organisation has said that it created the app based on Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program that helps young people to “make lifestyle changes while receiving guidance around sustainable healthy eating, physical activity and mindfulness habits,” as reported in the New York Post.
WW may have had good intentions but parents are not happy, saying that the app may encourage kids to develop eating disorders.
This App Could Kill
A petition has been created on Change.org to pull the app. and has received more than 91,000 signatures.
“At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.,” the petition reads. “Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder. This app will literally kill people.”
“Adolescence is a critical period of development and a window of vulnerability during which eating disorders can develop,” states the petition. Families are advised “to steer clear of weight talk, and instead focus on emphasizing healthy lifestyles.”
The petition’s organisers have described WW’s decision to launch the app “dangerous, irresponsible and immoral.” “You must pull this app and save thousands of children from developing and supporting life altering eating disorders that will eventually kill some of them.”
“Holistic, Rewarding & Inspirational”
Gary Foster, chief scientific officer at WW, said the app helps target “the prevalent public health problem of childhood obesity.”
“Alongside a distinguished group of leaders in pediatric health and nutrition, we’ve carefully developed this platform to be holistic, rewarding and inspirational so kids, teens and families get the tools and guidance they need to manage their environment and build and sustain healthy habits,” he said.
However, worryingly, Foster has confirmed to The Atlantic that warnings about a child losing weight too quickly or eating too little—behaviors that may indicate the onset of an eating disorder—are only available to those who sign up for the app’s optional one-on-one coaching service, which starts at $70 for a one-month plan.
Trigger For Eating Disorders
Natalie Muth, a pediatrician and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, is concerned that Kurbo may be dangerous for kids. “Children are not ‘little adults’ and the approaches that may ‘work’ for adults, such as weight-loss goals, are not appropriate for children most of the time,” she says. “Interventions that focus on weight as the main target can trigger disordered eating patterns, low confidence and self-esteem when goals are not met, and an unhealthy preoccupation with looking a certain way.”
We think society is obsessed enough about weight – it’s certainly unnecessary to introduce such apps to young children. Parents should be emphasising healthy eating practices rather than being concerned about what it says on the scale.
Do you think this new app is good or bad? Tell us in the comments below.