Let kids be kids.
Dear WW (formerly Weight Watchers): a weight loss app for kids ages 8-17 does not “change health trajectories” for the better. It fuels eating disorders.
Please read this entire post to understand my experience with this app.
Megan here. I have been sick to my stomach this entire week since learning about the newest Kurbo by WW app. Many of you have asked us to address it.
The purpose of this app is for children (yes, CHILDREN) to enter their food and activity patterns and receive ratings on a stoplight system. Green are “go” foods that should be eaten freely; yellow foods are OK if consumed in moderate portions; red foods are “stop and think” foods. I downloaded the app and signed up for the coaching program to see what it was like. (My heart was pounding with anger and anxiety throughout the entire process, believe you me.)
I entered in my 6.5-year-old’s food intake for yesterday - view the images below to see how it rated and what my “coach” said in response. I did change her birth date to make her appear 8.
As a dietitian who believes that fat is important for a child’s brain, I was pretty appalled that butter and HUMMUS were considered red foods. You’re only “allowed” 3 red foods a day. The only “green” foods I could find were veggies and fruits (and skim milk, which my kids don’t happen to drink). Almost anything with fat or calories were at least yellow if not red. Yes, most breads or carbohydrate foods were red.
Let’s reiterate some statistics shared from Evelyn Tribole - co-author of Intuitive Eating - a few days ago:
Before you suggest that this is just “teaching kids to eat healthy”...I encourage you to think about the broad implications of this type of thinking. This doesn’t teach “healthy eating.” It teaches restricted eating. It teaches kids that some foods are good (but most are bad), as kids are very literal in their thinking. It sets kids up for a battle between their brain and growing bodies. It perpetuates disordered eating, thinking and behavior that may have lifelong implications in vulnerable populations.
Did you now that adolescent girls gain on average 40-50 lb during puberty, and boys gain 50-60 lb? Even the AAP encourages parents and providers to not discuss a child’s weight in front of them.
This is not the solution.
I have a personal issue with WW, as I grew up in a WW home. I went to meetings with my mom - I was never on the program, but I witnessed it. I saw her get weighed in and felt her disappointment when she was no longer at “goal.” I ate all the “light” foods with her. (She was trying her best in a fat-phobic, diet-obsessed world and didn’t realize the impact it had on me - we’ve now talked about this a lot).
By the time I was 14 I had very restricted eating patterns; I had a full-fledged (undiagnosed) eating disorder in college and grad school. I am devastated to think about how this app could cause similar harm in so many kids who have easier access to the “ww philosophies.”
So what can you do?
Here are some things you can do to help promote body positivity and a healthy food relationship in your child WITHOUT using a weight loss app:
Notice these last 2 images - the feedback on my daughter’s diet and one screenshot of the app asking what her goal is. “Weight loss” is obviously hard to see, but “make parents happy” is even worse.
Food is NOT points or red, yellow, or green lights.
Megan and Judy, co-owners of Feeding Littles, bring you helpful info on food, nutrition, picky eating, and feeding young children. Megan McNamee MPH, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Judy Delaware, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy with children 3 and under in Boulder, Colorado. Megan and Judy are both moms of two and love helping families develop a healthy appetite for all foods!