How the impact of the weight watchers app is putting generation Z at risk.
Recently world wide diet company Weight Watchers released a new app catered toward children. Kurbo is aimed at children aged between 8 and 16, and a statement from the company claims that it helps them to build ‘healthy habits for life‘.
With the nature of diet culture, I can only assume by ‘healthy habits’ they mean a lifelong struggle with weight issues.’
Granted, not everyone who diets has developed a formal eating disorder, BUT more than half of us have DISORDER EATING HABITS. There’s a difference, but the line can be thin.
Weight Watchers thrives and makes money off weight loss and encourages the consumption of their products, and attendance to their ‘classes’ in order to do so. It feeds off insecurities just to make a profit, and now their targetting a whole new generation of potential dieters. A new generation that they can shape and mold into weight-obsessed consumers.
Not only are Weight Watchers cashing in on a vulnerable group of people, but children who use the app aren’t monitored by health professionals. Nor do parents have any control over what their children see on Kurbo. This leaves them open to competitive dieting and ‘thinspo.’
It’s fine if you’re an adult. You’re cognitively developed and it’s assumed that you’re within your right mind. Adults can freely buy into the toxicity of diet culture because they’re old enough to know better. But it’s not ok to do this to children. I don’t care if they’re 8 and a little chubby, they’ll grow out of it. They’re kids, puppy fat is a thing and so are growth spurts. Exercise and eating healthy are viable options without having to track every calorie in and out.
By allowing children to use an app like Kurbo you’re;
- Planting a dangerous seed into an impressionable child’s brain.
- You’re placing them into a competitive environment where weight loss is the game.
- You’re giving your money (the app costs approx $69 for one month) to a company that feeds off the world’s biggest and most disgusting industry.
I’m not the only one voicing my disgust.
Various eating disorder awareness groups, bloggers, and influencers have been expressing their valid outrage across social media since the release earlier this week.
NEDA, The National Eating Disorder Association, released an official statement in which they express their concern for the future of the children using Kurbo.
“Asking kids to closely monitor and self-report everything they eat through an app with no in-person monitoring by a medical professional presents grave risks, including eating disorders, disordered eating and a potential lifetime of weight cycling and poor body image.”NEDA – National Eating Disorder Association.
Mental health and recovery blogger, Cara Lisette, has also released a blog post expressing her outrage. Having suffered from an eating disorder herself, Cara knows all too well the impacts of diet culture.
Your app, Kurbo, is poison to young minds. You deny that it uses calorie counting, which may be true, but you continue to put foods into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ camps with your colour coded system. Your own website states: we want you to count every food you put in your body. This isn’t normal. This is not how ‘normal’ people eat. Our lives shouldn’t be governed by numbers or colours or whatever system is being used to achieve the same outcome: separating foods into ‘good’ or ‘bad’. You have used before and after photos of a child, to advertise their weight loss. That disgusts me.Cara Lisette – Dear Weight Watchers.
Weight Watchers, it’s time you called it what it is; A global take over.
Without diet culture companies such as Weight Watchers would be redundant. Their products and services are only maintained because the majority of the world has been indoctrinated into believing that their bodies aren’t good enough. If you don’t resemble the woman in the magazine, then you’re doing something wrong. In order to fix that, you diet. You buy the Weight Watchers branded meals, you starve yourself, you pay the money into the pyramid scheme, and nine times out of ten you end up heavier than you did at the beginning.
That’s how obsessive dieting works.
You can only starve your body of essential nutrients and cravings for so long before you give in. It leads to a cycle of binging and dieting that never ends. In some cases, it evolves into full-blown anorexia or bulimia, which only succeeds in creating a whole new world of trouble.
Thank you for stopping in and reading Chad. It sickens me to see the next generation become aware of and pushed towards dieting like this.
I can’t agree more with you!!! Yes to teaching our kids healthy eating and healthy habits but to expose them to dieting is in my opinion a very risky path.
WOW! wow wow wow, I can not believe they actually thought they would have a huge support for something like this. That is the worst age for kids to develop body image issues. That is the age where they need to learn healthy habits in general, not related to the shape of their body. Kelli A
If I had this app as a kid I would have been obsessed at a much younger age, and possibly could have ended up dead before I was 16. I can’t believe they’re getting away with this or even had the audacity to sign off on it.
Exactly! Weight watchers should be ashamed!
Wow, I somehow missed all of this going on! This is pretty despicable… if school and friendships aren’t already stressful, competitive and comparative enough, let’s add one more thing to make it worse! Honestly, how do these kids stand a chance?! Let them be.
As a kid, I am grateful this wasn’t a challenge for me – but I have a 5-year-old in Latin America and she’s “too skinny” for my ex-inlaws. Now – I know fully well this is genetic – she’s the same weight as her classmates – but 3-5 inches TALLER. But I’m sick of the comments made TO her.
And I can’t imagine what it would be like getting weight watchers messages that young!
Exactly. Thank you for reading 🙂
I don’t know who signed off on this as a good idea, but they need a wrap on the knuckles and fired.
It should be illegal to market any diet product directly at children, especially at pre-teens. Kids are already prone to eating disorders as it is, they don’t need the extra stress of such an app on top of that
100& agree– kids should not be “counting every food they put into their body.” They should be enjoyint their lives and just being kids!
Thank you for sharing, I am disgusted that people are trying to capitalise on children’s weight problems. Companies like weight watchers should be doing more to help families create a more family focused diet plan and not focus on children.
I take issue with this too. Encouraging children to eat well is one thing, exposing them to diet culture is quite another. They do a similar thing in slimming world. Watching this child get rewarded in group for losing weight made me uncomfortable and was one of the reasons I quit. Great most and a much needed conversation
ABsolutely love this! I cannot agree more that making children feel fat and using their insecurities for profit is disgusting. What children need when in body doubt is support from their families, not more negativity from an app.
Thank you for speaking out against this!
I totally agree with you – this focuses on “what is wrong with you”, rather than helping them to get out there and enjoy life! To live a life without a diet!
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading.
I hope they listen to the massive amounts of criticism and get rid of it before it does more harm than good.
I know! Who would even think this was a good and ethical idea?
Thank you so much for stopping by and reading. Even after researching and writing this, I still can’t believe someone actually signed off on this.
It’s weight watchers. They make a killing of insecurity and know that people will pay whatever it takes to look good. It’s disgusting.
Thank you so much for reading. I am friendly with a woman who also home schools her kids. I can see so many benefits from it that I’ve briefly considered homeschooling any little kiddies I have come along. It the best way to keep them away from all the negative that society has to offer for our mental health. Thank you so much for reading.
There has been so much negative press around it lately that any parent who still chooses to allow their child to use it knowingly is mad in my book. Thank you so much for stoping in and reading.
Thank you so much for reading. Having studied nutrition myself, and being on the bad end of Anorexia Nervosa, I know all to well the detrimental impact of things such as weight watchers.
Thank you so much for reading. x
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. It’s disgraceful that they’ve began to cater their business towards children.
This is so awful, introducing people at such a young age into this “diet culture”. When we are young, we learn from others/society/what we’re told. And what a bad message this is sending kids – to be on a diet, track/report your food. It’s heartbreaking! Especially seeing people around me suffering so much from ED. Thanks so much for sharing, more people need to know. X
this is such an awful idea. as someone who has struggled with my body image my entire life, and am now the heaviest i’ve ever been. i look back at pictures of young me and feel so bad for being so hard on her. i’ve heard positive things about the adult version of WW but like you mentioned, adults know what they’re getting into. children don’t, this is a very bad idea. thank you for shedding light on this! x
mich / simplymich.com
This is absolutely spot on, fantastic blog post! ???? I am studying nutrition & don’t believe Weight watchers is a good way to achieve a healthy & maintainable weight. Thank you for sharing this.
It makes me sick to my stomach to think about the kids that are going to be consuming this. The teens that will be consuming it without their parents knowing. The parents that won’t researching it before assuming that it’s going to be a positive influence. UGH. At least there are a lot of reviews out there for parents who are going to research it first! Great Post!
OMG. This is terrible.
My kids are homeschooled and we don’t watch much by way of programming that has commercials…youtube really may be the only one… so I hadn’t heard of this. I think it’s appalling and I do agree with you about diet culture. It is dangerous and putting ideas like this into the minds of our young people can do nothing but harm. Thank you for drawing my attention to it. I depend on bloggers like you and others who encourage awareness through online forums to help keep me informed on issues that I may not be aware of due to our locale and lifestyle.
Wow, this is absolutely disgusting. And the audacity for them to go and charge an absurd amount for it, too! I use an app that has beautiful interface, calculates my calories and macros (and then adjusts them according to my activity levels on each day), offers recipes and diet plans, and integrates with systems like Samsung Health… for €20 A YEAR. So what the heck do they need to charge this much money from kids for??
– Laura || https://afinnontheloose.com
With my background of working with children, I agree that this app seems like a terrible idea. I’ve seen adults I know getting sucked into the one calorie in one calorie out plan, and that’s not healthy on a developing brain. It’s disheartening that companies will always put profits over people.
Oh my gosh this is terrible!!! I can’t believe they’re getting away with this shame in them!
I agree with all of this! Disclaimer: I am using the WW app as we speak. I signed up a few months ago and it has been helpful for me, an adult.
BUT ….I am fully against this being marketed to kids in any way shape or form. I too struggled with weight issues and body image most of my childhood and this app is not a good thing.
Get rid of it Weight watchers!
How awful is this. I was thinking of trying Weight Watchers to shift a few pounds but I think I will just subscribe to a few healthy Vegan eating blogs instead. Much cheaper and I will be able to sleep at night. Weight Watchers!! You should be ashamed of your self. Thank you for sharing this,
Thank you so much for stopping by and reading. I’m glad that you found it insightful.
When imposed on kids it opens up a whole new world of problems for the future. Increase in mental illness, eating disorder behaviors and the continuation of such things as body shaming.
Absolutely – we talked about how foods give us energy and that’s good so we can run and play too.
It’s like teaching them at school that they should “eat a rainbow” without thinking about the economics of the families and if they can even afford it.
It was a huge financial hit to my sister when her kids both aged out of the “healthy start” vouchers after turning 5 because at one point she was getting 3 sets – and £15 a week goes a long way when it’s restricted to milk, bread, fruit, and veg!
I’m certain that a cheaper way of dealing with the growing health concerns of the nation would be to just give everybody a £5 healthy start voucher a week!
I get that kids are overweight, but there are better ways than an app provided by weight watchers. We can teach healthy eating without demonising certain foods, we can teach moderation and exercise without making it all about losing weight. It’s toxic and competitive on these sorts of apps. As someone who used to love My Fitness Pal and FitBit, I can vow that you get drawn in, even when you don’t mean to. And that’s coming from an adult. Kids and teenagers are far more impressionable.
Thank you for stopping in and reading 😀
I was taught about calories from a young age too, but I didn’t have the figures on hand to try and dispell the BS I was taught. A calorie is, essentially, a unit of energy that our body needs in order to function. Much like how a remote control needs batteries, calories are our batteries, in a way. It’s a nicer way to think of it than ‘calories make us fat’.
I was aware that they had made some changes towards total wellness lately. They had taken a bit of step back and tried to re-brand with something less toxic as weight and Syn points. But, as you say, this new app has just put a whole new spin on things, and not in a good way!
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading Jenny. Always a pleasure. xx
Weight Watchers changed all their ethos a while ago and changed their name to WW and I’ve heard so many positive things about the changes they made of how they operate (although I still don’t agree with any diets) and this has just taken them back like 60 steps. Awful, awful idea. There’s much better ways to encourage healthy behaviours in kids instead of forcing diet culture on them x
It is hard, but when the kids came home from school talking about calories bc they’d been taught about calories in food (insert eyeroll) we had a conversation about how a calorie just means that when burnt it raised the temperature of water from 16-17 degrees and that it didn’t completely translate to what happens in our bodies and not to worry about it.
I’ve actually not been aware of them asking about or worrying about calories since. (this was a few years ago – I think they were around 5 and 7 – it was when I was still co-parenting from a distance)
Agree with everything you said here. Education about the issue for our children’s future is a must.
I see a lot of really really overweight kids. There’s got to be a way to encourage kids to eat healthy. Maybe this isn’t the best way but there should be a way.
Wow! This is a great post. Kids at that age don’t need an app to develop healthy habits, without an app, kids are already competing with one another. We live in a sociaty that encourages boby image shaming, if it’s difficult for adults to deal with boby shaming, can we imagine what it will do to our children who are already dealing with finding their place in the society?
Weight Watchers have gone too far. What happened to taking your child to the doctor to get real medical facts if you’re so concerned about your child’s weight?? An app and program that bases their diet on “points” and their products, not nutrition or exercise, is not going to help. You’re right, a WW app and program is only going to harm young minds that are still developing. Kids’ minds are still so pliable and susceptible at this age, that is hurts me just thinking about how much this can really harm them in their later years. Great article, and thank you for speaking out about this issue!
Emily | https://www.thatweirdgirllife.com
Thank you so much for reading. I know many other blogs have addressed it, but it only felt right to follow suit because this is primarily a recovery blog.
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading.
You’re right, it’s everywhere and hard to avoid. Thank you for reading.
They know perfectly well what they’re doing, they just see the $$ signs. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading.
Thank you so much for reading, I’m glad you found it insightful. x
Your sister is doing a great job trying to keep her kids away from diet culture. It must be so hard though because it’s everywhere. Schools, doctors offices etc.
Thank you for reading 😀 I’m glad you found it insightful.
Exactly! Thank you so much for stopping by and reading Britt!
Thank you for reading Chloe. There has been so much outrage about this that I just had to join in.
Ah I see what you mean now and you are totally right! They probably did feel threatened.
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. I really appreciate it. What’s your URL for your blog? It doesn’t seem to be coming up.
Totally agree with you on this! I’m all for encouraging healthy eating and healthy choices, but this app is not the way to go about it. They’re going to develop potentially harmful ideas and habits in the younger generation and it’s awful to see. xx
El // Welsh Wanderer
Oh absolutely! And sorry, think I might have phrased my initial comment wrong – I meant more that maybe they felt threatened by the body positive movement and therefore wanted to do this to stop it (e.g. if weight stops being seen as such a major factor in beauty, then dieting stops being normal, and they lose out – hence, get them while they’re young). Didn’t mean that this app was positive in any way!!
Love this article – glad awareness is getting out about this before the issue explodes!
That’s so stupid that they have created a diet app for young children, like you said, it’s okay if adults want to partake in these things because they know better, but not a child. It sends such a bad message to young children, it’s so sad to see that companies like this are making money from doing these kind of things. Thank you for writing a post about it to bring awareness to it.
It’s such a dangerous and fine line – You want to teach children to make healthy choices, but you have to be so careful not to cross the line from healthy eating to dieting and, in turn, unhealthy eating habits and body image.
Love this article. The culture of dieting that we force on kids is ridiculous
Same babe, same. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware that I was bigger than my peer group or that my mother didn’t call me fat either 🙁
I think that’s what makes me most sad, I’ve forgotten the exact stat on how many 9yo have tried to diet but I think that finding and downloading this app is going to be because parents encourage it at the younger end of the scale. Or what worries me more is if school nurses start to encourage it.
My favourite thing about my niece is that my sister has tried so hard to shield her from diet culture and she literally does not have the same morality for food that we do. For her it’s a case of “these are snacks we can always have and these are snacks we can only have once a day” (generally once a day are the expensive snacks). She’s also got no concept of one size being better than another. When she first saw me when I’d dropped from obese to underweight her only comment was how nice the colour of my dress was. Even now, all she compares is height.
I so hope that she can hold onto the healthier attitude as she starts secondary school and isn’t influenced negatively by her peers.
My sisters kids have also been allowed to be full at any point. Or hungry at any point and (mostly) have food then. (if dinner is in ten minutes then they can start on crunchy veggies but y’know) and it’s fascinating watching both my niece and nephew being in tune with their bodies and what they want and need.
This is a great post. We should educate ourselves and our children to embrace themselves and make healthy choices not idolizing an image of perfection.
I completely agree with you, they are a disgusting company who only want these poor kids to spend the rest of their lives dieting and giving them money. Eating disorders are so serious, that to create something knowing it runs the risk of having that effect on people is beyond me
Thanks for posting that. I totally agree, WW is wrong. I have a 13 yr.old granddaughter and I do not want her to buy into the’I must look a certain way” culture. Unfortunately, it is everywhere and WW just made it worse.
Companies like this are so awful. Let kids be kids! Healthy eating habits should be something that parents show their kids by example, not through an app that demonizes certain foods. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for addressing this! This is not the first post I have seen in regards to this app being made available. I think that we need to spend more time teaching our children about making healthy choices and how to embrace all foods. It is hard enough as adults to try and navigate all the differing information and research that is coming around, why should children when they already have so much to try and figure out have to be burdened by this. Kids should be able to have fun, try lots of different things and learn to listen to their bodies. Not be shamed, told that something is bad or good (labeling) foods or be told to restrict or be denied food groups. Thank you for using this space to help promote “living healthy and being the best you can be!”
And boy are WW charging for the privilege! $69 a month? Who would even pay that!?
The CEO of WW obviously saw the gap in the market and $$ signs appeared before their eyes. If they were going with the body positivity movement as an influence, then they’ve gone about it the wrong way. I’m all for teaching kids about healthy eating, but moderation is key. And without proper guidance, it’s going to be so easy for kids to fall victim to body comparison, and skipping/abusing meals.
Same! I would never endorse a company like that. Shakes are the worst thing in the world because once you start eating normally again, you put on more than you weighed before.
Thank you for reading and commenting. As you can tell, I totally agree. Diet culture teaches toxic ideals that ultimately lead to a lifetime of yo-yoing.
Exactly. Very well said, Michelle. There is a way to eat healthy without food and calories taking over. There is a line. Moderation is key, while Weight Watchers and diet culture teach absence of ‘bad food’.
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading.
Yo-Yo dieting has been my whole life. I’m either eating ‘normally’ but demonizing food in my head, or I’m outwardly avoiding ALL food. There is no in between, and if there is I don’t remember it. I can’t remember a time when dieting and calories haven’t been in my life. Even as a child. It’s damaging, so much so that it’s leading many people down the dieting path, and they’re never coming back.
I agree with you. The brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. People that young are at risk for issues when they use an app for weight loss. They shouldn’t even have to worry about weight. Their focus should be having fun. Kids are already at risk of developing unhealthy weight habits with billboards showing what beauty should be like. It does teach kids to see weight as a competition rather than loving their bodies.
Dieting at any age I feel like teaches bad habits and can turn into an eating disorder. You should only use a diet program if you already love your body and your goal is to only lose a few pounds.
Healthy habits should be taught from a child’s parent and not weight watchers.
I have huge opinions on this myself – and sadly I haven’t managed to listen to your podcast yet (I had to download spotify on my phone and I’ve not yet got back to it).
The saddest thing is that it is known that dieting as a child is more likely to lead to obesity as an adult.
Obviously WW concern is their profit margins and not the health of a nation, but really I believe that government should have stepped in here and said no. While size is no indicator of health, yoyo dieting damages your health.
There are soooooo many better ways to teach kids healthy eating habits. If we start with stuff like this when kids are young then it’s just asking f for a multitude of issues as they get older
It’s not only weight watchers though! All these horrible, predatory MLM companies claiming to help you lose weight have to stop too. I hate seeing friends sell that horrible stuff!!
This makes me mad, but I’m happy you used your platform – as many have been doing – to express your opposition. Who thought this was a good idea? Something you said at the end made me wonder – is it the body positivity movement that’s motivated them to target kids? Because if kids learn to love themselves no matter what, they can’t make money off them. It’s vile whatever the motivation though…
This is horrific.
We build healthy habits through education and research, (because sometimes scientists get it wrong), not through companies playing to fears and charging for the ‘priviledge’.