Brace Yourself, Weight Watchers Releases Weight Loss App for Kids

Weight Watchers has unrolled a free dieting app called Kurbo for kids ages 13 to 17 in what they say is an attempt to help put a dent in childhood obesity. As you might guess, parents and eating disorder experts everywhere are expressing outrage for targeting kids with technology that can lead to serious eating disorders.

Here is how the diet app works. Kids and parents enter personal information such as height, weight, age, and weight loss goals. Then, through interactive features, Kurbo uses a traffic light signaling system to let kids know if what and how much food they are consuming is considered healthy. Green foods are considered safe to eat as much as you want (think fresh fruits and vegetables), yellow foods need to be consumed in moderation (think pasta and bread) and red foods (think candy and soda) should make a child stop and think through their choices.

The nutrition and weight loss app is free but for an additional fee, parents can hire dieting coaches to help their child lose weight and make healthy choices. That coaching isn’t cheap. For a month by month basis the fee starts at $69 or $17.25 per week, a three-month package is $189 or $15.75 per week, or a six-month package for $294 or $12.25 per week. The coaches involve weekly video chats by dieting coaches who Kurbo says are trained to spot eating disorders and unhealthy weight loss.

But in a world in which the concept of dieting is becoming taboo as more and more people move toward philosophies that revolve around healthy lifestyles instead of weight loss, giving kids a dieting app that teaches them to drop pounds may not be the wisest move. The American Academy of Pediatrics actually subscribes to the idea that parents and doctors avoid “diet language” altogether in order to help prevent eating disorders.

I have deep-dived into the murky world of weight loss and I can say without hesitation that no dieting app is going to help a child learn life-long lessons of value based on an app that ranks food choices. These apps teach users how think of eating as a game of numbers with the end goal of losing weight. It is deeply concerning to me, as a mother, that a for-profit company whose bottom line is the promise of being thin, is targeting kids who need real help when it comes to childhood obesity.

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