Weight Watchers for Kids: What Are We Really Saying

Today, we have a guest post. When I heard about Weight Watchers coming out with an app for kids (as young as 8!!) I’ll admit it made me cringe. But one mama who is also an educator was speaking loud and clear on her Insta Stories and I wanted her to share her words of wisdom with our readers. Only today when I wrote out the name of the app that I realized the play on words in its naming. Now I’m not cringing–I’m TICKED OFF.


Why Kurbo Promises Success and Delivers Failure

I clearly remember the first time I felt uncomfortable in my body.  I was in my living room, sitting on an overstuffed burgundy velvet armchair eavesdropping on my older sister and her friend chatting.  I don’t distinctly remember what they were saying but they were discussing their bodies and I remember all of a sudden looking down at my thighs and deciding “ I hate my legs. They’re fat.” I was ten.  For decades, I moved through life with this self created truth embedded in my thoughts.  And unfortunately mine is not an uncommon story.


So when Weight Watchers, now rebranded as WW, released a holistic health app called Kurbo, targeted at youth 8-17 years of age, old thoughts and emotions were instantly triggered.  I dove into the site guarded and wary and I came out with many thoughts.

Kurbo’s motto is “Eat healthier, move more, feel great!”.  And its primary goal is to “help kids and teens build healthy habits for life”.  They have structured a food rating system deeming food in traffic light colours. Green, yellow and red foods dictate your diet.  In layman’s terms “good and bad foods”. But the reality is: food is fuel, and comfort, and also largely social.  We get different things at different times from food. Going out with friends for pizza, making your grandma’s chicken noodle soup, eating a balanced breakfast before a big game. When following this light system, we are taking that intuitive balance of food and its many benefits away from children.

Foods are not good nor are they bad. They just are. When we sign up for restrictive programs or weight loss diets (and make no mistake, that is what Kurbo is) our entire world begins to revolve around that one thing whether we actually lose weight or not.  But what research has shown is that 1 out of 4 people who engage in dieting will develop an eating disorder. (Leslie Schilling, MA, RDN) And that number goes up in adolescent girls.


As parents, we want what is best for our children.  We want them to experience success. That is undeniable and our childrens’ health and wellness is no different.  WW knows that and is using this sentiment to promote their product. If we want our children to feel great and be successful, Kurbo can help them.  And why wouldn’t we want to help our child lessen his BMI or feel more confident after losing 10 lbs?


Here is why: Our children, like all human beings, have worth.  And that worth is not attached to a lower BMI score, a before and after shot, or their will power to say “no” to sweet treats.  The problem is, we are celebrating that loss in children.  So if Ella has lost 10 lbs, she is now worthy and a success story.  But what about when she stops losing weight?  (Because guess what. She can’t lose weight forever.)  Is she now a failure?  Is her value or worth that much less?  Is she still celebrated by her parents?  We have now tied in their worth and value with weight loss or fat loss.  And if we as adults have a hard time separating and distinguishing our worth from the numbers on the scale or the size of our jeans, how can we expect a 10 year old to?


Children are meant to grow.  And at different rates and times.  That is life.  And as parents, we need to embrace letting them grow.  Lead by example.  Try a new recipe for dinner, order in takeout and resist saying how guilty you feel indulging, go for a hike or bike ride to the park, don’t talk about weight, join a team or try a new class together.  Move through life together as a family, build your relationships strong, and celebrate the amazing growth of your kids.


The numbers don’t lie: the average Weight Watchers customer is a five times repeat. Five times people go back to this program to re-lose weight they have regained.  Nothing has been learnt, nothing has been taught.  The only people who win in this scenario is WW.  They have your money. Five times over. This app is not about teaching youth healthy habits.  This app is creating dependence upon their programming for weight loss “success” and customers for life.


Mckenzie Kearns is a mom, wife, educator and founder of True Strength + Conditioning.  Her passion for movement is only rivaled by her passion for food.  She is a certified Pregnancy and Postpartum Athleticism Coach.



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