How young is old enough for a diet?
According to WW, formerly Weight Watchers, the answer is eight.
The company’s latest launch is an app called Kurbo, and is geared towards teens and children. While the website is dressed in the same vague wellness that WW has embraced, the end result is clear: weight loss. WW acquired Kurbo in 2018 amid controversy that the program, as it was designed, was harmful to kids. The fact that this is the “new and improved” version is itself worrying: what did the original look like? A quick glance at the three tenants of the program already looks like ground rife for pain and self-loathing.
Kurbo by WW, out today, is a free nutrition and weight-loss app for kids as young as 8, and up to 17. The app will inevitably draw praise and outrage in equal measure https://t.co/aAI9oYqgbU
— TIME (@TIME) August 13, 2019
Unlike the grown-up points system, kids track food as green, yellow, and red. Green foods are OK to eat lots of (think fruits and veggies), yellow can be had in moderation, and red foods are ones that should be enjoyed less frequently. Labeling food as “bad” can cause anxiety and stress in adults. Imagine what it does to kids!
The app also has kids to track food, noting that parents will no longer be monitoring their kid’s intake. “No more fighting about food,” it promises. Again, there is evidence that tracking food can lead to disordered eating in adults. Just imagine what it could do to children. The line about no longer fighting with parents over food also points to another reality the peppy press releases don’t address: these kids are already aware they’re somehow failing or “bad.” They are already aware that their bodies are wrong and need to be fixed. Shoehorning in talk about health and eating more apples isn’t going to change the base root of the problem, which is that fat bodies at any age are somehow morally wrong.
This is not to say that our country’s relationship to food isn’t broken, and that we haven’t failed our kids in the types of foods they have access to and enjoy. But this is a public health crisis tied to things like quality of school lunches and farm subsidies for corn. A for-profit company whose very roots are based on aspiring toward thinness isn’t going to address these systematic issues. Instead, they’re going to make a young girl feel crappy when they want an extra cookie at their friend’s sleepover. (While their thin friends eat as many as they want.) Our kids deserve so much better.