If you haven’t heard already Weight Watchers has launched an app for children. Yep, you read that right, an app targeting 8-13 year olds and focusing on green, yellow and red foods. When I started hearing about this, I was first really surprised. Then that surprise was followed by being slightly upset and then realizing that I shouldn’t be surprised. This “diet culture” that is very pervasive in our world is now reaching our children, who aren’t even in middle school yet.
I can definitely acknowledge that there is an obesity problem facing Americans. From adults to children, as a country we struggle with being healthy, but I strongly believe that an app targeting children and trying to help them “diet” is NOT the answer. This app is called Kurbo. There are lots of articles that are showing up online addressing this app. I am not opposed to the Green, Yellow and Red light method for nutrition education, but it isn’t my favorite. Why? Because children are so literal. If a food is termed as “bad” then they remember that and they don’t want to eat those food items. Children’s processing abilities are very black and white. That is why using the term “good” and “bad” is tough for them. I am in support of the all foods fit method. Focusing on eating more healthy foods, but not overdoing the special, treats.
This picture below is from the Kurbo app and showing how it works. You log your food intake and then the app organizes it into green, yellow and red categories. The part that bothers me is when you consume “too many red foods” then the app will tell you that and “encourage” you to try other “green foods” instead. All of the foods that are listed as “green foods” are fruits and vegetables. That is a great goal, but one can not live on only fruit and vegetables. You need some other forms of protein and fat sources to help your muscles grow appropriately and then a child’s brain develop. Plus, this app is promoting before and after pictures of children who have lost weight. This was extremely upsetting because that is not at all how we want children to gain confidence. Their self worth should not be tied to a picture of themselves.
My point of sharing this with you all is to bring the focus to this “Diet Culture” that is persistent in our environment. This is NOT the message that we should be sharing with our children … that they NEED to lose weight to “make their parents happy.” Children should never be put on a diet, because research shows that is not helpful for their development and leads to a negative relationship with food and often creates more eating issues as they grow. Having a goal to get children to be more active and choose more nutritionally dense foods in their diets are perfect things to focus on as a family. I think the other part of this that really bothers me is the fact that this is suppose to be used by the child and doesn’t include the family. Whenever I counsel a family with a child who is overweight … the goal is lifestyle modification for the family and it is a whole family affair. The child doesn’t go to the store and purchase food … that is the parent’s role so that education needs to include the parent to help provide more nutritionally dense choices and the child can choose how much of those food items to eat.
No child should ever be told that they are fat and they need some app to help them fix some weight problem about themselves. I am not a fan of weight loss apps and I don’t like how people get caught up in “good” and “bad” foods. The goal with weight loss counseling is working to make small life style changes that are sustainable. Using an app can’t really help with that. As a parent be aware that this app is out there. This is dangerous and not at all helpful to building children up and fostering a positive relationship with food/their own body image. Working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can be a helpful tool to make small changes for the entire family. If you have questions about your child’s weight or concerns about making food changes - reach out and let me know. This can be tough, but with the help of trained professionals there is a way to encourage and foster a healthy relationship with food and help children grow and develop in a positive manner.