A few days ago, news outlets reported on "WW" – formerly known as the diet industry giant Weight Watchers, now operating underneath the wellness sugar coating of "wellness that works", but still being a diet company – and its release of a diet app targeted at children as young as 8 years old. The app called "Kurbo" separates food into categories of "good" and "bad" and is supposed to help its users make healthy choices.
What the app and the whole idea it’s based on ignore, just like every other weight-loss diet, is the fact that your own body can tell you what nourishment it needs. It also feeds the assumption that only slim bodies are good bodies and that thin equals healthy, while fat equals unhealthy. This is a dangerous and erroneous message to promote to children.
These assumptions have been proven to be false in numerous studies, such as here, in which scientists showed via a 20-year investigation of thousands of people that a causality between a high BMI and diabetes does not exist in healthy “obese” individuals. Other investigators have suggested that people with fatter bodies struggle more with medical issues because they often receive worse medical treatment due to health professionals’ weight bias. There are several respected studies that offer robust scientific evidence that dieting predicts weight gain and binge eating particularly in adolescents. Dieting has also been linked to disordered eating and elevated risk for developing eating disorders in teenagers, and preadolescent girls.
Society teaches our children early on that different bodies are not something to be celebrated, let alone accepted. Instead, we are conditioned to believe that we have to work constantly to fit the mould of the slim ideal. We teach our children that bodies, especially female bodies, are under permanent construction, never reaching the goal of perfection. One study showed that children as young as three already have a negative perception of big and fat bodies, associating fat with characteristics like "mean", “stupid” and "lazy".
We do not need to raise our children to be slim. We do not need to raise them thinking their value depends on a number on a scale or a clothing tag. We need to raise them to trust their bodies and to not be afraid of feeling body confident. We need to raise them to be kind and respectful of their surroundings and themselves.
A diet app runs completely counter to these aims.
Endangered Bodies supports the campaign to take down the Kurbo app. If you share our point of view, please sign one (or more!) of six petitions that have been set up to ask WW to take the app down. This one is growing by the minute and currently has collected over 93,000 signatures.
To summarise, here are ten reasons why the Kurbo app is harmful, which is outlined in another petition we support:
- Targets vulnerable children between the ages of 8-17
- Tracking food intake and exercise normalizes an obsession with food and weight
- Promotes the idea that food is either good or bad with their “stop light” approach
- Promotes the idea that confidence is dependent on body size and/or weight
- Promotes using weight as the sole indicator of health
- No medical clearance needed for kids to sign up
- Weight loss coaches are not required to have a degree in evidence-based dietetics
- Targets children that are prepubescent and going through puberty where kids between 11 and 14 gain on average between 30 to 40 pounds and can gain 30 pounds or more in one year
- Promotes the idea that parents happiness/proudness is derived from accomplishments around weight
- Uses before and after photos
Join us in speaking out against this harmful app and the flawed reasoning behind it. Children do not need to learn weight stigma and internalise the idea that their bodies need to be fixed.