Being thin is incredibly lucrative in America and it is leading to the weight-loss industry earning billions in revenue per year. Just last year alone, weight-loss products and services achieved over $72 billion in profits and experts predict that the numbers will continue to climb with each passing year.
It comes as no surprise that adults and teenagers over the age of 18 are somewhat obsessed with FitBit and other technological weight-loss products and apps that are intended to track physical activity and food consumption. The big shift, however, is that now children as young as 8-years-old are being targeted for weight-loss with a new app that guides what they eat, their physical activities, and their amount of weight that they did—or did not—lose.
The mega weight-loss company Weight Watchers, now known as WW, has kicked off a new app called Kurbo that is aimed at elementary school children who are in need of weight-loss support. Researchers of the new app have found that it is virtually impossible to track how a young person loses weight based on their food consumption. As a matter of fact, those who have analyzed the new app stated that it leaves most of the weight-loss responsibility on the kids who can barely read, let alone be responsible enough to maintain the discipline necessary for losing weight by tracking every detail of their diet and exercise.
The Kurbo app is free to download and it filters foods into three categories; Green foods like vegetables, Yellow foods like low-fat dairy and bread, and Red foods like junk food and sweets. By pre-categorizing foods based on their nutritional value under one of the three color codes, Kurbo intends to guide young people on what they should and should not eat.
Although the introduction of this new app helps to teach children the foods that are healthy, it also takes away the responsibility of the parent to guide their own children on what they should or should not consume. Teaching young children about healthy eating is always important and necessary; however, when we combine this information with weight-loss concepts we begin teaching kids a more dangerous lesson.
By “guiding” children away from having excess weight we ignore the fact that many children fail to lose much of the youthful fat that they have prior to their bodies developing. How fair is it to force a child as young as 8-years-old to focus their attention on looking a certain way, rather than being the best person they can be?
The weight-loss industry plans to gain more ground than ever before with this new app introduced to children. WW’s president and CEO Mindy Grossman stated that the company sees an opportunity to “change the health trajectory of the world” with this product. This comment lets us know that WW has a definitive plan to ensure that it opens its products and services to a new group of consumers: children.
Parents are the individuals who are actually downloading the app for their children and they believe that they are doing the right thing. Many parents feel that apps or video games that encourage positive eating habits are worth having and are often provided to their children without much thought. The only issue is that many parents fail to see beyond the surface of a product or service.
Rather than understanding the impact of the message sent through weight-loss apps to their children, parents often only pay attention to the idea that the apps teach good foods from the bad. Additionally, many parents don’t want to take on the task of teaching their own children how to eat properly…most times because the parents themselves have terrible eating habits. Either way, parents must remain consciences of companies that are targeting their children.
The WW is not so much interested in whether a child feels good about themselves, or not. They are a profit-based company and their job is to sell weight-loss products and services. Although the Kurbo app is free to download, there are other services that the app claims to provide for a fee. Parents can save a lot of money, as well as save the self-esteem of their children, by simply being the guide to healthy eating that their kids need. Allowing children to rely on the education that their parents provide is always the best bet—whether it’s a lesson on morality, self-love, or yes…even healthy eating.