If you keep up with the health and wellness world at all, you’ve probably heard a lot lately about Kurbo by WW. In case you haven’t though, here’s the scoop: Weight Watchers recently released Kurbo, an app intended to kelp kids ages 8–17 reach a “healthier weight.”
Using a traffic light system, Kurbo teaches kids to rate their foods as green, yellow, or red—good foods that the kids can eat all the time, moderate foods that are healthy but warrant portion control, and bad foods that should be occasionally budgeted in. The app pairs kids with a coach based on their goals and their personality, and between weekly coaching support and the nutritional info available in Kurbo, the child is supposed to lose weight and feel “more confident, healthier, and more confident in [their] skin.”
Now, on the surface, I can see where that might sound harmless. Limiting unhealthy foods and working with a coach aren’t inherently bad things on their own. Except when you take into consideration that we’re talking about CHILDREN. Because no matter how smart the Kurbo marketing team is and how carefully they frame their intents, Kurbo is a dieting app for kids. Period.
Before we dive in much deeper, I just want to say one thing:
PLEASE do not put your child on a diet.
Yes, some kids are technically considered overweight. Yes, childhood obesity rates are quite high in certain parts of the country. But a dieting app is NOT the answer.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, many of us have pretty messed up relationships with food. If we’re being *brutally* honest, we can take that one step further and realize that many of our unhealthy beliefs around food, weight, and health started when we were pretty young.
As sad as it is, this isn’t unusual. In fact, a 2015 study by Common Sense Media found that children start expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies as early as age five.
The fact is, our kids are bombarded from DAY ONE with images of what a “healthy” or “attractive” body looks like. Whether you want to believe it or not, your kid definitely has some preconceived notions of what it means to be or look “healthy.”
(Spoiler alert: Society is telling your kid that healthy means thin.)
Now, is it important to help kids form healthy habits from an early age? Absolutely! But dieting is NOT how we make that happen.
When you put your kid on a diet, what you’re telling them is that a) there’s something wrong with them and b) they can fix that thing by controlling what they eat. Forgive me for being blunt here, but if that isn’t a recipe for an eating disorder later in life, I don’t know what is.
Furthermore, dieting during childhood also sets kids up to be overly conscious about weight and physical size. They’re far more likely to prioritize meeting a certain arbitrary health standard rather than focusing on feeling healthy, energetic, and confident.
When it comes to teaching kids to eat well, food shaming is the BIGGEST no-go. It drives me crazy! Labeling foods as “good” and “bad” creates an inappropriate emotional relationship with food and sets your kids up to ride that dieting rollercoaster all their lives.
If you’ve personally struggled through the ups and downs of that rollercoaster ride, I ask you: Is that what you want for your child?
If you want to help your kids start life with the right nutritional footing, the most important thing you can do is to get them comfy with nutritional fundamentals. Expose them to delicious, healthy foods as often as possible. Get them excited to try interesting or exotic fruits and veggies. Make the enjoyment of healthy foods a regular part of your lifestyle, and don’t make it about a number on a scale. Being a good role model is the single best thing you can do to help your kids have a healthy relationship with food.
You can also include movement and activity in your discussions of what it means to be “healthy.” Encourage things like backyard play, family kickball games, or after-dinner walks—again, not as a means of losing weight, but as a way to simply have fun and feel great.
Thanks for listening to my rant. If you’re a parent, I hope this helped you make sense of all the controversy surrounding the Kurbo app. If you’re still feeling unsure about whether Kurbo is right for your family, I want to leave you with this: DIETS DON’T WORK. They don’t work for adults, and they definitely don’t work for kids. If you stick with a plan of moderation and incorporate protein, fat and carbs into each meal, you’ll be well on your way to success.
If you have any additional questions about your child’s health, Kurbo, or healthy living in general, I’d be happy to talk with you! Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, what I wish for you (and your whole family!) is that you’d create a life you love with no feeling hungry, depriving yourself, or giving up your glass of wine with dinner (or weekend cookies, as it were. ;) ).