Written By: Rachel Mangold
WW, formerly Weight Watchers, rolled out a new program called Kurbo. Kurbo is their tactic at dealing with childhood obesity. So, what is it?
Kurbo is a food and activity tracking app for individuals aged 8-18. On this app, children can upload progress pictures, food journals, and activity logs. I’ve downloaded the app to get a better sense of what it entails and have chosen to write this article to highlight just how problematic and detrimental this will be to the youth of America.
During sign-up, the user must choose between these two options:
“I am a parent. I’ll sign myself up first so I can support my child on the Kurbo program.”
“I am at least 13 and using the app for myself, without parental supervision.”
I chose the latter and set my age as 17 with the goal to “boost my confidence”. Other goals include: eat healthier, lose weight, make parents happy, get stronger and fitter, have more energy, and feel better in my clothes. The app uses a traffic-light approach to track foods: fruits and vegetables are green, lean proteins and whole-grain carbohydrates are yellow, and desserts and high-fat items are red. After creating my account, I searched for a few items to see where they fell on the scale.
- Red: cereal, Gatorade, mashed potatoes, steak, buttered popcorn, pop, pretzels, protein shake/bar/powder, soy milk, 2% milk, chicken fingers, bacon
- Yellow: rice, chicken, plain popcorn, diet pop, tofu, beans, 1% milk, pasta, turkey, sliced ham
- Green: apple, coffee, broccoli, green beans, skim milk
The app also includes a chat room for the child/adolescent to talk to a coach to help set goals and to achieve those goals through the set action plan.
So what’s the issue? There is a slew of them, and I will point out just a few.
- Kids and adolescents should not be tracking their food. Not only does this create and foster an unhealthy relationship with food from a very young age, but they also don’t need to be focused on that. School, friendships, and social interactions should be the priority.
- Kids don’t do the grocery shopping in the house and school lunch options are limited. If the parents/guardians are not buying green and yellow light foods, how is the child supposed to be successful? While there have been improvements in school lunches, there are still too few nutrient-dense options available. Pizza, fries, mashed potatoes, pretzels, milk, corn, etc. don’t exactly bode well on Kurbo’s scale.
- This app is yet another example of how lower-income families are punished for being low-income. The scary fact is that nutrient-dense and healthy foods are more expensive and sometimes providing the child with any type of food is better than not being able to feed them. This app is targeted towards families with children that have access to smart-phones, have the money to purchase green-light foods, have the money/time/and transportation to be involved in after-school physical activity programs, and have parents/guardians who have the time and money to dedicate to their child’s wellness.
I understand that Kurbo is WW’s solution to reducing child obesity. Child obesity in America is a problem, but a food tracking app is not the solution. It’s not the solution for most adults in their weight-loss journeys. Instead of building a foundation of disordered eating and obsession with appearance in children, better health education needs to be a priority for parents and students alike. An increase of affordable foods that provide proper nutrients both in schools and in grocery stores is crucial and educating parents about what foods to buy, affordable options for food and sports is a must. As someone who has suffered through multiple eating disorders and body dysmorphia, it pains me to see younger children start to question their worth based on their size and the way they look in the mirror. Health and nutrition are important, but so is the lifelong mentality and self-love of each and every child in America.
If you agree that Kurbo is damaging to our youth, sign the petition: