Today my post is in response to the latest Weight Watchers product, Kurbo, unveiled on Tuesday of this week (13th August- unlucky for some if you’re superstitious). Its first permutation was launched in early 2018, aimed squarely at 13-17 year olds, to much controversy. However, this latest version is now targeting a much younger audience, 8-17 year olds. With the official @KurboHealth Twitter account saying; “We’re excited to introduce @KurboHealth , a science-backed tool uniquely designed for kids and teens who want to improve their eating habits and get more active.“. The official website goes on to describes the app as “Coaching for kids, teens and families to build healthy habits for life.” Once again the sticking-plaster culture we have come to know and love is alive and kicking when we don’t want to get to the crux of the matter! We’re on the edge of the habit hole again people!
Young impressionable people are bombarded with images of unattainable photo-shopped and filtered ‘body-beautiful’ images, contoured faces, slim bodies, obvious plastic surgery, consistently, through the likes of Instgram and SnapChat. Then are adverts and pages on Facebook dedicated to weight loss and in the extreme, advocate anorexia masqueraded as ‘diets’ – despite a clean up by the social media giant. It’s a minefield for young people out there WITHOUT an app such as Kurbo added to the mix.
There are better ways to support our children through this minefield in more positive ways; rather than devolving the responsibility to an outside – MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR – corporation at such an early age. And I genuinely believe, and it’s widely documented, that negative actions around food from an early age create deep-seated issues later in life, and apps like Kurbo will do nothing to change that. If anything, they will perpetuate the issues which will require potentially costly hours of expert counselling to unpick. Now the app suggests that there are trained counsellors on hand ready to spot eating disorders, but we all know that there will be at least one that slips through the net, and sadly become a negative story!
I spoke to a psychotherapist about the introduction of the Kurbo app, and the types of disordered eating she sees in the clients she works with and she said, “With experience of working with Eating Disorders in my practice, I’m horrified by this [type of app]; what future impact will this have on the mental health of our children? Anxiety and depression are currently an epidemic amongst our young people, watch out for the rise of every eating disorder under the sun [in the coming years] which is in no way will that be treatable with 6 sessions via our underfunded and overworked UK NHS.”
I have had my own issues with an eating disorder when I was in my teens and early 20’s. In fact on my wedding day I weighed a little over 7 stones or 45kg! My disordered eating stemmed from family issues and dynamics, but regardless as a child growing up I was well aware of my mother attending Weight Watchers or the League of Health and Beauty, so I was conditioned from a early age. None of that stopped me trying to maintain my tiny frame by starting my first diet in my late teens. It’s only now I appreciate that my mother’s weight-related issues where not my issues, and realistically as a parent she wasn’t aware of the impact she was having on me.
If we want to make a difference to young people’s lives when it comes to their relationship with food and body image there is lots more out there. For instance, in the UK we have the Dove shattering body stereotypes #ShowUs campaign. A global leader in healthcare products like Unilever sees the importance of positive body image. Speaking of the influence that the media and social media has on body image, Kim Millar TV Drama Screenwriter and supporter of the campaign says, “I’ve always been conscious of how my daughter and younger generation feel about their looks and their bodies, and how the characters that I create on screen can shape their view of themselves.”
If, like me, you don’t agree with a weight-loss colossus like Weight Watchers infiltrating our younger generations minds’ at such an early age, and if you believe that children as young as 8 should have a childhood and not be fixated on what food they consume, then add your voice to this petition on Change.org.