Why all the fuss over Kurbo, a new weight loss
By Ellen Schuster, BA, MS
Weight Watchers (or WW as they now prefer to be referred to) recently introduced a weight loss app for youth (free download and 7-day trial, then there is a cost for coaching) @ https://kurbo.com/finding-the-right-weight-loss-program-for-your-teenager/ based on Stanford University's teen weight loss program using an evidence base in its development (traffic light system). Note: the website markets it as a teen program yet it is being marketed to children as young as 8. The result? A LOT of pushback. Here's some background and responses...
**WW defends its new weight-loss app for kids @ https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/08/240564/ww-weight-watchers-kids-diet-program-kurbo-controversy, which includes providing eating disorder signs for parents and noting that members of the American Academy of Pediatrics advised WW in the app's development.
**A WW free weight loss app for kids 8 to 17 years old is drawing a backlash and a petition against it has been signed by over 78,000 people. One criticism of the app, Kurbo, is that it shows before and after weight loss pictures of children. Other criticisms include questions about who Kurbo's "coaches" are and the article @ https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/17/weight-watchers-new-childrens-app-kurbo-faces-backlash.html indicates they aren't nutritionists.
**National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) statement on Kurbo https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/neda-statement-kurbo-ww-app has many concerns. It also echoes a comment shared in a podcast - food availability - what happens when a child finds their school lunch food is considered a "yellow" light food (a food not to be eaten regularly)?
**Obesity medicine specialist discusses new WW app for kids @ https://www.npr.org/2019/08/19/752529470/obesity-medicine-specialist-discusses-new-ww-app-for-kids and indicates the traffic light system has been tested mainly with adults.
**More about the Kurbo app and backlash @ https://www.nj.com/healthfit/2019/08/wake-up-weight-watchers-say-critics-of-kurbo-its-weight-loss-app-for-kids.html includes social media backlash, responses from nutritionists and some screenshots from the app.
**Everything you need to know about WW's new Kurbo app for kids reviewed by an RD @ https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/diet-nutrition/a28713342/kurbo-weight-watchers-kids-app/, which is more of a list of tips for parents when encouraging healthy food choices for their children.
**One RDN's opinion about Kurbo, Weight Watchers new free weight loss app for children @ https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/26/well/family/helping-children-learn-to-eat-well.html includes concerns about disordered eating and a lack of studies for children 6 to 11 years old supporting long-term changes in weight. Weight cycling and harmful practices such as bullying are also addressed in this opinion piece.
**Putting kids on diets won't help anything...the tag line for the article sums it up..."the app might be better for the company than pediatric health" @ https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/08/weight-watchers-diet-app-kids/596422/. The article notes that children under 13 must sign up with a parent. However, warnings about eating disorders for parents are only available if you sign up for the coaching (for a fee).
**Don't tease and other tips to help kids with their weight @ https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/08/25/753446490/praise-dont-tease-and-other-tips-to-help-kids-with-their-weight includes another expert's opinion that the app isn't evidence-based.
Podcasts and other resources
**Kids, dieting and body image (Radio Times, WHYY) includes general tips but if you listen to the first few minutes you will get a sense of the app and some of its drawbacks @ https://whyy.org/episodes/kids-dieting-and-body-image/.
**Body Kindness, podcast hosted by an RDN and certified exercise physiologist, Aug. 19, 2019 episode (1 hour, 19 minutes) @ https://www.bodykindnessbook.com/podcast/ - Kurbo Weight Watchers app for kids is upsetting parents and professionals, includes some criticisms of Kurbo as well as stories from listeners about weight loss.
**SNEB Weight Realities division @ https://www.sneb.org/divisions/general/weight-realities/?query=category.eq.General&back=Divisions promotes health at every size (HAES) and other resources including a position paper on childhood obesity prevention programs (English and Spanish) and a recorded webinar: Children and Weight: First Fo No Harm.