People Are Outraged Over WW's Weight Loss App for Kids

#WakeUpWeightWatchers began trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday. 

UPDATE: Joanna Strober, co-founder of Kurbo, responded in a statement to InStyle, writing, “I’m a mom, and almost everybody who started the company are parents, and we think deeply about making this a positive resource for kids.We needed to have a positive approach, and what we’re excited about is we have an approach that has been tested for over 40 years and has been proven to be safe and effective. What excites me is that we can now get that to more kids.”

People are telling WW (formerly Weight Watchers) to "wake up" after the company released a weight loss program geared towards children and teenagers.

The program, named Kurbo, is "a scientifically-proven behavior change program designed to help kids and teens ages 8-17 reach a healthier weight derived from Stanford University's Pediatric Weight Control Program," according to a press release. Kurbo uses an app and "mobile coaching" to "make lifestyle changes."

However, since its release, Kurbo has drawn criticism from people who have pointed out that encouraging children as young as eight years old to diet could have long-term ramifications on their health. On Wednesday and Thursday, the hashtag #WakeUpWeightWatchers began trending on Twitter as people voiced their concerns about the program.

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, registered dietitian and author of The Better Period Food Solution, calls the diet program for kids "despicable," adding that "because the program sets specific food limitations, it stunts a child’s ability to innately learn what foods they like and dislike."

"Beyond that, this program emphasizes body size and weight for children during a time when they should be growing and developing," she tells InStyle. "The program makes me uneasy because it shines a light on the wrong aspects of health for kids, making [room for] disordered eating, negative body image and poor self-worth traits that could be lurking around the corner for these kids."

Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in five children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2016 report points to a link between obesity prevention efforts and the development of eating disorders in adolescents. The report found that encouraging dieting and weight loss was linked to eating disorders, and recommended that parents focus on promoting a healthy lifestyle instead of advocating for weight loss.

In other words, while obesity can put children at health risk, we're not sure if prevention efforts like Kurbo are helping — in fact, they could be doing more harm than good.

"Kids should be educated about food in a different way that highlights the health benefits of nutrients and this program is certainly not the way to go about it," Beckerman says. "Glorifying diets to kids is not a good idea, and parents should think long and hard before recommending it to their kids.

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