When information broke this week that WW (previously Weight Watchers) was rolling out a brand new vitamin and weight reduction app referred to as Kurbo, Whitney Fisch — a social employee, college counselor and mother of three — felt compelled to share her outrage on-line.

“You NEED to Shut. This. Down,” she wrote on Facebook. “All our bodies, particularly rising + growing our bodies, deserve respect + the flexibility to develop into no matter form they’re meant to develop to be.” She was, she stated, writing “with the fury of 1,000 suns.”

Fisch is hardly the one dad or mum who has slammed Kurbo by WW since its launch Tuesday. (WW truly acquired Kurbo in 2018, then spent a 12 months retooling it and including what Time described as a “Snapchat-inspired interface.”) WW calls Kurbo a “scientifically-proven conduct change program designed to assist children and youths age 8-17 attain a more healthy weight,” derived from Stanford College’s Pediatric Weight Management Program.

However many dad and mom and physique positivity advocates are calling it flat-out harmful.

“It is a TERRIBLE concept,” Kristy, a mom of an 11-year-old woman who’s recovering from anorexia and over-exercising, wrote in an electronic mail to HuffPost. (She requested that solely her first identify be used to guard her daughter’s privateness.)

Though Kristy has no direct expertise with Kurbo, she stated she has seen how know-how marketed to advertise “wholesome” behaviors can gas unhealthy ones in kids combating physique picture points. Her daughter used a health tracker to obsessively log what number of energy she burned in a day. “I used to be shocked at how she used it,” Kristy stated.

The Kurbo app makes use of what WW calls the site visitors mild system: Children are urged to eat loads of “inexperienced mild” meals (like vegatables and fruits), to be “conscious” of their parts of “yellow mild” meals (like lean protein, complete grains and dairy), and to cut back consumption of “purple mild” meals (like sugary drinks and “treats”).

The app is free, however WW additionally affords subscription-based plans for one-on-one classes with coaches stated to be consultants in vitamin, train, and psychological well being. (The corporate doesn’t have a set threshold for credentialing, although coaches do undergo a minimal of six to eight hours of preliminary coaching, in addition to three and a half hours of continuous schooling, a spokesperson for WW instructed HuffPost.)

And in step with WW’s current rebranding and public pivot towards selling “wellness” quite than specializing in weight reduction, the app additionally encourages children to trace behaviors like day by day bodily exercise and deep respiration.

“This isn’t a weight reduction app,” Gary Foster, chief scientific officer at WW, instructed HuffPost. “That is an app that teaches in a game-ified, enjoyable, participating method what are the fundamentals of a wholesome consuming sample.”

“I believe there might be some misperception that in some way we’re saying, ‘All children ought to drop extra pounds, you’re not OK as you might be,’” he added. “What we’re saying to children who’re attempting to realize a more healthy weight — children and households — is that this can be a affordable, smart strategy to do it.” Reaching a “more healthy weight” could be very completely different for kids and adults, he stated, as a result of kids are always rising.

However consuming dysfunction remedy professionals stated there is likely to be a disconnect between what WW appears to be attempting to do and what the top consequence could also be.

“Whereas the intention of the app is to advertise well being and wellness, there may be the danger that it may do extra hurt than good,” stated Kathryn Argento, a registered dietician with The Renfrew Heart, a nationwide community of consuming dysfunction remedy facilities for ladies and women. “Focusing on children as younger as 8 years outdated to concentrate on … their our bodies can result in an intense preoccupation with meals, measurement, form and weight.” There’s proof that body image anxiety can begin in kids as younger as age 3.

“Irrespective of how onerous it tries to market itself as a wellness firm, WW is about weight reduction. Children are method smarter than we predict they’re, and each ‘massive child’ who was placed on a weight reduction program knew precisely what their dad and mom have been attempting to do.”

– Ginny Jones, Extra-Love.org

On the similar time, public well being consultants have recognized childhood weight problems as a serious concern. In accordance with present nationwide estimates, roughly one in five children in the USA are overweight, which may enhance their danger for speedy well being problems, like Kind 2 diabetes, in addition to long run issues, like heart problems.

But public well being organizations and pediatricians emphasize that that is a complex health issue, and there are actual questions on how efficient weight reduction plans for kids even are.

“The proof means that these kinds of instruments could also be useful adjuncts to weight administration, however there are few research in pediatrics to substantiate that they result in a ‘significant change of their weight trajectories,’” Dr. Ihuoma Eneli, director of the Heart for Wholesome Weight and Vitamin at Nationwide Youngsters’s Hospital, instructed HuffPost. She stated it is usually unclear how properly children adhere to these kinds of applications, pointing to a small pilot study of the app that confirmed pretty low compliance.

For all of Kurbo by WW’s advertising and marketing round its “holistic” method to well being, many dad and mom and advocates fear the one message children will hear is that there’s something about them that’s flawed and that should change. The “success tales” on Kurbo’s touchdown web page spotlight what number of kilos kids misplaced, not, say, what number of minutes a day they now meditate. WW’s decades-long legacy as a weight reduction firm is difficult to shake.

“There’s no method that these children don’t understand that the app is meant to assist them drop extra pounds,” Ginny Jones, who based a website dedicated to preventing consuming issues in kids, instructed HuffPost. “Irrespective of how onerous it tries to market itself as a wellness firm, WW is about weight reduction. Children are method smarter than we predict they’re, and each ‘massive child’ who [has been] placed on a weight reduction program knew precisely what their dad and mom have been attempting to do.”