Diet app for kids sparks controversy

National and World

Critics say the diet app could lead to lifelong problems with food

ST. LOUIS PARK, Mn. (CNN Newsource) – A new dieting app aimed at kids is leaving a bad taste in some experts’ mouths.

Weight Watchers just launched a healthy-eating program called “Kurbo,” with users as young as 8 years old.

Critics say the diet app could lead to lifelong problems with food.

One mother in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, was showed the weight loss program for kids ages 8 to 17.

“My only problem would be for a child feeling like they’re being shamed into losing weight,” said Isabel Omolo.

Alyia Appelsies and Laura Pacala, both 16 years old, see the benefit.

“Feeling good about yourself is something that teenagers struggle with,” Pacala said.

They see it as a tool to help them deal with something that already exists.

“Anything [that] would try and help diminish that or get rid of that in any way, I think, is a good thing,” Pacala said.

Here’s how Kurbo works…

They call it the “traffic light system” to promote portion control.

Kids can eat whatever they want, but they have to categorize their veggies and fruits as green; meat and pasta as yellow; and candy and pop as red.

Kurbo says it’s proven to be a safe way for effective weight loss.

Melrose Center in St. Louis Park treats people with eating disorders of all ages and genders. Medical professionals there said they were alarmed by the app and do not recommend it for kids or teens.

“We know that dieting for children is not healthy,” said Heather Gallivan, clinical director at Melrose Center. “I think it is challenging on how to approach that with children and adolescents. You have to be very careful about how you talk about these things and the messages you’re sending.”

Showing “success stories” on Kurbo’s website is one of those mixed messages Gallivan is talking about. There are “before and after” pictures of kids and how much weight they lost on the program.

Omolo sees the benefit but says she would not let her kids use it.

“It feels so serious for a child to be thinking about that kind of complexity of how you eat, how you exercise. But at the same time, it’s necessary,” she said.

Kurbo responded to criticism saying, quote: “Kurbo by Weight Watchers focuses on behavior change for healthier eating and more activity, not dieting or calorie counting.”

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