Recently, the company formerly known as Weight Watchers (now WW after a 2018 rebrand) released a new weight loss app designed for children 8 to 17 years. But Kurbo, as it is named, was met with outcry from social media and television commentators, who argued that such a product will prime kids for eating disorders, as well as yo-yo dieting habits or low self-esteem.
It’s no secret childhood obesity rates are the highest they’ve been.
“Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States putting children and adolescents at risk for poor health,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. “Obesity prevalence among children and adolescents is still too high.”
More than 13 million children and adolescents are considered obese, according to CDC numbers.
The causes of obesity are myriad and complex, and researchers still haven’t found a tried and true way for adults to lose weight and keep it off. Kurbo may not be embraced by everyone, but it caused a larger, more important conversation to happen. Namely, how can parents foster healthy eating habits in children?
“As parents, we all want our kids to feel good about themselves and being able to address your child’s weight issues can be tricky,” said Laurie McKechnie, a family nurse practitioner at Lynn Women’s Health. “A discussion about overall health and being active is a good place to start while a mutual conversation with your child’s health care provider can be helpful for overall support.”
Leading by example is one way to start. Replace food choices with healthier options. Set goals for yourself and exercise with your child.
“Finding ways to make healthy eating and exercising fun and sustainable is important,” she said.
Remember, children almost always want a parent’s approval so listen and understand how your child feels.
“This should never be about what a child weighs but how he or she should approaches it in a supported way,” McKechnie said. “Self-esteem issues can lead to eating disorders, which is a place no parent wants to be.”
For more information on how to speak with your child about weight issues, contact their pediatrician.