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A Letter to Kurbo by WW...

Screenshot of Kurbo Health App by WW. The health app for teens 8-17 to track food, health goals, and weight.
Kurbo app by WW Screenshot. Courtesy WW; Getty Images

Dear Kurbo & Weight Watchers,

Eight years ago, I was a happy, healthy freshman in high school that in a matter of months was starving myself to death. It all started with the intention to be healthier and lose a few pounds. It quickly spiraled into an eating disorder, concerned parents and teachers, and the start of the decline of my mental health.

It was all so innocent, just like your app Kurbo. I was doing the "right" things - eating healthier, getting more activity, drinking more water - but that quickly changed. When I realized some foods were not as healthy, or as you would call them "red foods", I slowly cut them out. Then I would find the next unhealthy food and do the same until nothing was healthy enough to eat except fruit, vegetable broth, and almond milk.

Many would classify that as orthorexia. Combine my lack of food and excessive exercise in the goal to be healthy, I lost 30 lbs in 3 months. My hair started to fall out. My brain was in a fog. I lost my period. I was constantly cold. Everyone was worried about me.

By the grace of God, I developed Binge Eating Disorder and gained all the weight back after restricting for almost two years. Even though my weight was restored, I was far from healthy. For years I went from one fad diet to the next hoping to find the answer as many do. Only recently have I made amends with my relationship to food which I teach in my course EFF Food and found what many others are starting to realize - diets do not work.

While Kurbo health is promoting a healthy lifestyle, anything that suggests restricting a food or food group is a diet and that is no way to introduce a child to the life long relationship they will have with food and their body. By suggesting restrictive behaviors such as your traffic light system, you are setting children up for a long struggle with restricting and possibly binging that can results in more weight gain, co-morbidities, and mental health disorders.

I understand you have coaches available for $69/month to ensure that these children using your app do not develop this pattern which I appreciate you taking that extra step. Unfortunately, many children and parents cannot afford such a luxury. Also based on your Instagram posts and comment replies, these coaches seem to have no formal education other than what you provide them in training. After attending school for nutrition and dietetics, I understand my scope of practice and repercussions for stepping outside the lines. I hope you do as well.

Lastly, as you may know, the diet industry only makes money if people need help with their weight. If someone were to lose the weight, they no longer make money since that person no longer needs those services. This is why the diet industry creates restrictive diets to ensure its profits since many of those people will not see lasting results due to this viscous restrict-binge cycle. Starting children as young as 8 years old in this dieting scheme is a brilliant business plan your part, but clearly shows your goal is not to help reduce childhood obesity and create long term healthy results.

If you truly desire to help children have a healthier relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies, continue to teach parents and adults healthy habits so they can lead by example.

It takes a village, not an app.


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