By now, you may have seen posts about the WW’s (the new brand of Weight Watchers) new Kurbo app for kids. After years in the field of nutrition, we at Pinnacle Prevention have seen firsthand the devastating impact that dieting and diet culture can have on an individual, a family, a community, and society. Shame, lasting weight-bias, stigma, disordered eating and harmful weight cycling are just a few. To purposefully target children using diet culture is unconscionable. Check out this response from NEDA, the National Eating Disorders Association for more information on some of those negative impacts.
Make no mistake, despite their rebranding and use of words like “wellness” WW, and other weight-loss companies peddle diets and restriction. WW defends this practice by claiming the approach is “an evidence-based weight management program based on research.” At Pinnacle Prevention, we value research and national and international best practices; however, not all research translates into sustainable change. Although you may lose weight in the very short term there is a lot that is missing from the “evidence.” Let’s take a closer look:
- Most diets, and WW itself have a poor rate of sustainable weight loss. Evidence is NOT A compliance rate of 7%. That’s a program that is likely to fail.
- WW will tell you the program was modeled after a researched approach from Stanford.
- Stanford uses an inter-disciplinary team and is a family-based intervention. Removing the “in-person monitoring by a medical professional,” portion of a program, especially when young children and adolescents are involved, is NOT evidence based.
- An intervention studied under the umbrella of an academic institution doesn’t necessarily translate to real communities. Sunnyvale, CA and Globe, AZ are very different. Failing to consider the full context of an individual, including their community, is NOT evidence based.
- Most research related to weight loss “success” is short term and has tunnel vision.
- Weight itself is not the entire picture of our health and well being
- Research tells us that in the long run, restricting, dieting and focusing on weight as the goal can lead to greater weight gain, and worse, weight cycling
- Failing to take into consideration all of the aspects of health and well being is NOT evidence based.
- In short, pretending that negative impacts don’t exist because they weren’t included in the study you are using DOES HARM.
- Equity, oppression, racism, poverty, access, trauma, and numerous other environmental factors impact who we are, why we eat what we eat, and our health. This app cannot, and is not interested in, addressing those issues.
- We should demand better for our kids and ourselves.
So, what should practitioners or parents do? What is our role in public health? At Pinnacle Prevention, and as part of our Nourish program we ask that we should first DO NO HARM. That means, rather than assess body weight, we focus on a person’s relationship to food and how policy and environment impact the ability for one to make that relationship a healthy one. To learn more about this stay tuned for more info on Nourish and visit:
- Ellyn Satter and the development of feeding relationships: https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-eat/
- The dangers of restriction: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/how-have-healthy-relationship-food
- Health at Every Size, and policy: https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=161
- Christy Harrison MPH, RD and Jeffrey Hunger, PhD - Why We can’t Fight Weight Stigma While Also Advocating for Weight Loss – Food Psych Podcast #192.
For more information on Pinnacle Prevention and our approach to supporting healthy relationships with food visit pinnacleprevention.org.