Gotta agree whole heartedly with this op ed from The New York Times, Our Kids do Not Need a Weight Watchers App. 

And this wonderful piece, Weight Watchers is harming kids for money by the amazing Regan Chastain. Get this:

“Their most recent, and possibly most horrific, attempt at a money grab is to launch this app aimed at kids ages 8-17. The app starts with a seven-day free trial, but for kids to continue with their personalized coach, the monthly subscription fee starts at $69 a month. (The adult version of Weight Watchers online with coaching is $54.95/month)

Emphasis added. This really gets to the heart of it, doesn’t it?

Chastain sites some more scary stats:

  • 95% of those with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25 (SAMHSA)
  • 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming overweight. This concern endures through life. (Smolak, 2011)
  • Among high-school students, 44% of females and 15% of males attempted to lose weight. (Serdula et al., 1993)
  • 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders. (Shisslak & Crago, 1995)
  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors (ex, skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, purging) (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005)
  • In a decade we saw a 119% increase in eating disorder hospitalizations in kids UNDER TWELVE.

Now, I doubt that most kids who end up subscribing to this app are paying for it themselves. We as the loving adults in children’s lives are implicated in this disease. This app plays to the fears of moms and other adult women that their children might be or become “over” weight, which carries so much more meaning than just having a fuller figure. Do we fear they will be unloved, bullied, unsuccessful, unhappy? Just what WOULD we pay to prevent these outcomes? $69 per month doesn’t sounds so bad.

Or, perhaps even worse, do we fear what it says about us? That we produced or raised a child that is lazy, unhealthy, sloppy, doesn’t care, isn’t good enough—that we somehow failed?

Wow. What a weighty burden for those children to carry!

And they do. Because we do.

I would guess that most people in our culture carry a lot of subconscious assumptions about body size and shape. We apply them to ourselves, and to others. It is PERVASIVE, and often wrapped in a veneer of concern for health (which is challenged rather persuasively by DeAun Nelson, ND in her podcast, Do No Harm). And, as I’m learning, fat phobia and fat oppression are intimately entwined in our other major systems of domination and oppression—and not just sexism/gender oppression, but also racism. There is a LOT to unpack.

As I’ve turned more attention to this issue through my work with Embody Love Movement, I’ve had to confront many of my own ugly unconscious ideas about weight and health. It’s going to be a journey for me, but the first step is catch the thoughts as they arise, question them, and perhaps most importantly, challenge my own rationalizations. I’ll continue to share resources here. Comment or contact me to get involved in this work locally through San Antonio’s own “chapter” of Embody Love Movement.

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