Weight Watchers has further defended its new weight loss app for kids after it faced controversy earlier this week for potentially spreading a dangerous message to children and teens.
The weight loss company, backed by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Jessica Simpson, unveiled a brand new app called Kurbo targeted specifically towards children aged eight to 17 years old in order to help them watch their diet.
But after unveiling the new app on Monday, the company has been forced to defend itself against claims that it could promote eating disorders.
Healthy start? Weight Watchers launched an app called Kurbo to help kids lose weight
Focused: The app is geared towards children ages eight to 17 years old to help with diets
‘Promoting dieting behaviors in children can lead to those same children developing eating disorders, poor self-esteem, and many other mental and physical health issues,’ Sami Main, a life coach, told Refinery29.
Speaking out: Kurbo co-founder Joanna Strober (pictured) defended the app and stated the company put notifications in place to inform family members about dangerous behavior
‘It’s dangerous to promote dieting behavior in children; an app like this can easily lead to kids fearing food and fearing weight gain for years to come.’
The app offers both a free and paid version, which costs $69, for users to use to help them lose weight.
Included with the app is labels on each of the different foods consumed, called the Traffic Light System.
A green light is given for fruits and vegetables to be eaten as much as the child wants, a yellow light is for foods to eat in moderation, and a red light is for food the child should avoid.
Kurbo co-founder Joanna Strober told Refinery29 that the app put systems in place to specifically prevent the development of eating disorders, such as notifying family members about potentially dangerous behavior the child is exhibiting.
One of the types of notifications the family members will receive is if the child is losing a significant amount of weight quickly.
‘There are other products marketed to kids that I don’t think are safe and effective, but I am confident that this one is,’ Strober said.
Unimpressed: This comes after Jameela Jamil attacked the app for ‘breeding a food obsession’
Upset: She slammed the app for ‘breeding food obsession from a young age’ and revealed that her own battle started when she was young
Strober also explained how American Academy of Pediatrics helped develop the app prior to its launch on August 13 to make sure it would be safe for use.
This point was reiterated in a statement to DailyMail.com about the app’s current backlash.
‘WW in the US has collaborated with the Youth Advisory Panel —a team of leading healthcare professionals and academic experts in pediatric health and nutrition from around the globe,’ the statement read. ‘They recognized a clear need for an engaging, scalable, family-based program designed specifically for kids and teens.
‘Kurbo is derived from Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program and 30 years of clinical nutrition and behavioral modification research.
‘The program’s personalized and data-driven mobile platform includes a mobile app and one-on-one health coaching to help children and teenagers, with support from their families, make lifestyle changes while receiving guidance around sustainable healthy eating, physical activity and mindfulness habits.’
Backlash against WW and the new app was further heightened after actress Jameela Jamil, 33, took to social media to express her disdain towards the program.
‘Are we kidding? Breeding obsession with weight and calories and food at the age of…8,’ Jamil wrote.
‘I was 11 when my obsession started, due to being put on a diet for being the heaviest girl in the class. I became afraid of food. It ruined my teens and twenties.’
She continued: ‘*If* you are worried about your child’s health/lifestyle, give them plenty of nutritious food and make sure they get plenty of fun exercise that helps their mental health.
‘And don’t weigh them. Don’t burden them with numbers, charts or ‘success/failure.’ It’s a slippery slope.’
Tense: Jamil also told recently told People that loneliness helped contribute to her eating disorders when growing up
Jamil has been fairly open about her previous problems with body acceptance and eating disorders when she was growing up.
Speaking to The Sunday Times Magazine, the Vogue cover star explained her ‘fat-phobic’ family were ‘not helpful’ while she was battling an eating disorder as a teenager because ‘jutting hipbones were seen as a sign of brilliance at home’.
She told the publication: ‘My family were not helpful in that they were incredibly fat-phobic.
‘Jutting hip bones were seen as a sign of peak brilliance both at home and at school. It didn’t matter that I did well academically or was a good swimmer.
‘All I thought was important about me was that my jeans hung off my hip bones.’
Jamil also told recently told People that loneliness helped contribute to her eating disorders when growing up.
‘I was really unhappy and I think it contributed to my ability to have an eating disorder for so long, because there was no one kind of monitoring me and I had no one to turn to with my sadness and bad feelings, so I just had a really rough time as a teenager,’ she said about eating disorder, which started when she was 14.
The star remains set in her beliefs that an app like Kurbo could cause problems for children, but the creators believe it was formulated to promote health weight loss.
Kurbo also features breathing exercises, a Snapchat-inspired interface and the ability for users to log their physical attributes like height and weight to keep track of their body goals.