SHAME ON YOU, Weight Watchers.

Have you heard? Weight Watchers (now calling themselves “WW”) have hit a new low. They’ve rolled out a diet for children between the ages of 8 and 17.


I don’t know how it’s even legal to market a DIET to children, when their FRONTAL LOBE isn’t even fully developed until they are in their TWENTIES. I am APPALLED by everything to do with “Kurbo for Kids”.

WW claims it’s not a diet.

It is.

The app requires the child to choose a goal–from options like “lose weight” and “make my parents happy”–and while it doesn’t follow the same points system as the traditional WW program, it uses green, yellow and red stoplights that pits foods against one other, and where the only “green light” foods are fruits and vegetables, creating more confusion around what constitutes a “healthy” choice. For example, chicken, eggs and beans are all yellow light foods. Butter, hummus and cheese get red lights.

Here’s the deal: I get it. The entire food thing is HARD. Fat is good. Fat is bad. Carbs are good. Carbs are bad. Sugar is fine. Sugar will kill you, and the list goes on. Parents not only have to deal with their own hectic lives and schedules, but they also have to manage their child’s extra curricular activities, their school and social lives (including their use of technology and social media), while also ensuring their kids are properly nourished. It’s especially hard when kids have picky palates, and the whole thing is made even harder when parents have to constantly push back on the relentless marketing of food advertisers, along with the heavy hand and deep pockets of the sugar and food industries.

But HARD is not IMPOSSIBLE. We CAN figure this thing out, if we choose to make it a priority.

I work with many parents who are watching their kids struggle with their weight, perhaps dealing with health issues, bullying, anxiety or depression, and so I can understand how signing their child up for Kurbo might seem like a supportive and healthy thing to do.

It’s not.

Most ADULTS struggle with our weight. We are over 60% overweight or obese in North America and what we know for sure is that diets do not work. They are designed to fail, and the diet industry is worth over $50 billion because we keep coming back–time and time again–hoping that this time, with this diet, we will finally have this whole food thing figured out.

What we need to really understand, is that we often aren’t eating to satisfy nutritional needs; we eat to satisfy emotional needs. Going below the surface to uncover what we are really hungry for is the work I’ve devoted my life to, and when I work with my students, we go deep, under the surface, to uncover the root causes of our behaviours. In this way, we can raise our awareness and begin to make positive changes in our lives that have a ripple effect in the household.

To pass down the burden of responsibility of our kids’ weight onto our children–as Kurbo encourages us to do–is NOT OK. As adults, it is OUR responsibility to learn about food and to prioritize our own and our children’s nutritional needs. Were you ever put on a diet as a kid? Were you raised by a parent(s) who struggled with their weight, who were *always* dieting, or where body size was discussed at the dinner table? If you answered “yes”, then ask yourself how that felt to you growing up and what kind of impact it had on your own weight and body image.

By putting this kind of pressure on children, we set them up for a lifetime of struggle with food, self-acceptance, body image issues and more. Research shows that children who are put on diets tend to continue to struggle in adulthood and are at greater risk of developing issues with disordered eating.

Shame on you, Weight Watchers! I’ve NEVER been a fan of your shame-based approach, and this takes it to a whole new level.

If we think back to our own childhoods, we didn’t “listen”. We watched. We develop our deeply rooted beliefs in childhood based on our parents’ behaviour (rooted in their beliefs) and it’s only when we become adults that we have the opportunity to challenge those beliefs and make different choices, if we want to see different results in our lives. Not easy, for sure, but if I’ve learned anything in life, nothing worthwhile comes easy, and there is nothing I can think of that can have the kind of impact on our own and our children’s lives than the way we nourish our bodies.

Wondering where to start? Here is what I suggest: Get YOURSELF right with food. I know it’s tough. It’s HARD to untangle all the history, patterns, habits, unhealthy messaging, beliefs, and conflicting information out there around food, sugar, body image, self image, body size and diets. It’s CONFUSING. But it doesn’t have to be. And it doesn’t have to be for your kids. Decide that prioritizing your nutrition is going to be something you actively do. By modeling the behaviour, your child will naturally learn what you value while learning how to feed themselves as they continue to grow. Remember, this isn’t about vilifying junk foods; it’s about making choices that foster our own and our children’s mental, emotional and physical health and wellness.

Focus on adding in, rather than cutting out. Instead of talking about cutting back, dieting or restricting, make meals using whole foods, and make whole foods readily accessible. Have bowls of fruit on the counter, chopped veggies and hummus in the fridge, and jugs of fresh water with orange slices in the fridge. This sends a message to yourself and your family about what you value. I’ve got loads of free recipes to share. Loads of free tips and strategies, if you’d like some support. Real food is healing to the body and brain.

Make water your drink of choice, highlighting the importance of hydration.

Create a bedtime routine for yourself, modeling the behaviour to your child. The science is clear: lack of sleep causes sugar cravings, depleted energy and low mood; all factors that contribute to our mindless munching of junk food. Teaching your child how to prioritize their sleep sets them up for a lifetime of better health habits.

Work on reducing your stress and help your child reduce theirs using breathing techniques (I like Dr. Weil’s “4-7-8” technique), guided meditations (lots on Insight Timer and elsewhere specifically for kids) and spending time in nature. The link between our stress levels and our weight have been heavily researched, so if you–or your child–struggle in this area, lowering your stress levels will make a huge impact on your overall health.

Allow treats as a treat; not after every meal. When we create a habit out of eating something sweet after every meal, we tend to carry that habit into adulthood. Instead of cutting it out “cold turkey”, try swapping out the cookies or ice cream for home made treats, a bowl of berries or “Nice Cream” and try to wean down to every other night, then just a few times a week, perhaps. When we stop “rewarding” ourselves with sugar, we begin to break the habit. When we start feeling so much better, we quickly realize it really wasn’t serving us; it was addicting us.

Take your child grocery shopping with you and get them involved in choosing what goes in the cart. Explain to them how real, whole, foods don’t need labels and ask them to choose a new food to try. Once home, learn about the ingredient together and prepare it as a family. Teaching our children how to cook is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

Resist placing moral value on food as either “good” or “bad”, “healthy” versus “unhealthy” and, rather, just eat real food as often as possible. You may be amazed at how much less you eat naturally, how much more energy you have and how much more positive your attitude becomes when your body is being nourished. That’s the beauty of real food. It satisfies in a way that “food-like-products” (the bulk of the North American diet) never can. Assuming you feed your child the same way you feed yourself, all of these benefits will be theirs, too.

I love Michael Pollan’s advice: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants”. And his other perfect mantra: “Eat whatever you want! As long as you cook it yourself.” Why? Because studies have found that across the globe, the cultures who are the healthiest are also the ones who eat a minimally processed diet. Thar’s it! Just eat real food as often as possible and you will never, ever feel the pull to diet again.

THIS is the kind of freedom I enjoy in my own life and what I love teaching to others. I eat whatever I want! I’ve just come to a place where I don’t want to put too much junk in because of the way it makes me feel. Making the food-mood connection has been instrumental in my experience and it’s what truly moves the needle for my students. We eat between 2.5 and 5 pounds of food per day. Of course what we eat affects how we feel–mentally, emotionally and physically!

Of course it does.

And it affects our children, too. Mentally, emotionally and physically.

Remember, if you struggle with food, you are NOT alone. So many of us struggle. But let’s not pass down the weight of our own struggle to be carried by our children.

It stops with US.

So, NO to Weight Watchers. No to Kurbo. Just NO. Because NO CHILD should be dealing with this kind of pressure. NO child should be dieting when their little bodies and brains are still developing. They have enough to worry about.

Remember, we don’t hate (and shame, and restrict, and sacrifice and diet) our bodies to good health; we love them there.

Because I want you to love your life one bite at a time.

P.S. If YOU would like to sign the petition, as I did, to have the Kurbo app removed, click here.

P.P.S. If you’d like to learn more about my beliefs around food and sugar and body image, I did a live training called:The Truth About Sugar and How To Live A Life Of Freedom Around Food.” I hope it serves you. xoS


P.P.P.S. If you’d like to prioritize your health for 14 days, I’d love for you to sign up for my 14 Days of Wellness. Simply enter your name and email address up on the right to begin receiving the messages today. It’s FREE, with no diets, products, challenges or catches…just a chance to remember how amazing you are…for 14 days.


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