On February 7th, Weight Watchers
that the company would be offering free summer memberships to teens aged 13 to 17.
While some reacted positively to the news, citing Weight Watchers as the reason their weight and eating habits changed for the better, many responded with criticism, attacking the company for using a marketing ploy to take advantage of teens struggling with their weight.
To name a few, the New York Post, Psychology Today, and The Washington Post, among many others, published articles criticizing Weight Watchers and calling their motives into question. The company had this to say in response:
According to the American Heart Association, about 1 in 3 American Children are either overweight or obese and that number is only expected to rise in the near future. With so many children struggling with unhealthy weight, it would seem that offering teens a membership to a weight loss program could be a benefit to many.
On the flip side, according to statistics from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa, at least 30 million people of all ages suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.
With about 300 million people living in the United States, that's about 10% of Americans! Worse yet, those numbers are thought to be significantly underestimated because so few people actually seek treatment for eating disorders.
Whether or not Weight Watchers has good intentions by offering this free membership to teens we can't be certain. But
one thing is for sure: many children in the United States are not only suffering from a lack of nutrition, they may also lack healthy eating habits and a basic understanding of the phrase "food is fuel for the body."
The last thing we as a society, especially parents and health professionals, want to do is reinforce the unhealthy mindset that weight is the focus when in reality, health should be the focus.
Children need to know that they are loved and valuable and precious regardless of their weight. They also need to know that eating is a natural experience that can and should be enjoyed--healthily and in moderation.
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