An App Can’t Fix the Childhood Obesity Crisis
I had heard rumblings about a new Weight Watchers app for kids but hadn’t understood the specifics until last night when my sister in law sent me an Instagram post to read. And now I am mad.
I know we have an obesity problem in America. I get that. And I am not blaming Weight Watchers, as a business, for trying to make money by addressing a problem. They are after all, a business. But encouraging young children- as young as eight years old- to diet, is not the answer. Beyond the fact that this app will lead to disordered eating in younger and younger children, an app will do nothing to address what I see, as the root causes of this problem. In this country, we are obsessed (not only with dieting) but with targeting the symptoms of a problem instead of the cause.
Admittedly, I have not done the research, but I am now curious to study the correlation between obesity and socioeconomic status. We live in an affluent town. We can afford to feed our kids all the food. And you know who I don’t see in our schools, on our sports fields or walking through town? Obese kids. Do I know exactly why, from a scientific and economic standpoint? No. But I can take a few guesses.
We have the money to afford healthy foods.
We have access to healthy foods. For example, on Sunday we went to the farmers market at the train station for produce and bread. We went to Fairway for shrimp. We went to Whole Foods for steak. And we went to Kings for all the other things. Other weekends, we will throw in Trader Joe’s and Stop and Shop for good measure. And we have to travel no more than ten minutes to reach any of these places.
We have access to education. And we have the money to afford this education. If we or our children run into issues with eating a healthy diet, we have the ability to talk to nutritionists or doctors about how to prepare and encourage our children to eat more healthy foods.
We have access to exercise. We have easy access to more fitness centers and sports programs than we know what to do with. If our children need help to get moving, we have the access and the money to make that happen.
We have time. We have the time to research, purchase and prepare healthy foods. We have time to take our children to fitness centers or drive them to practices and games.
So maybe instead of creating apps that will encourage disordered eating in small children, we should really dig in our heels and address the real problems in our country. First, access to healthy foods and exercise for all. And then the big one- breaking the cycle of poverty.
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