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The Opposite of Childhood Obesity is not Anorexia

There’s an article over at the Frisky that sounds the alarms about weight loss apps for kids. For the record I 100% agree that giving an 8 year old instructions to count calories is a bad idea. However, the app in question is not just any weight loss app. It’s an app that’s designed to teach children ages 8 to 18 how to make better choices about their food and exercise.

This is where I lose most people. I’ve heard the responses on Facebook already and they’re telling. Our responses to children’s health issues are part of the reason we have rampant obesity.

  • BMI is bullshit! What about weightlifters?
    If your 8 year old is bench pressing their own body weight you probably won’t want this app.
  • My mom made me diet and gave me special food.
    This app helps kids make slow changes and the whole family is involved making changes too.
  • Apps don’t work, you need to learn how food works
    Valid point, they do have counselors available and it’s meant to be an educational tool
  • I don’t want to tell my kid they’re fat.
    They know they’re fat. It’s your responsibility to tell them they aren’t second class, weak or dumb because they are overweight.
  • It’s just baby fat.
    Well, when the baby fat is squeezing their lungs and they can’t play like other kids is that the time to start? 
  • This app doesn’t help poor kids, they can’t afford good food.
    That’s true, it’s not a panacea for the world but that doesn’t mean helping some people doesn’t have value. 
  • You can’t get an app to parent for you.
    Since when it seeking out expertise to share with your children bad parenting? Riddle me that.

Here’s what I’ve found out about Kurbo Health.

kurbo health


Kurbo Health is an app that requires parental involvement and doesn’t count calories. If you mention calorie counting to Joanna Strober on the phone you’ll be the recipient of an audible gasp. Kurbo slowly weans kids off of white bread, sugar and highly processed foods in a realistic manner.

Kurbo is actually a licensee of the Stanford Pediatric Weight Control Program. It’s a $3500 program that’s great for kids who live near the University and can get there each week. For the rest of the us there’s Kurbo.

Kids can have an app where they can track their food and exercise and they get feedback from the app. If desired they can have a trained coach Skype with them each week. The parents are involved in the first session and moving forward the kids are on the sessions alone but counselors are in contact with the parents too.

Weight loss isn’t the goal of the Kurbo app. It’s a reduction of BMI. Again, we all know that BMI isn’t perfect. According to blog comments and fat acceptance groups everywhere 99% of the world is an outlier. If your child is a weightlifter, amputee or plans to leave behind an extraordinarily thick skeleton we already know this isn’t for them. If you can look realistically at your child or if you’re willing to hear your pediatrician when they have the very uncomfortable talk with you about your child’s size then you might want to look at Kurbo.

According to Kurbo 88% of kids who met with Kurbo Coaches for 10 weeks:

  • Reduced BMI (body mass index)
  • Lost an average of 5-10 pounds
  • Exercised more frequently
  • Felt healthier and happier
  • Gained confidence

According to Stanford, “Since 1999, more than 80% of participating children and adolescents have achieved age-appropriate weight reduction.”

Kurbo is basically Stanford lite. For many children weight loss isn’t a goal. Simply maintaining their same weight while they grow taller is the goal.

I don’t know what will work for your kid. I know what it is to be a mother and see something in your child that the world will pinpoint as a weakness. We get them braces and contact lenses and the right clothes because we want to ease their way through social situations. We help our daughters learn to wear makeup and our sons get great hair cuts.

What we don’t want to do is apply weight to all of this. We don’t want our kids to feel ugly or unattractive if they aren’t thin so we pretend like they’re just a little overweight when the reality is that they’re unhealthy. No one is suggesting that skinny jeans are for everyone but to dismiss a Stanford University proven weight control program because we’re afraid that kids will be anorexic? Well that’s just ridiculous.

Until recently there was no such thing as Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. There was juvenile and adult onset diabetes. Juvenile diabetes was part of an autoimmune disorder and adult onset was almost exclusively lifestyle related. With obesity reaching epidemic proportions young children are now getting adult onset diabetes and the nomenclature needed to change.

Do not tell me that you have to diet to have an eating disorder. The obesity we’re seeing is a result of disordered eating. Let’s not try to pretend that it’s somehow less dangerous or important to fix than starving one’s self.

Kurbo might be a solution for your child and your family. Don’t be afraid to help your kid, they know there’s a problem and Haagen Daaz won’t fix it.



1 thought on “The Opposite of Childhood Obesity is not Anorexia”

  1. If you have a child that is technology oriented, I see where this app can have great results. As an RD, I know first hand that healthy eating education comes in many forms and needs to connect with the targeted person. I like that this app has parental involvement and offers Skype counseling sessions (which to me are key – discussing the reasons for the thought processes behind choices we make – in food and in life – helps solidify (or change) the foundation).

    I agree that anorexia is not the opposite of obesity but I do also believe that for some people apps can trigger an obsession with intake. If a child has a counselor involved and recognizes that tendency, they can use another tactic to help that child reach their goal – whether it be weight loss, maintenance or education.

    Often times it isn’t just the child that needs the education, it’s also the parents. Most of us inherently know that fruits and vegetables are healthier for us than processed or convenience foods but beyond medical status and education, there’s an emotional component that goes along with eating that I believe can’t be addressed without a trained counselor.

    I like the idea of this app and for the technologically motivated kid, I think it’s a great avenue to explore for a family to help ensure a healthy future.

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