In an attempt to aid ever-increasing obesity levels, Weight Watchers has launched a scheme in the USA which gives teenagers an opportunity to join for free. Although the company may have had good intentions, critics have slammed the move.
A Well-Intentioned Incentive for Teenagers
The new incentive will allow teenagers aged 13 to 17 to sign up. Currently, children need to be a minimum age of 13 and accompanied by a parent or guardian to join. The target weight for any child wanting to join should be should be issued by a doctor. Furthermore, this should reviewed this every six to nine months.
Not Everyone Agrees
Body image campaigners have been extremely vocal in their opposition to the incentive. They have stated that young people were at a greater risk of developing eating disorders. Critics have stated their concerns through social media, with the hashtag “wake up weight watchers”. Some have accused Weight Watchers of “predatory marketing” by using an age group that can be vulnerable.
The controversial plan is already available in the USA and many have been critical of it. Weight Watchers are planning to roll out the free plan in the UK soon. The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has warned that encouraging teenagers to start dieting “sends entirely the wrong message” thus setting them on the path of fad diets.
The biggest concern from the BDA was that suggesting a teenager needs to start a diet sends a negative message. Rather than encouraging teenagers and building self-confidence, the Weight Watchers free plan suggests that young people aren’t good enough as they are, which can be detrimental.
Another concern expressed about the free plan is the potential risk of creating negative and obsessive behaviours towards food. Using a calorie-controlled diet can be helpful in some instances, but fixating on the restriction part of the diet can be dangerous. Rather than looking at calories and the Weight Watchers point system, the BDA is urging teenagers to consider their lifestyle and how they can make healthy choices that will benefit them in the long term.
Weight Watchers Are Sticking By Their Plan
Despite criticisms, Weight Watchers have defended the free plan. The company has emphasised that the aim of the plan is to encourage life-long healthy habits. They have consulted with healthcare professionals. Their intentions are to tackle high levels of childhood obesity. The company believes that the issue isn’t being addressed enough at the moment.