So the world of health and fitness is all in a tizzy recently with Weight Watchers launching a new app designed for kids with the intent of using their famous points system to teach them supposedly good food options from poor food options. As I no longer read the daily news and follow very few blogs or accounts online, I am not sure how big a backlash this will be or how extensive it will be. I have discussed it with some of my contacts and a lot of the parents I work with on a daily basis plus have dived through a few articles on it.
What does Coach Taylor think? Here comes the honest truth that might surprise some people out there.
You know me, I am not afraid to shy away from controversy if it is based on reality, which is something that is sorely missing from so much of society today. Reality, not controversy!
I am going to take one for the team here. I am going to say what need to be said. Because apparently no one else is willing to.
The truth is: I like the premise of the app, nay, I love the premise of the app.
Yeah, that’s right, I fully endorse telling kids that vegetables are good for them and cereal, cake, donuts, candy, and sugary drinks WILL FUCKING KILL THEM.
Now before you stop reading and go straight to sending me hate mail, stay the course and finish this blog, I mean, you’ve already committed a full minute of your life, which in modern times is akin to an eternity, so what is a few more minutes?
To be fair the food choices within the app are NOT GOOD. Butter and all fats are not bad for you. There needs to be a better indicator of this and a differentiation between good foods and bad foods that is based on more current research. In general thought it is not horrific. The focus on weight loss is probably a bit too strong and BMI is notoriously misleading.
The critics came out fast against the app. Parents groups and dieticians from all over have come out slamming the app and starting petitions to have it banned. The criticism was the usual rhetoric:
“Stop body shaming kids”
“Kids this age shouldn’t be on a diet”
“Telling kids foods are bad leads to a negative association with food”
“This ranking system will create eating disorders and disordered eating”
“This system will cause body dissatisfaction”
“Classifying foods as good or bad associates food with morality”
“Eating healthy is more expensive and this system will marginalize the poor”
The list of critiques goes on. But it is the same arguments that have been levelled against EVERY program or strategy aimed at dealing with the insanely huge problem of childhood obesity. And it is an insanely huge problem. When there are children as young as 6 suffering from type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome – we have a HUGE fucking problem. The groups protesting this app seemingly want to stick their heads in the sand and hope that the problems go away.
Well they aren’t going away. They are getting worse. We have to do SOMETHING about it.
The solution from the critics? Always the same. Encourage healthy eating, use positive rewards; parents should set a good example; tell them it’s ok to be obese; tell them all bodies are ok; make positive behaviour changes, make food affordable, change the living conditions.
How has that been going for everyone?
Encourage healthy eating? We have been for decades. Broccoli over cookies when they are both in the house? Hmmmm……Parents set a good example? 90% of parents have no fucking idea what healthy eating is, our culture is totally fucked there, so how is that supposed to work? It’s ok to be obese? No, it isn’t. All bodies are ok? No, there is a line where your high body fat is not ok. Make positive behavioural changes. What the fuck does that even mean? Make healthy food more affordable than McDonalds. It is, you’re just choosing the wrong stuff. Change living conditions of obese children. Um, OK, what are you going to do? Intern all the obese kids at government sponsored weight loss, I mean healthy positive living, camps?
Listen. I am NOT saying that the new weight watchers app is a solution to the issue. It really isn’t. Trust me, this app will be like every other program out there, it is going to dramatically help some kids and it is going to cause issues for some other kids. It is not the devils creation come to demonize all the kids today and shame them into the couches of therapists.
Weight Watchers is merely leveraging our already EXTREMELY fucked up relationship with food that is society wide. This app isn’t causing the problem, this app is merely a symptom of the problem.
But at least they are trying to do something.
The problem is you.
Yeah, that’s right. It’s you. It is most members of our society, it is most parents out there, it is the school system, the medical system, and just about every other aspect of modern western society.
We already live in a diet society, in a body focused society, in a weight loss society, in a body shaming society. It’s totally fucked but this app won’t make it worse.
As a culture we glorify shitty food, we glorify alcohol, we glorify parties, we glorify indulgence, we glorify ‘treating yourself’, and we glorify disordered eating. You can’t escape it anymore than you can prevent the Canadian winter from rolling in come December. Why?
It’s everywhere. Every TV show, every book, movie, commercial and magazine is filled with the message of indulgence. Every kids event is filled with the message of indulgence. Sport event? Here is the tray of cookies. School fundraiser? Let’s sell chocolate bars! Camping trip? SMORES! The weekend? Pizza! Birthday party, anniversary, graduation, anything? Cake, chips, candy, cupcakes, rice crispy treats. Breakfast? Cereal. (Yeah, I am on a never ending crusade against cereal).
Now everyone is thinking, ‘but Coach Taylor those are events to be celebrated and enjoyed!’ Yeah, true. And therein lays a deeper issue far more insidious than the Weight Watchers app. You.
Parents and educators and coaches. You are doing far more damage to little minds than the Weight Watchers app. You are associating positive life events with food. This is the flip side of the dieting culture and the part that EVERYONE ignores.
We only freak out about telling kids no and creating negative associations with shitty food. No one bats a fucking eye creating POSITIVE associations with shitty food. And when you call people out on this people fucking freak out because, ‘you have to indulge sometime,’ ‘you have to still live a little,’ ‘you have to enjoy life still.’
All true. But since when did those things have to equate to eating shitty sugar laden concoctions. You know that there are other rewards in the world besides food.
Because the truth is that in modern western civilization there is ALWAYS a birthday party, or school event, or holiday, or get together, or trip, or sporting practice, or something, that is associated with shitty fucking food.
And then it gets worse.
Love it or hate my friends, we all become our parents. I have noticed this more and more as I age. You start to hear your parents voice come out of your mouth, realize you are talking like them, feeling the way they feel about things, and moving like they move. We become who are parents are, not what our parents said.
So now comes the really hard to hear part. The reason you are more to blame than weight watchers.
Remember a few years ago when you stopped eating gluten? You know, just before you signed up with your friend for that supplement product. Which you don’t do now because it doesn’t fit with your paleo lifestyle. And you love being paleo way more than you liked low carb even before the gluten free days because, bacon. All of this is better than those nasty shakes with the green powdered vegetable concoction. Shit, that stuff was gross. And, I mean, paleo is OK but the damage eating meat does to the earth is just so bad, right? Thank fuck they make the Beyond Meat burger now! Maybe going vegetarian would work because then you could fit in wine, because wine = life.
Do you see it? Just take a moment.
Where do you think kids are learning about diet culture and developing negative associations with food?
It must be Weight Watchers. It must be the media.
Those jeans you’re trying so hard to fit into are still sitting there because when you ‘just lose a few pounds’ you will be able to wear them again. Not joining the kids for a swim in the pool because you don’t like being in a bathing suit is just normal.
Where do you think the reinforcement is coming from about the weight loss culture?
Kids hear and see everything.
The truth is that YOU need to change your association with food and the weight loss culture. That is what your kids see every single day. YOU need to stop watching the shows, reading the magazines, joining the programs that are so prevalent in our culture and we are all so seemingly fixated on. Until you love yourself and are comfortable with yourself you will not be able to make things better for the next generation.
Negative association with food and disordered eating patterns are built into our youth at every single step today. The Weight Watchers app isn’t to blame. You are. We all are.
Rewarding with food has to stop.
Glorifying shitty ‘treat’ foods has to stop.
Children’s menus shouldn’t exist and cereal should be considered poison.
Parents cooking two or three different meals needs to stop (I didn’t even know this was a thing until yesterday!).
The mantra that ‘everything is OK in moderation’ needs to die.
What about heroin? Arsenic? Mercury? DDT? See, not EVERYTHING is ok in moderation. Yes, I get it, a piece of cake or a chocolate chip cookie is not warfarin rat poison and if it were consumed in moderation that would be just fine. But our lives are not like that anymore.
Kids aren’t consuming these things in moderation.
The problem goes deeper than this to be sure and is beyond the scope of this article. Living off mass processed foods is killing us all. It isn’t just the treats now but also the acceptance of the massed produced food supply that has become common place in our culture. It is insidious.
The simple fact is this: there are foods that are bad for you.; there is a point that excess body fat is not OK; everything in moderation is not OK; watching your diet is sometimes necessary.
It would be amazing if we could accomplish this through positivity and encouraging messages. We have been trying. Not sure if you have noticed or not but it isn’t working.
People, children, are LITERALLY getting diseases and are dying from food. The next generation’s life expectancy is now lower than the previous generations for the first time in human history. Obesity and related issues are getting worse and spreading to other cultures as our mass processed food is introduced and heavily marketed to more and more countries.
This app won’t create anymore disordered eating than already exists. Our entire culture IS disordered eating.
There are foods that are bad for you. Period. Get over it.
Eat them sometimes if you want to, I don’t care. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are bad for you. Just because the taste receptors in your mouth enjoy them and you get a fucking rush off the dopamine hit doesn’t negate the fact that it is bad for you. Period.
There are bodies that are not OK. There is a level of body fat, of being obese, is not OK. We shouldn’t torment or tease anyone about that but we also shouldn’t be preaching a message of acceptance for it.
What is the solution? I don’t know. I have some ideas that if implemented work really well and in the future I will write more about them.
However, we live in a society of mixed messages and glorification of indulgence. We live in a society that has negative associations with food. We live in a society that is too busy accepting everyone and everything that change is nearly impossible.
This is what needs to be addressed and I don’t believe it every will be.
So don’t worry about society and the Weight Watchers app. First, take care of yourself and your relationship to food. Take care of your nutrition. Second, stop jumping on every new food trend and health trend out there. Lastly, be a positive role model for your kids and focus on what they need.
Now, before you jump down my throat with negative comments, read the three books below. If you have not read them I will give ZERO credence to you or your comments. Because I have no respect for people who have opinions that are not willing to put in any time learning.
Food: What the Heck Should I Eat, Mark Hyman
Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss
The Way We Eat Now, Bee Wilson