An obese debate: Weight Watchers to offer free memberships to teens

February 13, 2018 06:58 AM

A program some of you may use to lose weight is now facing major backlash.

Weight Watchers has announced they will offer free summer memberships for teens. Some critics believe this new campaign could send the wrong message to teens.

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Pediatrician Dr. Stephen Cook at Golisano Children's Hospital told News10NBC about 18 percent of his patients have obesity. Statewide, a little more than 30 percent of kids have obesity. 

These numbers have driven Weight Watchers to offer a solution -- a new program targeting teens. The service would be free to teens ages 13 to 17 over the summer. Teens will be required to attend meetings with a parent or guardian who will provide consent.

Critics say this could get teens on the wrong path early by obsessing over calorie counting and their weight. 

Dr. Cook says Weight Watchers would only be effective for a certain group of teens with a high level of obesity, for others it could be counterproductive. 

"For teens especially we worry about body image, disordered eating, and the risk for eating disorders -- that's a big concern," Dr. Cook said. "If they're going to Weight Watchers online or doing groups or individuals, symptoms might be getting worse for eating disorders with no one there to monitor it."

Dr. Cook also brings up the social component to Weight Watchers and questions whether teens could handle something like that. He says teens who are trying to lose weight should first consult with their pediatrician.

Dr. Cook says the best way to live a healthy lifestyle is for teens to eat well-balanced meals and remain active by exercising.

In a tweet, Weight Watchers said they understand the concerns. The company assured the public they will be providing a teens a program guiding healthy habits for life -- not a diet. 

Weight Watchers said it will share more specific criteria and guidelines when it launches the program.


Kaci Jones

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