Weight Watchers’ brand new focus on teenagers is actually prompting the ire of some health advocates

Weight Watchers is actually attracting the scorn of social media users for offering teenagers free memberships as part of a brand new corporate strategy.

This specific week, Weight Watchers said This specific plans to partner with families to establish healthy habits, by offering free memberships to teens 13 through 17 This specific summer. The company plans to help “the development of healthy habits at a critical life stage,” This specific announced on Wednesday in a press Discharge.

Teens will be required to attend meetings which has a parent or guardian who will provide consent. Weight Watchers said This specific will share more specific criteria in addition to also guidelines when This specific launches the program. The dieting giant is actually rebranding to focus on the purpose of “inspiring healthy habits for real life,” CEO Mindy Grossman said Wednesday.

The move mirrors a trend inside health in addition to also wellness industry toward overall wellness as people shun diets. “We think there’s a real opportunity to make an impact on a problem that will is actually not currently being addressed effectively,” a Weight Watchers spokeswoman told CNBC on Wednesday.

Yet some people were not convinced, in addition to also they accused Weight Watchers of preying on youngsters who could develop unhealthy habits in addition to also body image.

In a statement, the National Eating Disorders Association said This specific was “very concerned” about Weight Watchers’ promotion, because 35 percent of “normal” dieters can develop disordered eating in addition to also teens are at an especially vulnerable stage of life.

“Half of teenage girls in addition to also one-third of teenage boys use dangerous weight control methods — such as smoking, laxative abuse, in addition to also skipping meals — in an attempt to meet unrealistic body ideals,” a spokeswoman said.

“We wish Weight Watchers acknowledges the risk in addition to also implements steps to screen for potential early signs of disordered eating in addition to also provides information on resources to find help,” she added.

The company did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Those criticisms were echoed by different health advocates, who say encouraging teens to count calories in addition to also diet is actually dangerous. Tomi Akanbi, clinical nutrition coordinator at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, sees patients who adopt their parents’ weight-loss plans, without realizing that will teens need to eat certain foods to help them grow.

When teens focus on calories, she said, they tend to skip meals in addition to also eat too little, or replace nutrients with empty calories coming from sugary sources like soda. Instead, Akanbi encouraged teens to create a diet that will’s heavy in fruits, vegetables, protein in addition to also grains — in addition to also void of refined starches in addition to also sugars, mixed with at least an hour of daily exercise.

“Weight Watchers actually is actually dieting in addition to also focusing on just weight, in addition to also research has shown when the focus is actually on weight in addition to also dieting in teens, that will is actually not an effective way to promote in addition to also sustain weight loss,” Akanbi said.

“This specific’s not even helpful to promote overall wellness, because we’re also talking about body image in addition to also how these kids are experiencing themselves in addition to also food in addition to also their bodies, in addition to also dieting does not help with that will,” she added.

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