CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Weight Watchers announced they will offer their free memberships to kids ages 13 to 17 this summer, starting a furious debate across the nation.
The company said it’s their way of helping combat childhood obesity, but opponents say encouraging teens to diet could lead to eating disorders.
Weight Watchers encourages members to look at their meals in terms of points. Healthy foods have less points than junk food, and each person has a specific point allocation per day. But some think that could lead young, impressionable teens toward unhealthy obsessions.
Statistically, one of every three American kids are overweight or obese.
“This is a huge problem, it’s skyrocketing,” said Dr. Ana Maria Temple, an integrative pediatrician based in Charlotte. “In 2025, we’re estimated that 100% of kids are going to have a chronic disease.”
Despite the backlash, Dr. Temple believes young people could benefit from Weight Watchers.
“I think it has a stigma to it and a lot of people have associated it with dieting,” Dr. Temple said. “But really they teach you that not all calories are created equal. Limit the garbage but eat as much of the good food as possible.”
The National Eating Disorders Association tweeted their disapproval of the initiate: "The link between dieting and eating disorders is clear, and we are concerned about the new Weight Watchers promotion for teens.”
#WakeUpWeightWatchers" even started trending on social media Tuesday.
In response, Weight Watchers tweeted: "We take our responsibility seriously. We know that the teenage years are a critical life stage and opening WW to teens with consent from a parent/guardian is about families getting healthier. What we will be providing to teens is a program that guides healthy habits for life, not a diet.”