(Plus a List of Resources, In Case You’re as Fired Up as I Am) (Warning: I am very fired up.)
I’m slowly learning more about how diet culture and dieting negatively impact physical and mental health, but I am no expert. I’m starting to build a mental library of facts around childhood weight and health and how very little those two concepts actually relate to each other, but I am no expert. I’m on my way to understanding how to make a difference for the next generation, specifically the three children I’m raising, when it comes to food and body image, but I am no expert.
What AM I an expert on? I am an expert on how it feels to be told something is wrong with the way your body looks at age eight (when kids at school nicknamed me Blubber Girl). And age nine (when a teacher told me the bullying would stop when I “grew into my weight and looked like a model”). And age ten (when I was told directly that the only way to stop being bullied was to lose weight). And age eleven (when I was the only kid in my neighborhood to not be invited to the cool boy’s birthday party because I was “too fat”). And age twelve (when my tennis coach sat me down to talk about my “health” and how I needed to make better food choices in order to excel in my sport). And age thirteen (when I first started restricting, going whole days on only half a sandwich). And age fourteen (when I first tried purging and began walking to the neighborhood convenience store to buy laxatives, which I would take whenever I “felt fat”). And age fifteen (when I was put on my first official diet; eff you Atkins). And age sixteen (when I started wishing for an actual eating disorder so I’d “at least be skinny”). And age seventeen (when I was sat down (again) by adults in my life to discuss my “problematic weight gain”).
It didn’t end there. I know you know it didn’t end there. This is just what happened WHEN I WAS STILL A CHILD. The ages I list above are the ages the new Weight Watchers Kurbo App is directly targeting. You know who else directly targets children in order to create lifelong, paying customers? The pornography industry, that’s who. Why is it so much easier for us as a culture to vilify the sexual exploitation of our children while promoting an entire industry that exploits those same children’s needs for acceptance? Whyyyyyy.
I know this isn’t fun to read about, especially if you knew me during the years I describe above. I know it’s uncomfortable to look back and wonder how or if you contributed to my experiences. To that I say this: We were all doing the best we could. I don’t blame any individuals nor am I writing this as some sideways request for apologies. Sharing my story isn’t about calling people out, it’s about sharing my story.
I also know it’s painful to read about experiences that may trigger your own. I’ve learned through talking more openly about my own struggles that I’m not alone, none of us are alone, and I’m betting you can identify with some of if not most of what I’m describe above.
What I am hoping for is some discomfort: I want the details of my story to make anyone who reads this VERY uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that you can’t NOT do something about it. No one can change the past, but we can and MUST change what is happening now. We have to agitate and activate, and here’s how:
- Start with this statement from the National Eating Disorders Association. (Spoiler: NEDA is not a Kurbo fan.)
- Consider obeying the title of this New York Times article: Don’t Give Your Child This App.
- Then read this article from The Atlantic, which begins with the succinct: “Weight Watchers has a new app for children as young as 8. It might be better for the company than it is for pediatric health.” (HOW IS THIS LEGAL???)
- Mothers, get in formation.
- Read books like Intuitive Eating, Health at Every Size, and The F*ck It Diet to further educate yourself about diet culture, contribute to the fight against body shame, and begin your own healing process.
- Sign one (or all) of the many Change.org petitions asking Weight Watchers to remove the Kurbo app and stop targeting children.
- Write a protest letter to Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman (Who apparently has a daughter! WTF MINDY?!?) at Weight Watchers International, 675 Avenue of the Americas, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10010. (Thank you to Jessi Jean for this information.)
- Stop dieting. Stop commenting on your own body and others’. Stop complimenting weight loss and mentioning weight gain. Stop Stop Stop. (I warned you. Fired. UP.)
Thank you for being here, thank you for reading, thank you for doing something.