Experts Torn On Weight Watchers’ Free Teen Program

As part of an effort to rebuild its brand as a health-and-wellness company rather than a diet brand (and to gain new loyal customers), Weight Watchers® announced in February that it will start a free weight management program for teens this summer. Controversy erupted immediately among health professionals and the public.

On one side, the unabating epidemic of childhood and adolescent obesity, with its related health risks, led some to applaud Weight Watchers for filling a critical need. Others were alarmed at a “diet” targeting adolescents, a population vulnerable to disordered eating and body image concerns.

Details of the teen program at press time in April were sparse. A
Weight Watchers press release stated:

“Weight Watchers intends to be a powerful partner for families in establishing healthy habits. During the summer of 2018, Weight Watchers will offer free memberships to teenagers aged 13 to 17, helping the development of health habits at a critical life stage.”

Media reports on the program suggest Weight Watchers and its critics agree that focusing on lifestyle—rather than weight—is the best way to help teens address the health risks of obesity and eating disorders. Much of the dispute may stem from old notions of “dieting” and from the company’s name (with its weight and diet focus) rather than the program itself.

Keep an eye out for details from Weight Watchers to see if the program is a good fit for teens looking to improve their health and nutrition.

Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD

Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD

Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, is a registered dietitian and a recent graduate of the UNC School of Medicine. She has made several appearances as a nutrition expert on CW&#39s San Diego 6, been quoted as a fitness expert in the New York Times, and is an ACE master trainer and award-winning author. She is currently pursuing a residency in pediatrics. Certifications: ACE, ACSM and NSCA

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