3 reasons for, 3 against Kurbo

weight loss apps for kids

Third-grade Paula, a student at W.E. Cherry Elementary School in Orange Park, Fla., was not a fan of the communal weigh-in. I don’t remember exactly how the process worked, but it was a public enough thing that your classmates knew your weight. Mine was far above average, the number was embarrassing and it was among the first of many times I felt self-conscious about my weight.

weight loss apps for kids
Third-grade Paula (they don’t show up well, but the patches on my pants were (if I remember correctly) candy wrapper logos. Fitting for this post!

Was my classmates’ behavior fat-shaming or was it just third-graders being candid? Whatever it was, it didn’t feel good.

Bill Maher says fat-shaming needs to make a comeback. James Corden disagrees.

I’ve seen multiple conversations recently about the acquisition of Kurbo Health by WW. Kurbo is a “mobile health company,” and “WW” is the new identity of Weight Watchers. Kurbo is an app directed to kids and teens that says it helps them manage their food, while also providing them access to coaches (for premium customers).

Clearly, the majority of my acquaintances find this move appalling (judging by what I’ve read on social media). It has touched on childhood fat-shaming pain and led to many triggers. The popular press seemed to be in the “con” column too. Here are a few examples:

New Weight Watchers diet app puts kids at risk for eating disorders and body shaming

Weight Watchers new app for kids is a very bad idea

I help people recover from disordered eating. Don’t give your kid this app (paywall)

The jury is still out for me, but here are three considerations on the “maybe it has some merit” side and three on the “maybe it is a bad idea” side:

On the merit side:

  1. Looking at the science objectively, Kurbo’s pre-WW incarnation demonstrated some results. A meeting abstract (authored by Kurbo creator Thea Runywan, to be clear) approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics said, “ The Kurbo program outcomes indicate that the program exceeds the minimum clinical criteria for pediatric weight loss efficacy. These outcomes are a strong indication that the Kurbo program is highly effective in helping kids lose weight sustainably and improve metabolic health.”
  2. One feature Kurbo touts is the relationship between the user and their “coach,” contending it is helpful to give a teenager an opportunity to interact regarding their relationship with food with a third party (instead of a parent). My disordered eating in my teen years was interwoven with the strange dynamics of some parental communication. I think a coach would have been a good thing.
  3. A 2018 Pew Research Center study found that 45% of teens are online “almost constantly.” Perhaps meeting them where they are is something that ultimately helps them.

But on the other hand:

  1. Although the Corden/Maher conflict is about “fat-shaming,” there are so many nuances that contribute to how we feel about our bodies. How do you draw the line between helping a young person be healthy (necessary) and inferring that they are somehow inferior because of their size (absolutely unnecessary)? Every young person should be encouraged to embrace their body. If the app chips away at self-esteem, that’s a problem.
  2. Kurbo doesn’t come without spending cash. The “best value” is $294 for six months. Is $50 a month worth better health? Perhaps. But it’s something for each family to mull, and in my experience WW isn’t getting more flexible with time (for example, we used to pay weekly; now our payments are auto deducted monthly. I’ve been on the program for various stretches for 36 years. In my most recent period, I’ve been on since January 2018 and have dropped around 25 pounds, but I’m at a plateau (my fault) and have to make some decisions about what I’m doing with my $45 a month.
  3. No app can address the root causes that lead teenagers to reach unhealthy weights. Although there are also some physical causes that have to be dealt with, many times teenagers overeat for the same reason adults overeat: they are filling some other void that food can never fix.

In closing

James Corden said, “fat-shaming is just bullying,” and I feel that to my soul.

I don’t want a single child or teenager to be fat-shamed or to do what I did as a teenager — eat so little and lose so much weight that my hands turned orange from all the carrots, I wet my bed from all the Tab I had consumed and my periods disappeared for years.

I don’t want to be blind to the problems of an app like Kurbo; I have been loyal to WW and trusted its science for decades, but corporations can change and lose sight of the goal. (I also, as I said when I looked back at my Ration Challenge post, have a hard time reconciling the fact that I spend around $45 a month to work toward training my mind and body to eat LESS when that money could go toward people who truly don’t have access to enough food.)

At the end of his commentary, James Corden said this about/to Bill Maher: “While you’re encouraging people to think about goes into their mouths, just think a little bit harder about what comes out of yours.”

I don’t know how I feel about Kurbo. At this point, though, I’m not in the camp of dismissing it completely. We all reach our weight loss goals in different ways. For many of us, we have been fighting some type of weight battle all our lives.

Maybe the app should be given a chance for some kids/teens.

No matter what, we should all be more aware of helping the children and teens in our lives be more at home with the bodies they inhabit.

This post was originally published on Medium as “Should Kurbo be curbed?”

4 Ways to Exercise Again After a Health Setback

Exercise again after a health setback

I was never a fast runner, but I have always been competitive with myself. I approached every finish line at a sprint, hoping to shave a few seconds off my time.

That was true until October 2, 2016. That day, I rolled into the finish area of a 5K as the passenger in a golf cart, because I was experiencing worrisome enough heart rate issues to compel me to ask the organizers to take me off the course a  little over a mile in. Of a race I was simply walking.

Although I did some half-hearted workouts after that, went to a few yoga classes, and took some walks, that day is when I gave up and stopped working out.

The Sweat Thearapy workout at Happy Motoring on June 2 will turn out to be the day that jump started everything again. Here are four game-changers that are going to be part of this new transition back to the old fit ways.

Exercise again after a health setback

Overcoming the Fear

When I had a follow-up with my electrophysiologist’s PA recently for a routine check related to my exercise-induced tachycardia, this is how the conversation went (also, it’s how the routine check four months earlier with the doctor went):

Her: Any problems?

Me: No

Her: Have you been exercising, which would have to happen for you to know if there are problems?

Me: Well, no.

Her: You won’t know if you don’t exercise.


It may be the electrical activity in my heart that is the “problem,” but it turns out my head is where the biggest irregularities are.

I hated having to get picked up at that 5K. I’ve hated working out at my usual place that does so many partner drills because I push myself too hard, afraid I’m going to let my partner down. It is difficult to trust that the medication will keep everything in check.

I became afraid to work out and got stuck.

Making Adjustments

If you are returning to a workout habit after a setback and/or extended break, get comfortable with doing things differently.

I wasn’t sure how the June 2 workout would be structured, but I went into it prepared to do what worked for me even if it didn’t fit with what the majority was doing. (The workout was advertised as “all levels” and it lived up to that billing, but you never know. Some “all levels” workouts end up being intimidating and too strenuous for a beginner or returning participant.)

Here are some ways to adjust a workout. (And a good instructor will offer proposed modifications to accommodate various levels.)

  • Reduce intensity (turn a jumping jack into a step jack or one of these variations, for example)
  • Keep moving, but slow down. If an activity is too difficult and there’s not a variation that feels right, don’t do it. March in place if possible. Walk for a few minutes. Listen to your body’s warning signs
  • Be clear about what you need. I mentioned that partner drills are one of my bugaboos. Imagine my emotions when the instructor announced — you guessed it! — partner drills. Turns out she had incorporated them in a way that wasn’t threatening. Each partner was taking a turn at a station, but the activity didn’t depend on partner A finishing something before partner B could start. It worked for me but I was prepared to say “I am not going to be able to keep up with a partner; I’ll take a walk and meet you all after this section is done”
  • Cut it short. If the planned workout is too long for you, it’s okay to stop early (make sure to cool down, though, and hydrate well)

Creating a Plan

One of the awards given at the weekly Weight Watchers meetings I attend is the 4-week award.

Each week, our leader asks this question of the group before presenting the 4-week awards: “Why is the 4-week period important?”

Answer: Because that’s what it takes to establish a habit. (Note: that is the Weight Watchers theory …. opinions vary. I agree with Charles DuHigg that the habit of eating chocolate can be ingrained much faster than other habits, let’s say regular exercise, making progress on a book or saving money.)

I’m saying a workout eight days ago was the start of a habit, yet I haven’t lifted a weight or walked a mile since then. There’s a small caveat because I had my implantable loop recorder replaced a few days ago and have activity restrictions for the next week.

But I’m here to tell you, readers, regular fitness is going to become a thing for me again as soon as these activity restrictions are lifted.

Remembering How Good it Feels

Working out has physical benefits, of course, but it just feels fantastic!

The sun (if you’re outside), the sweat, the collective energy of being with other positive people, being in touch with your body, being away from a screen. All of it.

Everything about working out (despite its difficulty) adds up to walking away feeling good.


One of the best parts of my workout that day was meeting a fellow Twitter friend for the first time. Thanks, Harry/@hdoug11 for recognizing me and saying hello. Ironically, I had just been involved in a thread that morning about how so many of us in the Tallahassee Twitter community have never met in person. This was a great start to making in-person connections with Twitter friends who make social media fun and as wonderful as the workout.

Exercise again after a health setback

Okay, great hair (me – not him) is NOT a workout benefit!

And heck, the $4 mimosas provided tasty hydration and *may* be one of the features of this workout situation that got me out the door!

Exercise again after a health setback

Details About Sweat Therapy’s Workouts at Happy Motoring

My kick in the pants to get out of my funk happened because Sweat Therapy is offering free summer workouts each Saturday in June at a venue I had been curious about anyway, Happy Motoring. Visit this Facebook page for more information on the workouts.

Are you struggling with being “stuck” in a workout funk or standstill? Let me know in the comments (or message me) and let’s talk about how you, too, can have a ball working out after a health setback.

*Note: Please check with your physician to clear your exercise plan before starting.

Move Nourish Believe Challenge (Week Three Wrap-Up)


Week three of the Move Nourish Believe Challenge has just ended. This was the final week of the challenge, and although I am relieved to let go of the daunting number of tags and hashtags required every day (five!) I am sorry to see it go, and hope the connections I have made remain long after the daily challenge assignments have ended. This was “believe” week.

Monday’s challenge was “Spoil yourself! Do something just for you today! Take a walk, go to yoga, spoil yourself!”

Walking? Yoga? I went for the ultimate (for me) “spoil yourself” item  … Pop Culture!!

Day 11

Tuesday’s challenge was “5 Mindful Minutes  – Do good to your body, meditate for 5 minutes and find your zen.”

I loved this day’s prompt. But I didn’t do a structured “meditation-y” thing. For me, five minutes with no headphones in, just me, the sky, the bird sounds, and some movement (via walking), was freeing enough.

Day 12

Wednesday’s challenge was “Be Happy – show us your happy place!”

Just one happy place? I chose a picture of me running with women at the Gadsden Correctional Institution. Physically, it is a place of boundaries and mandatory uniformity. Add running to the mix, and everyone can transcend those boundaries and let their own individual spirits soar.

Day 13

Thursday’s challenge was “Thankful Thursday – Let us know what you are thankful for!”

Again, how to choose just one thing? But my mind goes daily to the women I met in Guatemala — old and young — the picture below was taken the first full day I was in Guatemala when I visited in July 2011. The joy in the dancing was so pervasive.

Day 14

Friday’s challenge was “Share the love – s/o to your #1 supporter/motivator”!

Gotta hand it to the family on this one. To the husband who deals with the budget hit our family takes from my running and paying a coach. To my daughter who drives my son to the bus stop on my run days so I can get my run in early. To my son who I really miss running with but who I hope will come back to the fold. Neither of them would claim running as “their thing,” but they bend over backwards to support the fact that it is mine.

Day 15

And just like that, the three-week Move Nourish Believe Challenge is winding down! To read about how it was structured, visit this link. AND there’s a Twitter Party on Wednesday night (February 26) at 8 p.m. Eastern for a last hurrah and the announcement of the winner of the $1,000 Lorna Jane shopping spree.  Use the hashtag #mnbchallenge.

Thank you to Lorna Jane and Fit Approach for organizing and sponsoring this challenge.

MNB SKY with writing

Move Nourish Believe Challenge (Week Two Wrap-Up)


I just completed week two of the Move Nourish Believe Challenge. I do challenges frequently, and often take a “day by day” approach (i.e., figuring out the day’s assignment the night before or morning of); in the case of this challenge I just figured out that the reason the entire week’s assignments had to do with food was because it was “Nourish” week. Duh.

Monday’s challenge was “Go meatless – skip meat today! Try vegetarian/vegan meals.”

Going meatless was pretty easy! I had just made the “Rainbows and Butterflies Pasta Salad” for my #FeedSouthAfrica post, so my lunch was easy. I enjoyed a meatless breakfast and dinner as well.

plated pasta

Tuesday’s challenge was “TYLTW – Take your lunch to work today!”

Now I’m getting a little repetitive, I guess, but it was a day for Rainbows and Butterflies again! Good thing they were tasty!


Wednesday’s challenge was “Write it down! Journal your food today and share your WIAW with us”!

Probably the hardest (and most illuminating day of them all). I use LoseIt, but for years now I have only used it first thing in the morning to register that day’s weight. On Wednesday, I used it to record everything that went in my mouth (as well as my activity). It was an important reminder that tracking what we eat is a powerful thing (and the ability to scan barcodes to quickly pull up/track a food is awesome!).

day eight

Thursday’s challenge was “Smoothie Day! Happy Thirsty Thursday! Make a healthy smoothie today”!

I didn’t make a smoothie, but I used the day as an opportunity to make my first visit to Axios Salt Spa + Juice Bar. Melissa whipped up a chia-choco-tilla (vanilla almond milk, raw cacao powder, chia seeds, honey, and an added scoop of SFH vanilla recovery whey protein). It was honestly the densest food item I have ever consumed through a straw … it is intended to be a healthy meal replacement and it was definitely filling. Although the smoothie looked like a traditional chocolate milkshake, I quickly learned that it is a bit of an acquired taste since the natural sweeteners are not as intense as the sugary milkshakes I am accustomed to. It’s worth the transition!


Friday’s challenge was “Go raw Friday! Choose a recipe and go raw”!

I am usually completely up for a recipe challenge but Valentine’s Day and a busy day at work as well as company coming into town conspired against me. Therefore I just grabbed some fruit and gave myself a raincheck to do a recipe later. (I did in the course of my research (before I gave up on actually preparing a recipe) discover Jill at The Kitchen Goddess – check out her site!).


Now that I am “on to” this “theme” set-up, I am looking forward to “Believe” week! It’s the last week in the challenge; feel free to join us! For more details, visit this link.

Thank you to Lorna Jane for sponsoring this challenge. Check out their lovely fitness apparel via this link.

As the finale of the week, I had the privilege today of running for Gareth (who I always run for) and for Cheyenne, at the “Flash” 12K race, which is run in memory of Tim Simpkins, a beloved Tallahassee runner who passed away from cancer (Tim used to run through the streets of Tallahassee in super hero garb).  Cheyenne, an infant, died on January 31, 2014, from a very rare form of cancer. Her page is here, and her family can use your prayers.

cheyenne flash


Move Nourish Believe Challenge (Week One Wrap-Up)


The first week of the Move Nourish Believe Challenge is over. I have really enjoyed the structure of the various challenges, and the new people I have been able to interact with.

Monday’s challenge was “sweat it out — show us your favorite way to sweat”!

Monday was a “stretching” day for me but I shared an older “sweaty” picture of a running day; running is always my favorite way to sweat.

Challenge Day One

Tuesday’s challenge was “Change it up! – Sweat a new way”!

Tuesday was a “regular run” day for me but I shared a picture from my “Kangoo” workout last year. It was definitely a new way to work out and a fun challenge!

Challenge Day Two

Wednesday’s challenge was “Let’s get planking — plank at least five minutes today”!

I did this in five one-minute segments: an elbow plank, a regular plank, a left side plank, a right side plank, and an elbow plank.

Challenge Day Three

Thursday’s challenge was “Buddy Up – work out with a friend today”!

Since I had no buddies for my 6 am run, I shared a picture from last summer, when I got together with my friends Diane and Amelia for a Saturday morning workout (I ran with Diane then kept running while she did an open water swim with Amelia) on Clearwater Beach.

Challenge Day Four

Friday’s challenge was “Show us your five fitness faves”!

Five Fitness Faves

My faves are (clockwise from top left):

1) My coach, Jeff Kline;

2) Yoga;

3) The child I run for through I Run for Michael, Gareth;

4) The camaraderie of runners (this picture is from our day running “Megs Miles” from Badass Fitness);

5) “The sheer joy of running.”

(And although I was only supposed to demonstrate five things, it’s important to note that Charity Miles is almost always part of my running!)

There you have it! There are two more weeks left in the challenge, so please feel free to join us! For more details, visit this link.

Thank you to Lorna Jane for sponsoring this challenge. Check out their cool fitness apparel via this link.

And although today wasn’t an official challenge day, I’ll close with the highlight of the day. My son (who has been sucked into a few years of gaming after many years of being an active youngster) joined me for the “Run for the Cookies” (he ran the mile, I ran the 5K). It was a happy happy moment.

Cookie Run Mother Sun

Elf Retirement

Tomorrow is MLK Day and the Christmas tree finally came down today (took us long enough, right?). I have one more post-Christmas piece of business to do: take the “Elf 4 Health” button off of my sidebar.


As I retire my Elf4Health button for this year, I want to thank the creators, Lindsey from The Lean Green Bean, and Elle from Nutritionella. Lindsey’s and Elle’s creation, the Elf for Health Holiday Challenge, was a six-week challenge that started in late November. It was designed to help us support one another in eating healthy and staying fit through the temptation-filled and schedule-busting holidays.

The challenge included daily “assignments,” a Facebook support group, prizes, and the opportunity to be paired with an “elf partner” every two weeks. Although I wasn’t especially worried about holiday disruptions to schedule and nutrition, it was nice to have the company of other like-minded “elves.” I think that my elf-interactions are the biggest take-away as I retire my elf button until next year.

Elf Number One (from weeks one and two): Madeline from Food, Fitness, and Family. On “Eat the Rainbow” day, when we were encouraged to make sure our plates were colorful (and therefore more healthy), she sent me this helpful graph which she created based on information at HealthyHawaii.com:

rainbow eating
On the day we were encouraged to share “different” or unique exercises, I told her how much I enjoyed the child-like yet challenging “bear crawl,” which is covered in this post of “animal moves”:  http://gregcarver.com/blog/2009/animal-walks-fit-for-a-beast/.

After Madeline, I was paired with Rachel W for weeks three and four. We were both struggling with super-busy times at work, so our exchanges were not elaborate but they fortified each of us nonetheless. She had just finished her first half marathon (congrats!!) and she was super-encouraging as I made my final 2012 attempt to break 30 in a 5K. (I didn’t break it but it was still fun.)

One story about this mid-point of the challenge. One of the days, our “assignment” was to do a Random Act of Kindness.  On that day, I put a $5 bill in a Christmas card, drove through a Starbucks drive through, and told the person on duty to pay for someone’s coffee with it and tell them happy holidays. Then I had to grab some food before an evening commitment. I got in the drive through for Zaxby’s. As I was waiting to place my order, a guy knocked on my window. The first thing he said was, “Thank you for rolling down your window.” Then he said, “I’m not going to ask for money.” Then he asked if I would get him something to eat. Given that my entire elfin objective that day was to do good for someone else, how could I say no? The funny thing was the guy had an order, not just a “get me some food”! He did say he was flexible as to what kind of sauce I got him. 🙂 He said he would meet me after I got the food in the drive through. When I gave it to him, he declined a bottle of water I offered him. I asked him his name. It was Malachi. I went to shake hands with him and he asked for a fist bump instead. Now, I am pretty sure Malachi’s Zaxby’s routine may be a pretty regular thing but seriously how could I refuse a stranger food on “do something kind” day? If he had asked for money, I may have made a different choice. But feeding the guy seemed like the right thing to do. So here’s a *fist bump* for kindness and Malachi.

When I got switched to my third elf, Erin M., for weeks five and six, I must have lost all track of time because I was still emailing her a few days ago when I guess the challenge ended the first week of January!! Our exchanges were all email (it is possible to interact without Facebook and Twitter as it turns out!) and they were really enjoyable. I think Erin has the distinction of having one of the toughest jobs for someone who wants to stay fit and on a nutritious path: being a server at The Cheesecake Factory! She’s also a full time student so …….. phew! Kudos to her for her commitment to getting and staying fit. She has recently started spinning and has an interest in yoga so we enjoyed chatting about those topics.

I see time and time again in the fitness world and, especially, among the people I see every day, how much it matters to know someone is “on your side.” I see what a difference it can make that they understand how important your goals are to you and they provide a word of encouragement, an invitation to go for a walk, or a link to a cool recipe just when the wind is out of your sails.

Thank you, Lindsey and Elle, for all of the work you put into activating the Healthy Elf Army during the holiday season of 2012!


A Little Kid Imagination

Perhaps it is folly to try to blog in the midst of a vacation trip, after two mai tais.  But I have a commitment to myself (and you) to write once a week so here goes.  A few observations from an unexpected trip to the “happiest place on earth.”
1.  It is an amazing treat to get to spend time with friends from middle school (we are here to visit Wayne’s friend, Meleah, who has been his friend since middle school).  And to see her children (her daughter and teammates are down from Michigan for a volleyball tournament) and my children (and niece) make new connections.  At first our girls and the Michigan girls didn’t mingle.  Somehow the novelty of hearing Elizabeth’s and Tenley’s southern accents was the catalyst for interaction and next thing I knew, everyone was in the pool together. 
2.  Although it is a hit and miss experience, it is nice to shake up the fitness routine by figuring out a way to keep it going on the road.  (It is also a huge motivator to know I need to keep reporting in to Daily Mile.)  I had a bland experience at the Wingate Inn “fitness center,” a sweaty but great run through the adjoining corporate park, two challenging stationary bike workouts here at the Regal Sun Resort, and a hot, sweaty, but invigorating run along Lake Buena Vista Blvd, including a discovery of a little diversion through an “island walk.” 
3.  It is a weird dichotomy to be reading a book called, “You’re Not the Boss of Me — Brat-Proofing your 4-12 year old child” when you are at a place where pretty much every interaction has to do with spending money on something child-centric, making a family decision about where to eat amongst differing desires, or seeing young children in all-out tantrum mode.  Although I often feel that I am behind the eight ball on this, it was rewarding to see Wayne Kevin get to spend a day at EPCOT for “free,” having spent a day in January sharing oobleck with the children of the Springfield Housing Project for his Disney Day of service. 
3.  It is mindbending to see your children grow up.  When Wayne Kevin and I were at Ridemakerz, he chose stickers to decorate the car(s) he had just built.  When the stickers didn’t look that great on the car, I said, “well, you can use them on your notebooks next year” (he will be entering 6th grade).  He gave me that look – the one I have become accustomed to raising a rising 9th grader.  I said, “Oh, too little kid for you, huh?”  The comment that floored me was this:
But I still have a little kid imagination.
May you always.
I will “run” into you next week, readers!