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?”

#HousefulOfCookies 2018

I miss baking, which I used to do much more frequently. (Yes, for anyone who pays extreme attention to detail, this is exactly how I started off last year’s #HousefulOfCookies post too!)

Thanks to Natasha and #HousefulOfCookies, I’m back in the baking business, at least for one batch of Nutella Brownie Cookies.

I’m sharing a recipe from PointsKitchen*, and hope you’ll join ALL the bloggers in the hop. You’ll be well-prepared for any cookie exchanges you have on tap in December AND for any visitors who hail from the North Pole!

The recipe says it each cookie is 3 Weight Watchers points. Guess I need to add another fraction for the quality control process!

And the recipe:

Nutella Brownie Cookies (by PointsKitchen)

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup white sugar
1 egg
¼ cup nutella
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
⅔ cup white flour
1.5 Tbsp mini chocolate chips
2 Tbsp cookie butter (or nutella) for topping


Preheat oven to 325F, spray a large cookie sheet with non stick spray.
With an electric mixer beat together the applesauce, vanilla and sugar for 2 minutes, add the egg and continue beating, then add the Nutella while still beating.
Using a spoon mix in dry ingredients and chocolate chips. Spoon cookies onto cookie sheet and in the middle of each cookie add ¼ tsp of cookie butter, you can use Nutella for the middle if you don’t have any cookie butter (I used Nutella – pk).

Bake for 8-10 minutes, makes 20 cookies at 3 smart points each..

Nutritional info per cookie..

Calories 70…Fat 2g…Sat fat 0.9g…Carbs 10g.. Fiber 0.5g..Sugars 8.6g…Protein 1.2g

Please join my fellow cookie enthusiasts!

Holiday Rich Butter Cookies – Houseful Of Nicholes
Rolo Pretzel Cookies – Creating Really Awesome Fun Things
Best Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies –  Ashley & Co
Minty Holiday Cookies – Amy Ever After
Scottish Shortbread Christmas Cookie Wedges – Albion Gould
Loaded Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – This Worthey Life
Brown Sugar Shortbread – Eat Picks
Pretty Decorated Sugar Cookies – 100 Directions
Christmas Rose Cookies – Divas With A Purpose
No Bake Cookies – Hysterical Mom
Norwegian Cookies – Kringla – Little Family Adventure
Cake Mix Christmas Cookies  – Mom Generations

** Note

i intentionally did not link to PointsKitchen. Although the recipe is yummy, the site seems a little “iffy” to me! You’re welcome for the lack of viruses/malware!

What’s YOUR favorite holiday cookie?


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.