Weight Watchers Will Soon Offer Free Memberships to Teenagers


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Being a teenager is hard enough. Now, thanks to a new teen-oriented program by Weight Watchers, Gen Z will also have to face more pressure to lose weight and "fit in." How does that Simple Plan song go again? "I'm just a kid and life is a nightmare." 

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Starting this July when school is out, those between the graceful ages of 13 and 17 years old will get free six-week memberships if accompanied by an adult, according to the New York Post.

The new program, of which details are still to come, is a part of the company's new "strategic vision to make wellness accessible to all" by 2020, according to another press release. Other initiatives of the company include having 10 million people "adopt healthy habits," and increasing revenue by $2 billion. 

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"Our goal is to help those who need healthy habits to develop them at this critical life-stage," a spokeswoman for the company said in a statement

"We think there's a real opportunity to make an impact on a problem that is not currently being addressed effectively," the spokeswoman continued. 

The idea of having teens lead healthier lifestyles isn't anything new. Just take Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to help kids make healthier lifestyle choices like playing outside and eating more fresh produce. And in 2013, the United States Department of Agriculture announced it would start working on new standards that'll lead to healthier food options for school lunches.

But a calorie-counting diet program such as Weight Watchers? 

Some experts think it could work. "I think there is potential for this program, because learning about good nutrition is very appropriate," said Dr. Christopher Bolling, chair of the section on obesity for the American Academy of Pediatrics, according to the New York Post. "But the parents have to be involved."

But not all experts agree, arguing it could have a negative impact on a teen's already vulnerable body image.

"Weight Watchers really is dieting and focusing on just weight, and research has shown when the focus is on weight and dieting in teens, that is not an effective way to promote and sustain weight loss," Tomi Akanbi, a clinical nutrition coordinator at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, told CNBC. "It's not even helpful to promote overall wellness because we're also talking about body image and how these kids are experiencing themselves and food and their bodies, and dieting does not help with that."


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Promoting dieting in teens could also lead to eating disorders and damage their relationship with food.

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"We hope Weight Watchers acknowledges the risk and implements steps to screen for potential early signs of disordered eating and provides information on resources to find help," the National Eating Disorders Association said in a statement, according to CNBC.

Maybe we should just let kids be kids.

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