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  • Writer's pictureChloe Davis Giraldi, MS, RD, LDN

Teens Don't Need More People Watching Them, Weight Watchers

As a pediatric and adolescent eating disorder dietitian, the recent news of Weight Watchers offering free 6 week weight loss membership for teens is extremely disheartening.

Growth of sales is worth fueling an already raging, societal and media driven image warper? I think not.

The company said it wants to "help young people develop good habits at a critical age" critical age @weightwatchers do you mean the most critical age for teenagers to develop self-esteem and body image concerns? Why would you use that as a sales pitch? Targeting vulnerability is cruel, morally and ethically wrong.

Teenage years are only becoming more difficult with already challenging pressures and expectations that many in our field are trying to break down. It is a time where teenagers develop autonomy in their eating habits that are carried into the college years, and the rest of their lives.

It should be a time to provide them with tools to develop into their best selves and establish a solid foundation of well balanced behaviors. Focusing on healthy habits rather than the number on the scale. Why would we encourage 14-17 year olds to focus on counting points or checking their weight on a scale?? 14-17 year olds should be focusing on activities they enjoy, art, music, sports, friendships-not numbers. This age range is still undergoing growth and development, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In a study done by Swanson et. al. using the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement, a nationally representative sample of 10,123 adolescents ranging from 13- to 18-years-old, it was found that the rates of AN, BN, BED, SAN (sub threshold AN), and SBED (sub threshold BED) were 0.3%, 0.9%, 1.6%, 0.8%, and 2.5%, respectively.

In terms of illness onset, the median ages for onset of AN, BN, BED, and SBED was about 12- to 13-years-old. with the following mortality rates: 4.0% for anorexia nervosa, 3.9% for bulimia nervosa, and 5.2% for EDNOS. Regardless of diagnoses, or age of onset, eating disorders were associated with significant SI, SA and functional impairment which requires long term mental health resources and early intervention.

The public health significance of eating disorders is often underemphasized, and oftentimes big media and corporate companies overpower the voices of those making progress, but we won’t stop because this conversation is far from over. @oprah should be ashamed of the messaging behind this movement for all teenagers, of all gender identities.

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