Count Allergies, Not Calories… Why We Need To Foster A Healthy Relationship with Food

Count Allergies Not Calories by The Allergy Chef

What Do I Think About The New Weight Watchers App For Kids?

With the new Weight Watchers App for kids, there’s a lot of talk online about how it may or may not be helpful. There are many people with initials after their names chiming in on both sides, and rightfully so. At the end of the day, it’s our job as parents to help foster a healthy relationship between food and our children. When that relationship goes wrong, a LOT can go wrong in their lives as adults.

Am I frustrated that Weight Watchers created the app? Maybe. Honestly, I think of it in a different way (which may leave me biased), and I’m going to share that with you today.

A Little History on My Weight

In kindergarten, I was the fattest kid you’d ever meet. I was huge in my opinion. When I was that young, the adults in my life didn’t make me feel bad about it. As my weight increased, the teasing at school did too. Honestly, had I had access to the WW App at that age, I’d probably have died from an eating disorder by now.

Enter 4th grade. I KNEW I was huge. It wasn’t something you could hide. I couldn’t fit into kids clothes anymore, unless it was boys husky pants (still hate the word). Again, if you had given me the app, I’d be dead by now from starvation. It was around this time that the negative comments from the adults in my life started. They weren’t outright negative most of the time, but sometimes… it was awful. Can you imagine being a tween and being put down by the people who are supposed to protect you?

This pattern continued and only got worse for another FIFTEEN years. It was only then that I was properly diagnosed as allergic (and severely intolerant) to everything, including water. The weight fell off. No really. In the first month, I lost over 50 pounds.

Two years after that point, I was down over two hundred pounds, but because of the severity of my condition, I ended up almost dying anyway. If you’ve read Our Story, you know I was given 30 days to live. That’s when I was at my lowest weight, and had lost over 30% of my body mass in 30 days.

Here’s the kicker: you could have never given me an app to track weight loss. It would have NEVER worked. In fact, there are some great bloggers out there sharing their stories, and you’ll see how weight and medical conditions are linked. Krysten from recently shared more about her PCOS journey and how it changed her weight.

Here’s What I’m really Getting At: We Live In A Society That’s Rather Ill

We have an insane amount of kids dealing with food allergies, gut health issues, mental health issues, and MUCH more. At what point will the medical establishment start getting to the ROOT cause?

I read something so interesting once. It was in reference to a medication we’ll call xyz. The statement was, “Your body isn’t xyz deficient”. It was SO true. When we look at the ailments of western society and tackle the root cause, you’ll see that most people on medication probably need “alternative” forms of therapy.

Don’t misread that however. If you’re having a heart attack, oh my goodness go to the doctor asap. If you’re dealing with complications from obesity, work to determine the root cause and lose the weight. Sure, there are some people just eating themselves into a hole. I can promise you this: when I was in kindergarten, I wasn’t. Neither was one of our kids (he had an undiagnosed food allergy as well that caused unreasonable weight gain).

Did you see those quotes around the word alternative? Unfortunately when people take their health into their own hands, they’re sometimes seen as using alternative therapies, as if to say that pharmaceuticals are the only approved treatment available.

Back To My Story A Bit

In my case, here’s a great example: never did a single western doctor decide to check my levels for vitamins, minerals, and toxicity. I did that on my own. Guess what? My vitamin D was 4. FOUR. It’s measured from 1 to 100, and 20 is considered clinically low. Some doctors are quick to look at your size and make a quick judgement instead of saying “let’s get to the root cause.” There are times when I look back on my medical journey and I’m downright angry by the fact that so many experts failed me at a young age.

Back To The Question: Is The WW App for Kids A Bad Idea?

Of course. I saw screenshots and was like, NO WAY. Just in the way they use color to create negative reinforcements for food choices is a terrible idea. A developing child needs to learn to listen to their body, nourish the body, and also live a little. I’ve seen the way kids get hooked on the reinforcements in apps and games these days and I can see how WAY too many kids will take it too far. They’ll want to have green days only, or something unreasonable.

How This May Be A “Tool” That Hurts Our Kids

First kids will aim to eliminate all the reds, then all the yellows. They’ll see the numbers go down on the scale, receive praise from people around them, and continue to want to lose weight, even if they’re at a healthy weight. As a society, we already have too many issues with body image and how the media portrays what’s acceptable and what’s not. Interestingly, most female runway models meet the BMI criteria for anorexia. These are the same models in magazines selling stuff to our daughters…

Personally, as someone who has been super morbidly obese, I’m not a fan of some of the current body positivity movements either. I’ve seen this push of morbidly obese models being called brave… Unhealthy, no matter what form, shouldn’t be celebrated or encouraged. I’m all for loving your body and self-care, but part of that love should include keeping your body healthy so it can function at its best.

Taking That Thought A Step Further

For some people, their food allergy, food intolerance, or medical condition (Celiac Disease, Crohn’s, PCOS, etc.) can see weight loss or weight gain as a symptom. Let’s look at little Sally with Crohn’s.

Sally is 13 years old, and has yet to receive her Crohn’s diagnosis. Currently, her symptoms may be considered on the milder side. She doesn’t like to complain much, and sits at the upper end of the healthy weight range for her age and height. Her friend tells her about the WW App and she gets it. When she plugs in her meals, she sees that she’s eating a lot of red foods, and decided to increase her green foods.

What Sally could have never predicted was that the easy carbs she eats are much easier on her GI tract due to her (still undiagnosed) Crohn’s. Now that she’s adding in more green foods (harder to digest for her), her Crohn’s related pains start to go crazy. Over the next several months her body goes into a downward spiral, and she’s in non-stop pain. A few months later, and at a very low point, she receives her official diagnosis. While I could go on about Sally, I won’t. The bottom line is this: Sally was listening to her body. She was eating what worked for until that app came along and she chose different.

This story can be true for other Sally and Steves out there facing food related (and other) medical conditions.

My Final Thoughts

People will always struggle with weight, as we live in a society drowning in easy calories. We also live in a world where the food industry is filling our foods with harmful ingredients (don’t get me started on this or we’ll never come out of the rabbit hole). What that really means is we as adults (and parents) must make it a priority to teach our children using positivity how to keep their bodies healthy.

I’ve only scratched the surface with the key ideas of body image and a good relationship with food. If you or your kids are struggling with these topics, it may be time to really dig in and take steps to improve them. Just remember folks, there’s nothing wrong with a slice of cake, ice cream, or cookies (just remember to source clean/better-for-you versions of these treats). Let’s help our kids embrace self-care, listening to the body, and having a healthy relationship with food.


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