Weight Watchers International, Inc. (NYSE:WTW) recently outline its bold plan to grow revenue substantially over the next few years, and indoctrinating teenagers about the dangers of obesity appears to be a major part of the push.
The company will create seminars for teens to attend, during which they’ll learn about weight management and why it’s important for overall health. Although it sounds relatively benign, as CNBC reports, not everyone is on board with the plan:
[S]ome people were not convinced, and they accused Weight Watchers of preying on youngsters who could develop unhealthy habits and body image.
In a statement, the National Eating Disorders Association said it was “very concerned” about Weight Watchers’ promotion, because 35 percent of “normal” dieters can develop disordered eating and teens are at an especially vulnerable stage of life.
Critics say that since Weight Watchers categorizes and tracks food intake so closely, that they can wind up leading to eating disorders in some people — particularly young and vulnerable ones — that subscribe to their program. “[Once you start tracking your food and weight, it is difficult to stop,” said one Twitter user who questioned the idea of marketing weight services to teens.
The overall message from health experts is that encouraging teens to count calories and diet is dangerous. For its part, Weight Watchers denies that it’s marketing its weight management products to kids. Instead, it calls its technique a “family-based approach” to provide nutritional information.
“This is not about encouraging dieting, but rather helping teens to form healthy habits at this critical life stage. We are engaging and look forward to dialogue with health care professionals as we roll out this program in a few months,” the company told CNBC in a statement.
Weight Watchers International, Inc. shares were unchanged in premarket trading Tuesday. Year-to-date, WTW has gained 59.49%, versus a -0.57% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.