Culture

Here’s Why Activists And Parents Are Upset About A New Weight Loss App For Children

This week, WW, the ridiculously rebranded name for weight loss company Weight Watchers, proved that despite its new designation, the global brand is offering more of the same problematic trash to the world — this time, directed at children in particular.

On Tuesday, WW launched Kurbo, a nutrition and weight loss app for kids between the ages of 8 and 17 years old.

Not surprisingly health experts are furious about the danger it could pose to the physical and mental health of our young people.

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“You NEED to Shut. This. Down,” Whitney Fisch, a social worker, school counselor and mom of three, wrote Wednesday on Facebook. “All bodies, especially growing + developing bodies, deserve respect + the ability to grow into whatever shape they’re meant to grow to be.”

The company describes the app, which is free, as a “scientifically-proven behavior change program designed to help kids and teens age 8-17 reach a healthier weight” that was acquired from Stanford University’s Pediatric Weight Control Program. It uses a traffic light system to instruct youth on foods that they should eat and those that they should avoid. Kids are urged to eat plenty of “green light” foods, including fruits and vegetables, to be “mindful” of their portions of “yellow light” foods, like lean protein, whole grains and dairy, and to lessen their intake of “red light” foods, such as sugary drinks and “treats.” The app also encourages users to track their daily physical activity and deep breathing.

With a paid, subscription-based plan, children can also receive through the app one-on-one sessions with coaches that are supposed to be experts in nutrition, exercise, and mental health. However, the Huffington Post reports that these coaches do not need to have any credentials in health or nutrition fields; though they do go through a minimum of six to eight hours of initial training.

Eating disorder treatment experts are concerned about the impact an app like Kurbo could have on a young person’s mental health, self-esteem and eating habits.

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“While the intention of the app is to promote health and wellness, there is the risk that it could do more harm than good,” Kathryn Argento, a registered dietician with The Renfrew Center, a national network of eating disorder treatment centers for women and girls, told the Huffington Post. “Targeting kids as young as 8 years old to focus on … their bodies can lead to an intense preoccupation with food, size, shape and weight.”

Aside from the damaging impact apps like this one can have on a children’s relationship with their bodies and food, public health organizations and pediatricians also doubt the efficacy of children’s weight loss programs altogether.

“The evidence suggests that these types of tools may be helpful adjuncts to weight management, but there are few studies in pediatrics to confirm that they lead to a ‘meaningful change in their weight trajectories,’” Dr. Ihuoma Eneli, director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told the news outlet.

As part of WW’s rebranding, the company and app have chosen to start focusing on overall health and wellness in addition to weight loss.

According to Gary Foster, chief scientific officer at WW, Kurbo “isn’t a weight loss app.”

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“This is an app that teaches in a game-ified, fun, engaging way what are the basics of a healthy eating pattern,” he told the Huffington Post.

But parents still worry the app could be spreading an all-too-familiar message that they are unworthy as they are and must change their physical appearance to be accepted. While young people already receive these memos from a diet-obsessed mass media, parents fear that unrealistic beauty ideals are now being pushed on impressionable children in the name of health and wellness.

In response to these apprehensions, Foster said: “I think there could be some misperception that somehow we’re saying, ‘All kids should lose weight, you’re not OK as you are.’ What we’re saying to kids who are trying to achieve a healthier weight — kids and families — is that this is a reasonable, sensible way to do it.”

But despite this alleged kid-friendly wellness mission, Kurbo’s website sends another message.

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Its landing page shows young people’s “success stories,” and they’re celebrating weight loss, not how often they meditate or how many ounces of water they drink daily.

“There’s no way that these kids don’t realize that the app is supposed to help them lose weight,” Ginny Jones, an eating disorder recovery activist, said. “No matter how hard it tries to market itself as a wellness company, WW is about weight loss. Kids are way smarter than we think they are, and every ‘big kid’ who [has been] put on a weight loss program knew exactly what their parents were trying to do.”

Read: She Shared Stories Of Being Fat-Shamed At The Doctor And Fear Of Wearing A Two-Piece Then, Jessica Torres Accidentally Built One Of The Biggest Body Positive Communities

The Gaming Industry Isn’t Known For Diversity, The Latinx Games Festival Is Working Hard To Change That

Things That Matter

The Gaming Industry Isn’t Known For Diversity, The Latinx Games Festival Is Working Hard To Change That

Latinxgamesfestival / Instagram

For the past few years the gaming industry has gotten a bad, very bad reputation when it comes to gender, sexual and ethnic diversity. Even though video game fans are as diverse as society itself, women, LGBTQIA and people of color are underrepresented. This extends to how games are marketed, to diversity in professionals in the industry and to networking opportunities.

Even though gaming is as widespread as say, watching television, and we play more than ever before, some online communities formed mostly of white men believe it is their right to claim the entirety of the gaming world for themselves. Yes, really. 

So Jason Vega created the Latinx Games Festival, which just had its first and very successful run.

Credit: Instagram. @LatinxGamesFestival

Jason Vega is a famous Latino gamer who saw an opportunity in bringing together gamers and developers from both sides of the border. So professionals from the United States and Latin America, a region that has a nascent and in crescendo independent games scene, got together at the Museum of Latin Art (MOLA) in Long Beach, California. September 14, 2019, will be remembered as a watershed moment for collaboration among Latino gamers.

Networking is king!  

Credit: Instagram. @LatinxGamesFestival

The idea behind the festival was to bring people of color together to identify and fight against political, social and economic obstacles that impede their inclusion in the digital games industry. Vega hopes that this event will plant the seeds for future networks of professionals. He also advocates for a DIY culture: we got the tools and we got the creativity, so a trabajar, mijos!

And the attendees heard some pretty inspiring words!

Credit: Twitter. @latinxgamesfestival

Vega said in the inaugural address, as reported by Latino Rebels: “This story is not about me. It’s about everyone in this room, community organizers, all you here. [It’s] also about using my own money, the sleepless nights, the pain you feel in your skin when you’ve been working too hard and your eyes don’t feel the same. You don’t wake up the same. You have nightmares about things going wrong”. Preach, hermano! If something can distinguish the Latino gamer community in the future is that sense of solidarity that makes us who we are.

And there were some great speakers such as Trinidad Hermida!

Credit: Instagram. @LatinxGamesFestival

This Latina is the head of diversity and inclusion at Niantic, one of the industry’s giants (just to give you an idea, the company developed Pokemon Go!, perhaps the most successful Augmented Reality game of all time). Hermida is an amazing woman who has broken many glass ceilings in the  digital technology industry, working for companies like Dell. She has a great philosophy, “setting a standard of incorporating everyone’s genius, we can change the game.” We are right there with you! 

And Fernando Reyes Medina, a wonderboy of the industry.

Credit: Instagram. @LatinxGamesFestival

There is some great, young Latino talent in the industry. That is why Vega included Fernando Reyes Medina in the speaker program. He was born and raised in Mexico City (eso, un chilango, carajo!). He has worked in such big projects as incorporating the Microsoft Cortana personal assistant into the Xbox platform. He is changing the industry from within: he is part of Latinx in Gaming, an initiative born within Microsoft. The future is shiny for him and we are sure he inspired more than one gamer in the room. 

The event was a success and fans were quick to thank the organizers.

Credit: Twitter. @_Ben_Wu

Yes! This is what Vega was aiming for, the establishment of networks of professional collaboration and emotional support. We gotta stick together! Ben Wu, who identifies as Asian-Latino, is literally over the moon after the event

The McDonalds Happy Meal Was Invented By A Latina And Here’s How It Got Started

Entertainment

The McDonalds Happy Meal Was Invented By A Latina And Here’s How It Got Started

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Did you know that the first ever Happy Meal was created by a Latina? That’s right, in the mid-70s when Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño was operating various McDonalds in Guatemala, she invented what she dubbed the “Menu Ronald”. The “Menu Ronald”  was invented to help parents keep their kids satisfied when the family went out to eat. The original “Menu Ronald” included a hamburger, small fries and a small sundae. Naturally, word eventually got back to McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago they decided to adopt the practice as their own. They hired a white American man to develop the idea (and subsequently take credit for it) and voila! The Happy Meal was born.

It’s unfortunate that Fernández de Cofiño’s recognition has been lost to the American public, but it’s still inspiring to know that there were business-minded Latinx people in history whose achievements still impact our lives today. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ve decided to celebrate the underrated Latina entrepreneur Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño for the marketing genius that she was. We’ve documented the evolution of Happy Meal toys from the idea’s inception and launch in the 1970s, to its continuing legacy today.

Take a look below for a nostalgic blast from the past!

1. 1979: The Very First Happy Meal

via Pinterest

Although the original concept of the Happy Meal was invented by Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño, the first official launch of the American Happy Meal happened in 1979. However, the gift wasn’t half as elaborate as it was now. According to records the toys were “a McDoodle stencil, a McWrist wallet, an ID bracelet, a puzzle lock, a spinning top or a McDonaldland character-shaped eraser”.

2. 1984: Ronald and The Gang

 thegoodtoyshop via Ebay

McDonalds Happy Meal toys evolved from spinning tops and erasers to more complex toys. Like, the above “Ronald and the Gang” wind-up cars that were defitenly a step-up from McDonald’s earlier toys. They weren’t as sophisticated as the toys would eventually get, though.

3. 1987: Mc-Transformers

Reddit User gnarrdan

The Transformers/McDonalds mashup was innovative in its day because it was blending the IP of two successful brands. Instead of McDonald’s using its Happy Meal to market other products, it was using its Happy Meal to market other products that were marketing McDonalds. It was a win-win situation.

4. 1988: McNuggets Buddies

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In 1988, McDonalds hadn’t yet started to do marketing tie-ins with kids’ movies. Instead, they had prizes like “McNuggets Buddies”, which were chicken nuggets dressed in various outfits and costumes. This lasted until the mid-90s.

5. 1994: Sonic the Hedgehog

@NascaronReddit/Twitter

By the mid-90s, the powers-that-be recognized that there was a lucrative market to tap by using Happy Meals to advertise kid-oriented products directly to kids. It was around this time that the entertainment industry really began to see the potential for promoting movies and TV shows through fast-food chains. And if you look at the advertisement above, the Happy Meal only cost $1.99. Those were the days!

6. 1996: 101 Dalmatians

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Never the one to pass up an opportunity to advertise, Disney quickly hopped on board the McDonalds train as a means to promote their movies. One of the first Disney x Mcdonald’s ventures were the release of literally one-hundred-and-one collectible dalmatian figurines through their Happy Meals.

7. 1997: “Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection”

Youtube via FastFoodToyReviews

Off the success of their 101 Dalmatians toys, Disney and McDonalds continued their partnership by releasing tiny VHS boxes equipped with a a little toy character from the movie. People really began to see collecting fast food toys as a hobby around this time.

8. Mid-90s: “Teenie Babies”

EBAY User BDK84

Even McDonalds wasn’t immune to the Beanie Baby craze that swept the nation in the mid-90s. Convinced that they would one day be worth thousands, collectors flocked to the Golden Arches to get their hands on miniature versions of the popular plush toys. Unfortunately, most of the “Teenie Baby” toys aren’t worth anything these days.

9. 1997-Now: Barbies

EBAY User PERFECTSHIP

In 1997, McDonald’s started a lucrative partnership with the Barbie line of toys that would last until today. What young girl doesn’t have memories of getting this in their Happy Meal box (whether they liked it or not) while their brother got a Hot Wheels car? It’s safe to say the ’90s weren’t progressive, gender-wise.

10. 2004: Hello Kitty Keychains

Youtube via Lucky Penny Shop

Into the 2000s, McDonald’s took advantage of the Hello Kitty trend by offering plush Hello Kitty key chains in their Happy Meals.

11. 2015: Minion Fever

Ebay user BOB_THE_SPY

Do you remember the time when you couldn’t escape “Despicable Me” minion merchandising, no matter where you went? Well, that included McDonalds. Nowhere was safe.