Weight Watchers announced that it will offer free memberships to teens 13-17 this summer as it looks to help "the development of healthy habits at a critical life stage."
The National Eating Disorders Association said it was "very concerned" about the promotion because 35% of dieters can develop disordered eating and teens are especially vulnerable to such disorders.
"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 NEDA said in a statement.
Other health advocates said that encouraging teens to count calories and diet is dangerous.
"Our decision to open our program to teens, with the consent of a parent or guardian, is driven by a family-based approach," Weight Watchers said in a statement to CNBC.
The link between dieting & #eatingdisorders is clear and we are concerned about the new @WeightWatchers promotion for teens. Our voices are being heard. They have reached out to us. Stay tuned for updates. #WakeUpWeightWatchers— NEDA (@NEDAstaff) February 10, 2018
In a country where:
✔️ 42% of 1st - 3rd grade girls want to be thinner
✔️ 81% of ten-year-olds are afraid of being fat
✔️ 46% of 9-11-year-olds are "sometimes" or "very often" on diets
I guess @WeightWatchers picked a great target market.— Melissa A. Fabello (@fyeahmfabello) February 10, 2018
I just want to say that Weight Watchers let my mother bring her 11 year old child into meetings to do WW with her.
Weight Watchers has been targeting children for years.
And forcing children to diet is child abuse.#WakeUpWeightWatchers— Mean Fat Girl ��️���� (@Artists_Ali) February 10, 2018