Weight Watchers offers free membership for teens

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Weight Watchers announced Wednesday one of its goals is to help 10 million people adopt healthy eating habits.

This summer, it will target a whole new demographic--teens--by offering them free membership.

Pediatric obesity in the country and even in Shelby County is now considered an epidemic.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is backing Weight Watchers move to target teens.

Recent study found Memphis topped the list as the second most overweight city in the nation.

"We cannot pinpoint just one thing that has sort of lead to this obesity epidemic with our pediatric population or our adult. It's a huge issue," said Jennifer Reed, registered dietitian at Baptist Memorial Medical Group.

But is a diet and weight loss program like Weight Watchers the answer? Some parents say no.

"I am really a mixed opinion, but I would say it's really going to affect their self-esteem. Like, my daughter is 12, and she already had body image, a little body image issues," Becky Coleman said.

Coleman said a healthy lifestyle starts at home with the parents.

Reed agrees. She said the changes are simple things like diet and exercise.

"I would say starting at home but it's got to involve the whole family," Reed said.

Dr. Christopher Bolling, the chairperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Obesity, said Weight Watchers is a lifestyle change, not a diet.

The free membership for teens is a solution for many overweight patients.

"There's little out that helps teens to lose weight. I worry more about teens trying to lose weight on their own," Dr. Bolling said.

Both experts suggested a doctor should monitor any teen weight loss.

The free Weight Watcher program starts this summer for kids ages 13-17, and they must be accompanied by an adult.

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