Monday, January 7, 2013

The Problem With The At Home Stomach Pump

'stop me?' photo (c) 2010, Rega Photography - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Diet and weight loss is a multi billion dollar a year industry in the U.S.  Everyday we are inundated with the message that fat is unhealthy, and disgusting.  It is suggested that people should be willing to do whatever it takes to lose what are viewed as excess pounds and as a result, almost every day some new product is touted as the answer to the obesity problem. That many of these so-called solutions do not work or are harmful either physically or emotionally, is ignored because at the end of the day, society has invested in the idea of thin at all costs.

I don't often write about fat or weight but when I came across the at home stomach pump on Facebook, I was disgusted and so alarmed, I simply had to address it.
A US patent application has been made for an unlikely weight loss tool: a tube installed from inside the stomach, out the abdominal wall, that allows patients to manually pump their meal straight out.

Aspiration Therapy, designed by Philadelphia-based Aspire Bariatrics, is intended to be a non-invasive alternative to a gastric bypass -- the "A-tube" installation process looks like a bit of a mouthful though. On the upside, according to a video on the company's website the whole ordeal takes under 20 minutes and patients can return home within a couple of hours. [source]
This product is seen as a good thing largely because the recovery time is quicker than a gastric bypass.  The company has a small sample (note: 20) people who have managed to loose weight using this technique. For the record, I don't think that twenty people counts as enough to make any kind of scientific claims about the safety or effectiveness of this product.
 One female patient lost 38kg over the course of the 59 weeks she used the system. She "aspirated" after every meal: "the patient uncapped [her] tube, connected a 60 cc syringe and extracted food from her stomach twice. This resulted in a siphon effect, which permitted the subject to freely drain the stomach by allowing the open tube to empty into a bucket. The patient squeezed the tube to enhance propulsion and to break up large food." Beyond the troubling mental image this provides, the latter sentence is key. Not only did this particular dieter have to watch her stomach contents slop into a bucket straight from her innards, she also had to give them a helping squeeze for added artificial digestion.
Not only is this disgusting, it is clear that this machine does nothing more than facilitate disordered eating.  Even more alarming than that, encouraging people to expel food after eating is nothing more than medicalized bulimia.  Considering how harmful this disease is, the very idea that if a medical stamp is placed upon it that it could become socially acceptable is disturbing.  Granted, you won't have people ruining their teeth any longer because they have a direct pipeline to their stomach comments but there are no controls on the device as far as I can see to prevent abuse and self harm.

Already the internet is littered with pro anna websites touting anorexia as a valid lifestyle choice and ignoring the health risks and potential death that comes with the disease.  To have to engage in repeated purging to lose weight not only validates anorexia and bulimia as legitimate choices, it forces people to engage in this behaviour to drop weight.  How anyone can miss the harm of the association is beyond me.

If society wasn't filled with such virulent fat hatred, how many people would be more content not only with their bodies, but with their lives in general?  Fat people are encouraged to hide themselves and are told repeatedly that they would be so beautiful if they just lost weight.  Fat people are daily devalued and highly erased from the media.  This constant shame serves to feed the diet industry and and cements another group of people as an oppressed group.

No matter how much weight is lost using the stomach pump, it most certainly cannot be seen as a good thing.  As a society, we should be promoting health at any size and eating a balanced diet, rather than encouraging purging. We should be encouraging people to lead active lives rather than constantly stigmatizing body size and falsely equating it with personal value.  This machine is predatory from start to finish and I can only hope that before it receives approval that it will be questioned and the issues that it will create investigated thoroughly.