Ornaments from a Torture Chair

A Medieval Concept for Weight Loss

DentalSlim Device Tweet“After 24 hours, the participants indicated that they occasionally felt embarrassed, self-conscious, and that life, in general, was less satisfying.” Nonetheless, researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand think they have an “attractive alternative” for weight loss. It’s a dental device with magnets. It attaches to a person’s teeth to prevent them from consuming anything but liquids. Perhaps “attractive” is in the eye of the inventor, but this weight loss device seems vaguely like a medieval instrument for torture.

Defining Stigma

Chelsea Kronengold of the National Eating Disorders Association had a bad reaction to this innovation, calling it barbaric:

“This is literally saying that people would rather live a less satisfying life in a smaller body than have a full and satisfying life in a larger or fat body. And that is weight stigma in a summary.”

Nutrition Professor Joan Salge Blake sees implicit fat shaming in this and asks:

“What did these people gain from this?

“The kicker is, yes, of course they lost weight. My goodness gracious, they couldn’t eat. But look what happened when they took it off. Two weeks later they started to gain weight.”

Twitter had a field day with this high tech and yet medieval weight loss device. The Midsomer Murders Bot imagined a researcher starved to death by his own device. Noting that subjects in the study of this device were able to return to work, Dr. Sara Leiste quipped:

“Well, at least the torture device didn’t stop them from contributing to capitalism. I mean, that would be bad.”

But Seriously

We tire of such unserious approaches to obesity. These inventors think that the biggest problem is “compliance” and that by clamping a person’s mouth shut, “this helps them establish new habits.”

This is not so different from a prominent public health policy expert telling us that providing medical care for obesity will never work because “there are too many of them.” It adds up to a lack of real interest in the humanity of people living with obesity.

No doubt, these are all decent people with feelings for other human beings. But in the case of people with obesity, they’ve gotten used to thinking of them as something less than fully human. This is not OK.

Click here for more on this story from the Washington Post and here for the study of this device. For perspective on dehumanizing people with obesity, click here.

Ornaments from a Torture Chair, photograph by the Science Museum Group / Wikimedia Commons

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June 30, 2021