I’ve had hundreds of people ask me to write about the bullshit new device created by UK and New Zealand researchers that bolts fat people’s mouths shut to keep them from eating.
TLDR: It is wrong and horrific on every level, and it would be wrong and horrific even if it was actually likely to lead to significant long-term weight loss, which it is not.
Content Note: This piece will describe violent anti-fat healthcare practices.
First of all, and I can’t believe I have to type this, it’s not ok to bolt people’s mouths shut. There are certainly situations in which wiring someone’s jaw is medically necessary, but bolting someone’s mouth shut for the express purpose of not allowing them to open it to eat is not now, nor will it ever be, a humane healthcare intervention.
Based on their article (which I will not be giving traffic to by linking) they are launching this based on the belief that the reason long-term weight loss fails so often is that fat people can’t submit to long-term starvation for long enough if we can open our mouths. Except that’s not remotely valid, research shows again and again that low-calorie dieting does not lead to long-term, sustained weight loss for more than a tiny fraction of people at best. They are also launching this based on the results of a two-week study (that’s not a typo – two weeks!)
During those two weeks the participants reported issues including discomfort, speech issues, feeling tense and embarrassed and decreased satisfaction with life, which the researchers completely ignored, claiming that there were “no adverse effects.” The researchers also pointed out that with the similar treatment of jaw wiring that was used in the past “many jaw-wired patients felt anxious and some developed acute psychiatric conditions. In addition, after 9-12 months, patients developed periodontal disease. After wire removal, a transient, and in some cases persistent, limitation of jaw movement was also observed.”
Also, the people regained their weight after their jaws were no longer wired shut. Completely unsurprisingly, the participants in this two-week study had already regained weight in the two weeks following the two weeks in which their jaws were bolted shut. Which may explain why they are trying to sell this based on a two-week study and the ludicrous idea that people can just keep taking it off and putting it back on. HAES Student Doctor has a great breakdown of this here.
If I had turned this in for a freshman level research methods class I cannot overstate how hard I would have (rightly) failed the assignment, so the fact that it both passed approval for human subject testing and was published is a testament to the amount of weight stigma in healthcare.
This is a grim reminder that many of the people who are impacting fat people’s healthcare believe that life as a fat person is a less than human existence, and thus any amount of inhumane treatment (including risking our lives) is worth it for even the smallest chance that we might get a tiny bit thinner even for a short time.
Again, the existing research is VERY CLEAR that extremely low-calorie liquid diets don’t lead to long-term weight loss and don’t “jump start” a weight loss journey because the human body is wired to see the complete lack of solid food and extreme caloric restriction as a famine situation, causing it to become a weight gaining, weight maintaining machine for our own protection. Of course that’s takes more than two weeks to see.
And again, whether or not it “works” is immaterial because it’s not ok to bolt people’s mouths shut to keep them from eating.
Finally, weight stigma in healthcare tells us to blame fat bodies for health issues, but that completely ignores the deleterious effects of weight stigma (which is perpetuated by the idea that fat people should have our mouths bolted shut,) weight cycling (which the research tells us will be perpetuated by this device,) and staggering inequalities in healthcare access (which include being told that rather than supporting our health in the bodies we have, it’s “healthcare” to bolt our mouths shut.)
This is barbaric and I think that every “medical professional” who willingly participated in this should be banned from the healthcare field forever. Starting with this guy…
Professor Paul Brunton
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences
University of Otago
You can also cc the New Zealand Human Rights Commission:(with thanks to Justine for these links)
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