I was absolutely horrified when someone tweeted me the link to this article. The article is about a new pump which has been invented to pump the stomach when someone has eaten too much. I had seen the headline but not read it and I can safely say I’m outraged and disappointed but not overly surprised.
Firstly, we have a huge problem with eating disorders and disordered eating in this country. I’m including obesity in that category because essentially it is as people can not control the food they eat. Disordered eating is also very common. It is an unhealthy relationship with food which may manifest itself in many different ways. You can read more here. Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. There are other eating disorders which may not be formally diagnosed but are becoming more common such as orthorexia and drunkorexia which are still as serious as those more commonly diagnosed.
The idea that you can eat whatever you want and then just pump your stomach is appalling. I have concerns about what it will do for people who already have a poor relationship with food. There are many different angles to this story and it’s a very emotive issue for a lot of people too. The pump could risk normalising binge eating. Sufferers of binge eating disorder and bulimia will tell you that it’s an awful illness. I have worked with people suffering from both and the effects can be life long.
Ultimately, we need to be encouraging people to take responsibility for their health and wellness. We should be encouraging healthy eating and a healthy relationship with food not saying that it’s fine to binge and then just get rid of it. The company also states in the article “no one needs to know” which shames people into hiding their eating disorder and not seeking help. An eating disorder of any kind is serious and needs help and support to overcome them.
This is being hailed as a great alternative to gastric bands and other weight loss operations but all of them have the same fundamental flaw. They don’t tackle people’s relationship with food and the mental health side of a person’s weight gain. If that is improved then the person wouldn’t need weight loss surgery which would save the NHS millions every year and save many a lifetime of never being able to eat properly again. The pump does allow people to eat normally and on the company website, they claim to encourage people to eat smaller meals and aspirate regularly for the best results. The aspiration process takes 5-10 minutes and for the best results should be done after each meal. It allows 30% of the food to be removed before the calories are absorbed.
There is a small study which is quoted by the company. You can read it here. The study was small (18 participants) and compared the results of aspiration and lifestyle intervention and just lifestyle intervention on it’s own. The study found that participants did better when they participated in both aspects of the treatment. After 12 months, only 14 participants had completed the study. 10 of the aspiration group and 4 of the lifestyle only group completed. The results found that the aspiration group lost on average 18.6% of their body weight compared to the lifestyle group who lost 5.9% of their body weight (on average). However, when looking at the figures in Table 1, it would appear that there was a significant difference in weights between the two groups.
Finally, this sounds disgusting (to me) and I worry about the serious consequences that may come about from people being given the pump and inadequate support to make lifestyle changes and deal with the emotional side of things too. What about those people with eating disorders who may be vulnerable and get missed in the system? What about the people who go on to develop an eating disorder from this? How do we know the long term physical effects on health? This is a company looking to profit from unhappy, vulnerable people.
If you’re considering something like this, I would strongly recommend you speak to a professional first for advice and make sure whatever option you choose really is the best for you.
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