This morning I read Ragen Chastain’s latest post, They Want Fat People to Swallow Balloons Now about yet another invasive, potentially lethal weight loss device called Obera. As Ragen explains, Obera is a silicon balloon inserted into the stomach and left in place for 6 months and is promoted as non-surgical, non-invasive (though how having to be sedated in order to have the balloon inserted qualifies as non-invasive beats me), non-permanent, and no incisions. The “non-permanent” part is correct because as with any such effort the weight loss is not permanent.  

If you go to their site, way down at the bottom in tiny print is the following.

Important ORBERA® Intragastric Balloon System Safety Information:

  • The ORBERA® Intragastric Balloon System is a weight loss aid for adults suffering from obesity, with a body mass index (BMI) ≥30 and ≤40 kg/m2, who have tried other weight loss programs, such as following supervised diet, exercise, and behavior modification programs, but who were unable to lose weight and keep it off.
  • To receive ORBERA® you must be willing to also follow a 12-month program, beginning with the placement of ORBERA® and continuing for 6 months after, that includes a healthy diet and exercise plan. If the diet and exercise program is not followed, you will not experience significant weight loss results; in fact, you may not experience any weight loss.
  • Losing weight and keeping it off is not easy, so you will be supervised throughout this program by a team of physicians, physiologists, and nutritionists. This team will help you make and maintain major changes in your eating and exercise habits.
  • ORBERA® is placed for no more than six months. Any time that the balloon is in the stomach for longer than six months puts you at risk for complications, such as bowel obstruction, which can be fatal.
  • Some patients are ineligible to receive ORBERA®. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and will also perform a physical examination to determine your eligibility for the device. Additionally, at the time of placement, the doctor may identify internal factors, such as stomach irritation or ulcers, which may prevent you from receiving ORBERA®.
  • You must not receive ORBERA® if you are pregnant, a woman planning to become pregnant within six months’ time, or breast-feeding.
  • Complications that may result from the use of ORBERA® include the risks associated with any endoscopic procedure and those associated with the medications and methods used in this procedure, as well as your ability to tolerate a foreign object placed in your stomach. Possible complications include: partial or complete blockage of the bowel by the balloon, insufficient or no weight loss, adverse health consequences resulting from weight loss, stomach discomfort, continuing nausea and vomiting, abdominal or back pain, acid reflux, influence on digestion of food, blockage of food entering the stomach, bacterial growth in the fluid filling the balloon which can lead to infection, injury to the lining of the digestive tract, stomach or esophagus, and balloon deflation.

And if at the very bottom of that page you follow their link to full safety information, you find this - a lengthy PDF meant for physicians detailing the procedure and adverse events and complications. Do take a look.

So what we have here is another device, like the AspireAssist, which is basically a device which works by inducing bulimia without the messiness of vomiting. And though less drastic than the various and sundry bariatric surgery procedures, nevertheless physically assaults the fat person’s body, causes pain and other unpleasant side effects and which can kill the patient, all in the name of eliminating fat. Procrustes’ dream!

From MythWeb :

Procrustes was a host who adjusted his guests to their bed. Procrustes, whose name means "he who stretches", was arguably the most interesting of Theseus's challenges on the way to becoming a hero. He kept a house by the side of the road where he offered hospitality to passing strangers, who were invited in for a pleasant meal and a night's rest in his very special bed. Procrustes described it as having the unique property that its length exactly matched whomsoever lay down upon it. What Procrustes didn't volunteer was the method by which this "one-size-fits-all" was achieved, namely as soon as the guest lay down Procrustes went to work upon him, stretching him on the rack if he was too short for the bed and chopping off his legs if he was too long. Theseus turned the tables on Procrustes, fatally adjusting him to fit his own bed.

In The Fat Lady Sings, I write:

The two most obvious choices for a fat woman are either: 

1. Lie on the Procrustean bed and literally, through bariatric surgery, have herself cut down to size, or figuratively try to do so through constant dieting and food deprivation, or

2. Become defiant and embrace being fat, revel in being fat with the same verve that she previously hated her fat and her body. 

 "Thinness, exploited by advertising, [has become] a bogeyman, a judge, an accuser, an impossible standard, a drain on women's emancipatory goals. The advertised image of thinness, closely associated with beauty and "health" has become central to the notion of a "good woman" who is "trying her best" to look right, live right and be right. Although...advertised thinness on the surface promises that woman can "have it all"...its most powerful, secret message is to remind them of their subordinate status as women, still judged on the basis of their bodies. They must take up less space, fit into prescribed molds of standardized beauty, restrain their desires by discipline their hungry bodies. No one wants a fat woman, someone out of ‘control’.” (Gutwill, S. (1994). Women’s Eating Problems: Social Context and the Internalization of Culture. In C. Bloom, Gitter, A., Gutwill, S., & Zaphiropoulis, L. (Ed.), Eatting Problems: A Feminist Psychoanalytic Treatment Model (p. 12))

What does it mean that so many of us are willing to be tortured this way, that the desire to meet the cultural standard for appearance is so strong that we are wiling to risk death to achieve it? And what does it mean that fat is so reviled, so repugnant to so many that the incentive is there to develop these instruments of torture and inflict them upon us?