Control Issues

I was watching the evening news last night as I finished up one of my beading projects, and I heard a little promo for a story after the next commercials. It was something along the lines of "Scientists have found a new way to control our weight and make us look slimmer and younger." All of those phrases were in there, though I can't guarantee in what order.

The first thing that pissed me off: the headless pictures of 'obese' people lumbering around and eating french fries. They're people. They're not button-down shirts straining at the belly. They're not jiggling asses. People. You don't show thin people in this way. Thin people eat fries. Shirts can get too small on thin people (just let me do your wash and you'll see what I mean). Just another stereotype.

The second thing that pissed me off: the hype. As if we should be so excited that we can now conquer obesity like a platoon of armored knights charging the castle of obesity. Let 'em have it, boys! But dude- it's an empty castle. Conquering it will just cost money with no net gain at the end of the day. Is it just me, or does that sound like the war in Iraq? But I digress...

The third thing that pissed me off: since when is weight something that we should control? Wow, let's control our breathing. The amount of urine we pass each day. How many times we blink. Or swallow.

That's the assumption above all assumptions that gets to me: not only is weight something that can be controlled, but that should be controlled.

I hate to break it to you, but your weight is controlled by your DNA.

The gist of the story was this: back in the 1970s, before the advent of antibiotic treatment for ulcers and the development of effective acid-blocking drugs, doctors performed a vagotomy, in which they snipped the vagus nerve connection to the stomach to stop acid production. One of the side effects was weight loss. Now, with gastric bypass surgeries at over 175,000 per year, doctors are on the lookout for 'safer' means to help people lose weight. Enter the vagotomy. Again.

"Obese" volunteers for this surgery were not hard to come by- the fears of fatness and health effects of obesity in the medical community and the media, overblown when not outright false, has people lining up to lose weight and "get healthy." And so went the first round of surgeries. People did lose weight. Not as much as with gastric bypass, but they lost weight. Success!

I'm hearing that ca-ching sound right now.

One of the doctors of the pilot study said:

"But I think this will be a rational alternative for a cadre of patients that are sort of in the middle there. With as much obesity as we have in this country, that's a big middle."

You don't say. Or is it a large group of people who are being told to be afraid- very afraid- for weighing more than a little chart says they should and they're all going to wallow in their own fat and die. Only it's not true. But people believe it is and are willing to let someone snip away a nerve for false security and the hopes to prevent any range of health effects that "overweight" will bring.

I think the word predator comes to mind.

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Jeanne said...

Extremely scary.

So scary, I'm speechless.

Harriet Brown said...

It reminds me of lobotomies. Horrible.

mary said...

I just came across an older article by Thomas Goetz in an magazine called Wired.[from Oct. 2006] It's about the THIN PILL...and how big pharma turned fat into a disease and then invented a drug to cure it. Interesting article and it recalls all the pills used in the past as well. How great it would be if this type of article made the front pages of papers in the checkout lines!
Shame on society for believing them blindly and on them for making everything about exploiting us for the almighty $$$$. There are so many dedicated and hard working researchers which we NEED to fight heart disease and cancers and then there are those who mostly want FAME and fortune.
Won't their grandchildren be proud when they hear that their great grandparent came up with 'THAT' brilliant idea? Oh yea, I invented the wasting pill.

Sarah said...

How does that even -- I don't get it. That nerve is so important. My dad tried to get a vagus nerve stimulator for epilepsy but didn't qualify. But how is that surgery even ethical?

Although I have to admit there are times when I've imagined having my stomach et al just removed. Gone. Just make food completely obsolete. Of course, I am INSANE.

This is just about the weirdest surgery I've ever heard of.

carrie said...

It's truly terrifying. The doctors- the medical professionals who have taken the Hippocratic Oath (first, do no harm)- are preying on people who have no real problems. 'Overweight' isn't a health risk for diddly squat, except living longer. Maybe they should call it the Hypocratic Oath or something.


The vagus nerve stimulates (in part) hunger and fullness cues, and by removing get the idea.

And a GI are no doubt in good company.

ms. em said...


last tuesday i had a horrific experience.

i was at my nutritionist's office and as i looked up, i saw

(jaw dropped)
(gasping for breath)

the Alli (ahem; A-LIE)book.

i let out a semi-shreek and asked, "Why on earth do you have that?" "Why is that there?"

(insert my anti-alli rant)

she got up took the book down and threw it in a drawer and proceeded to share with my that the head of the nutrition/weight management clinic i go to wrote it or perhaps signed off on it.

she swore to me that of all the weight management (as she refers to them)drugs, this is the least harmful. and, then we were off and running on the whole CDC and NIH funded research that shows that obesity is costing the country billions vs. eating disorders which can not possibly be costing the country thousands since most insurance companies don't pay a dime for treatment.

she reiterated to me yet again that the medical community acknowledges the danger of this new drug being abused by those with eating disorders. yet, that potential cost is less than the potential reduction of obesity-related costs.

i'm waiting for my CDC/NIH funded t-shirt that informs me just how much my life is worth.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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