A Disturbing New "Weight Loss Device" Locks People's Jaws Shut.

Researchers in the United Kingdom and New Zealand's University of Otago say they are combating the "obesity epidemic" with a new, disturbing device that locks people's jaws shut, forcing them to consume only liquid calories. The ‘DentalSlim’ Diet Control device, as it is known, employs magnetic locking bolts on the upper and lower back teeth, preventing the wearer from opening their jaw more than 2 millimetres. The device, the equivalent of an eating chastity belt, is fitted by a dentist and comes with a key to unlock it in the event of an emergency. No, this is not a joke. 

In a press release, University of Otago Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton, the clinical study's lead researcher, described the diet control device as "an effective, safe, and affordable tool for people battling obesity." Brunton went on to say, "The main barrier for people to successfully lose weight is compliance." 

People who have seen the “DentalSlim’ describe the contraption as a mediaeval torture device and see it as another example of fatphobia. According to Tom Quinn, the director of external affairs for eating disorder charity Beat, the device is dangerous because it reduces "the process of weight loss to a question of compliance and willpower," while ignoring factors such as eating disorders. 

It looks like a torture device.

"The fact that the weight loss device looks very much like a torture device contributes to the radical dehumanisation of fat people within the healthcare system," Stephanie Yeboah, author of Fattily Ever After and advocate for body confidence, told BodyRock. "Not only can we assume that the device will be painful to wear, but all of this serves to reinforce the narrative of fat people being incredibly greedy, undisciplined, and food-obsessed, with clamping our jaws shut (effectively muzzling us) being the only solution to stop us from eating." 

Seven women, described as "healthy obese participants," wore the device for two weeks as part of the study. They lost more than 14 pounds on average during that time, but gained about 1.6 pounds in the two weeks after. Participants stated that they felt "embarrassed, self-conscious, and that life in general was less satisfying." This literally means that people would rather live a less fulfilling life in a smaller body than a full and satisfying life in a larger or fatter body "The National Eating Disorders Association's associate director of communications, Chelsea Kronengold, told The Washington Post. "And that, in a nutshell, is weight stigma." 

It looks like a torture device.


Yeboah went on to describe the device as "degrading and humiliating," and that it "doesn't address the main issues surrounding eating disorders/food obsession from a mental health standpoint." This device will do nothing but encircle fat people in a circle of shame and unworthiness, potentially leading to additional mental health issues in which overeating becomes a side effect."

Following criticism for their initial tweet announcing a "world-first weight-loss device," the University of Otago clarified in a follow-up tweet that the device is not intended as a quick or long-term weight-loss tool. Instead, they stated that it is "intended to assist people who require surgery but cannot have the surgery until they have lost weight." Whatever that means. 

The project’s own press release was heavily focused on combating a "global epidemic," not mentioning weight-loss surgeries until 10 paragraphs in and stating that such surgeries "cannot be relied upon." 

The University of Otago also noted that similar practises of wiring people's jaws shut were popular in the 1980s, but they were associated with risks such as choking on vomit, gum disease, and acute psychiatric conditions. Furthermore, wiring the jaws shut did not work as a weight loss solution. The majority of people regained their weight.

The study was also chastised for failing to take into account any links between obesity and structural issues such as poverty, working conditions, and living in isolation from community, as well as multibillion-dollar diet and beauty industries that leave people with body-image issues and weight stigma. 

"It'll only be a matter of time before an unregulated Instagram company creates their version of this weight loss device to sell to the masses," Yeboah predicted. "It's incredibly irresponsible, and it will do nothing but encourage more eating disorders in people or trigger those who already have eating disorders."

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