Extreme Measures

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The other night, I was watching the show 20/20 on ABC, and I was horrified to see a story they were doing on the “Tongue Patch Diet.”  The procedure entails having a piece of hard plastic mesh temporarily sewn onto one’s tongue, the purpose of which is to inflict pain if the individual tries to eat any solid food.  Apparently, this technique originated in Latin America and is all the rage, with 800 individuals undergoing the procedure at one Venezuelan clinic.  After the patch is put in place, the individual is then put on a strict, 800-calorie-per-day liquid diet or shakes and low-calorie beverages for one month.  In addition, the individual must exercise 45 minutes per day.  After all is said and done, the individual would be expected to lose between 18-20 pounds.

This bizarre intervention made me think back to the absolutely crazy “K-E Diet” aka “Feeding Tube Diet” featured on a number of news shows last year, which involves having a doctor place a nasogastric feeding tube into an individual for 10 days, preventing the person from being able to orally eat anything for that period of time.  The patient carries around a solution in a bag or purse, which delivers 800 calories per day of protein, fats, and water through the nasogastric tube directly into the stomach.  Given that the patient is not taking in any carbohydrates, he or she will be put into a state of ketosis, during which the body burns fat instead of carbohydrate.  In similar fashion to the “Tongue Patch Diet,” the individual can expect to lose up to 20 lbs in only 10 days.

There are many things that disturb me about the above procedures. Both are unrealistic and potentially life-threatening techniques to achieve weight loss.  Obviously, since both are basically very low-calorie diets, the individuals will lose weight quickly.  And as I have spoken about numerous times, using drastic measures to lose weight quickly almost always results in gaining the weight back and then some.  As for the “Feeding Tube Diet,” while being in ketosis might not be harmful in the very short-term, long-term ketosis can result in serious kidney and liver damage.  And since our brain almost exclusively uses glucose (the breakdown of carbohydrate) for energy, going low-carb leads to “brain fog,” where the individual feels groggy, fatigued, unable to concentrate, and irritable.

The “Tongue Patch Diet,” honestly makes me feel queasy. The thought of putting something into one’s body to inflict pain on oneself for eating solid food just seems barbaric.  Why don’t you just hire someone to hit you over the head with a hammer every time you pick up a French fry?!

What I think disturbs me the most about the above is that there are doctors out there who believe these procedures are totally legit and health promoting.  This sends a really hurtful and potentially dangerous message to millions of people who are desperate to lose weight.  If a patient came into my office and mentioned wanting to try out one of these procedures, I would recommend considering the following: Does this seem extreme?  Does he or she feel like this is something that will promote or hinder his or her health?  When the tongue patch/feeding tube comes out, how is he or she going to eat healthfully?  Hopefully after thinking things through, he or she will reconsider these dangerous methods and instead work on healthy, safe, and maintainable nutrition changes.

2 thoughts on “Extreme Measures

  1. The Tongue Patch Diet??? It is crazy to me that people will go through that much mental and physical pain just to lose weight! Whatever happen to a smart diet and exercise? People do not understand that theses extreme diets do not work in the long run. I have no comment on the so called medical professionals that are allowing this to take place.

    • People often become so focused on weight loss that they neglect health in the process. One of the challenges of my job is to help people reorder their thinking. In other words, eat well and be physically active, as you said, and the weight often takes care of itself. When getting the weight down becomes the priority though, that is when I see people trying approaches that are dangerous, unhealthy, and/or unsustainable.

      As for the medical professionals you referred to, well, I would like to think that health care practitioners get into the field because they really want to help people. In my experience, this usually is the case. However, health care has its bad apples just like any other segment of society, and sadly some practitioners are not in the field for the right reasons.

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