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“Assisted Bulimia” Tool Negates the Seriousness of Eating Disorders

By Kaitlin Irwin--By now, you’ve probably heard of the AspireAssist, the newest weight-loss tool that is being deemed “Assisted Bulimia.” Just in case you haven’t, here’s what it is: the AspireAssist is an FDA-approved weight-loss device in which a small tube is inserted into a patient’s stomach. A discrete port on the outside of the stomach provides an opening for the patient to insert a handheld device that pumps food out of the stomach and into the toilet after each meal.

What. The. Hell.

Referred to as “assisted bulimia” by many people in the ED community, this device is the stuff of nightmares, not just for ED sufferers, but for any sane human being. Bulimia is the more secretive relative of anorexia, because a lot of bulimics may feel “dirty” for engaging in bingeing and purging behaviors. The fact that the FDA approved a device that basically encourages bulimic patterns is despicable. Oh, but wait, the makers of AspireAssist state that their device shouldn’t be used by individuals struggling with bulimia. So that makes it okay, right?

Related: Fat Shaming Won’t Bring Me Down

Wrong. Bulimia, like any eating disorder, is a complex and deeply rooted illness that is dependent on biological, social, psychological and other issues, but with the AspireAssist on the market, there is an even greater risk of the development of bulimia.

What really bothers me is that medical professionals are simply throwing the AspireAssist out there as an option for people with weight problems, without any kind of education about health, nutrition and fitness. It’s almost as if they’re saying “You have a weight problem? Well, just empty your stomach contents into the toilet and you’ll be all better!” What kind of medical advice is that?

Apparently, the AspireAssist was tested on a relatively small group of individuals who received supportive “lifestyle counseling,” but the study was too short-lived to determine any real results. Moreover, the AspireAssist is being marketed as a modern solution to obesity and America’s weight problem. Just when we were making progress on fighting the fat stigma, we have ridiculous attempts like the AspireAssist to get fat people to look how society wants them to look.

The fatphobia needs to end.

Related: How I Took My Life Back from ED

Fat people need calories, too. Why is it okay to tell a thin person to eat a burger while shaming a fat person for eating a cookie? Thin people are told to “eat more,” while fat people are told to “eat less,” even though every single body out there requires an absolutely unique amount of nutrition. Yet the people behind AspireAssist blatantly encourage users to aspirate 30% of the calories they consume at every meal before they can be digested, with no mention of how that could mess up their bodily systems or their health. Perhaps the AspireAssist team is thinking, who cares if fat people aren’t nourished? At least they’re finally losing weight! I know there are people out there who may need something as radical as the AspireAssist, but that population is much smaller than the one that is going to actually use this device.

One can only imagine the complications of the AspireAssist—such as infection, punctures in the stomach or abdominal wall, or even death. On top of that, the AspireAssist may normalize purging behavior and could even serve as validation for bulimics. It exacerbates the dreadful and unnecessary fear of fat that is already crippling our society. Finally, it downplays the importance of eating disorders, which are so much more than ‘bad habits.’ Eating disorders are illnesses that affect people physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. There is still not enough knowledge and awareness about EDs in our society, and I’m afraid that the AspireAssist is a gigantic step backwards in any progress we’ve made.

About the blogger: Kaitlin Irwin is a recovered anorexic who spent her college years struggling to hide her illness. With lots of support, patience and an Intensive Outpatient Program, she embraced herself, flaws and all. In her free time, she enjoys exercise, cooking and art and can usually be found with a good book, a journal or her fiancé. She hopes to use her love of creative expression to spread positivity and love to others.

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