Stomach Pump Backlash

Anyone who has followed along with “Newfangled Gizmo — the Reverse Feeding Tube” and “More on the Personal Stomach Pump” will recall that the device/system is designed to extract stomach contents that have barely begun the digestive process. As a result, a person can savor all the captivating sensations of aroma, mouth feel, texture, taste, chewing, and swallowing, without paying the weight-gain consequences. Of course this invention has been compared to high-tech bulimia.

It is also reminiscent of the legendary vomitorium, a special room where Roman dinner guests could empty their stomachs and return, refreshed, to feast more. Actually, the vomitorium in that sense of the word didn’t exist. The myth was started by one writer about 50 years ago. Despite the reputation for decadence enjoyed by the ancient Romans, they never sank quite that low. It took contemporary American ingenuity to perfect the science of wasting food.

How old is old enough?

As we learned, AspireAssist is meant to be prescribed only to people age 22 and above. Maybe that will change; maybe it won’t. Either way, 22 could still include college students, and let’s hope they don’t decide to experiment with the device as a means to avoid a hangover after drinking too much alcohol. Inspired by TV depictions of emergency tracheotomies, will some kid think he can reverse a friend’s drug overdose by stabbing him in the stomach with a ball-point pen and applying the suction gear?

In a more mundane scenario, it is easy to envision someone frantically scrambling to unplug the drain tube with a knitting needle, unbent wire hanger, or other unsanitary object, because of not having the time or money for a doctor appointment.

Erika Nicole Kendall, an NASM-certified trainer who “lost 170 lbs on my own through diet and exercise,” has major doubts about AspireAssist and no hesitancy about expressing them:

How do we explain this to all of the bulimics, in recovery, who used the binge and purge system as a means of weight management… How do we explain to bulimics that the logic behind why they did what they did was wrong, but so long as they gave some money to big pharma, they could have medically assisted bulimia? This device is enabling emotional eaters. This device enables people to eat their feelings…

Kendall also wonders if having the device might “compel them to become just as addicted to their precious stomach pump as they already are to the food they keep consuming.” She worries about infection, what with the skin port being basically an eternally open wound.

Can people who have this go swimming? And what about intimate situations? A grownup who slims down might want to get into some serious dating. With a supernumerary plastic belly-button, how does that work out?

Kendall, who calls this “the greatest big pharma scam ever in the history of big pharma scams,” raises another excellent question. If the candidates for AspireAssist were amenable to changes in their eating habits, such as they are expected to make once the device is installed, why didn’t they just make those changes, and forget about the stomach-hole solution?

She points out a huge liability. Because all that mandatory chewing is an exhausting hassle, the person is tempted to stick with “smooth, soft, dissolving food that will probably obliterate your blood sugar and cause any number of components of metabolic syndrome.” Kendall goes on to say:

Check this out. You can’t eat the things that promote weight loss, you can only eat the things that promote weight gain… which is why you need — need — to keep wearing the device long term.

Normally, when a person undergoes abdominal surgery, one of the most horrifying prospects is the necessity for an ileostomy or colostomy. Who wants to walk around with a hole in the front of their torso that they have to empty waste from? But apparently, some people don’t mind so much.

Imagine this future for today’s overweight and obese kids. Will so many grow up to be so intractably heavy that the apparatus of the personal stomach pump will become the norm? And even fashionable? Will we wake up one day to find that the skin port is the new navel ring?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Vomitoriums: Fact or Fiction?,”, 11/20/12
Source: “Friday 5: Five Things VERY Wrong With A Personal Stomach Pump,”, 03/24/14
Photo credit: jammmick via Visualhunt/CC BY

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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