Food Nation

I'm Not Drinking Through My Nose; It's Just the Feeding-Tube Diet

Those of you who don't watch at least two hours of morning shows and celebrity news per day may not be aware of the latest trend in weight-loss: the feeding-tube diet.

Yes, that's right. In an effort to shed pounds, some women (sorry, but I have yet to read about a man on this diet) are eschewing regular consumption methods and receiving the minimum daily requirement of nutrients through a nose tube. Apparently, this method is especially popular with brides-to-be and actresses who want to slim down quickly.

I'm slightly comforted that news about the increasing popularity of the feeding-tube or "K-E" diet has provoked outrage among lay people and medical professionals, including David Katz, M.D, whose particularly compelling piece on its physiological effects is certainly worth reading.

Frankly, I myself am a bit too depressed to rant ad infinitum in this post about all the ways in which the feeding-tube diet taps into the warped social expectations and obsessions surrounding the (often female) body on public display (i.e., the wedding ceremony). Many others have done it for me already online and on television, probably in a more articulate fashion.

What I will relate is the strange effect of learning about this weight-loss fad on my own personal thought process. Previously, when I heard someone say "feeding tube," the first person that came to mind was the younger sister of one of my childhood friends. This little girl suffered from some sort of chronic condition (the details are fuzzy in my adult mind) that prevented normal intake of food, so she was fed through her nose (and later, her stomach) with a slim tube.

I remember distinctly my mom discussing with a neighbor the intense care and maintenance this treatment required, and the resulting stress and strain on the girl and her family. Since overhearing that conversation, the words "feeding tube" have always made me wince as I remembered my friend's sister toddling around in the backyard with a swollen belly under the watchful gaze of her parents.

Now, "feeding tube" only evokes the image of this woman. I still feel sad, but it's complicated with feelings of anger and pity. I am annoyed this new application of the diet shifts attention from the children and adults with disorders that render feeding tubes medically necessary. I feel sorry for the women who feel compelled to use this method just to fit into a slightly smaller wedding dress.

Readers, what were your gut reactions to the feeding-tube diet? Do you think it's no better or worse than other crazy weight-loss techniques? Or is it representative of a more serious comment on body image ideals in our society?

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Joanna O'Leary