The breathtaking view of the “DentalSlim Diet Control” which blocks the jaw


By Anna Rawhiti-Connell * from

Notice – Even as someone who could understand the arguments for this device, I am dismayed by the implicit endorsement of debunked ideas about obesity.

The DentalSlim Diet Control device developed by the University of Otago and British researchers allows the wearer to open their mouth by only about 2mm, limiting them to a liquid diet.

The DentalSlim Diet Control device developed by the University of Otago and British researchers allows the wearer to open their mouth by only about 2mm, limiting them to a liquid diet.
Photo: University of Otago

One of the scariest scenes of the Handmaid’s Tale It’s when June travels to Washington DC and, in keeping with tradition in the delightfully dystopian capital of Gilead, is outfitted with a mask. She is muzzled. It’s something you do to dogs and ideally not to people.

It’s rightly horrific on the show because the idea of ​​our mouths being forcibly closed or restricted is the subject of nightmares. To restrict what goes in and out of our mouth is to silence us, starve us, suffocate us and potentially kill us. It recalls examples of historical instruments of torture, restriction and repression such as the “pear of anguish” or the bridle of reprimand.

It is then quite understandable that when the University of Otago tweeted about a “world’s first weight loss device to help fight the global obesity epidemic” accompanied by an image of ‘a set of teeth locked together by “an intraoral device that restricts a person to a liquid diet,” Twitter has gone mad.

Informed by a growing understanding of obesity and the everyday judgment and stigma that obese people face, the tweet was slammed faster than it would take me to slam a cheeseburger after freeing my jaw from medieval wiring.

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In the back of my mind though, as I watched the tweets come in, labeling this yet another example of big phobia and big shame, lurked the one borderline case I could think of – the borderline case I have known and the borderline case possible the university buried in the original press release. They state, in the 10th paragraph of the release, that: “The tool could be particularly useful for those who need to lose weight before they can undergo surgery.”

They don’t specify which surgery in the release, there are a number that might require weight loss, but hint at one type of surgery in a follow-up paragraph: “While weight loss surgery plays a major role in the management of morbid obesity, it cannot be counted on to manage this “global epidemic”. It costs around $ 24,000 and patients “suffer the consequences for life, which can be quite unpleasant.”

I take issue with the comment on “unpleasant consequences” because while there may be, they are more than outweighed by the long-term benefits and reduced costs to the health care system. It’s a little strange apparently discouraging people from this operation in a statement about a so-called alternative.

I know these consequences and benefits because I had weight loss surgery in February 2020. We could actually count on a little more in this country if it were better funded.

New Zealand’s overall government funding rate for bariatric surgery is half the rate for the UK and Australia. New Zealand has the third highest adult obesity rate in the OECD.

I had the surgery because my health insurance covered it, I was type 2 diabetic, morbidly obese and had been trying to lose weight since I was a teenager.

I have already written thousands of words about the mental gymnastics involved, but let’s just say I looked at the barrel of serious health issues and made peace with my decision. It has changed my life and I will beat you in any debate on the subject.

Before having surgery, in most cases you should be on a liquid diet. Its goal is to shrink your liver. The surgery is performed laparoscopically so that your liver must be lifted to reach the stomach.

It’s a big deal within the weight loss surgery community, we often complain about the “Opti” phase (Optifast – the meal replacement drink most of us use) because it’s horrible. .

To be crystal clear, I don’t wish anyone a liquid diet unless it is required for weight loss surgery. Done without surgery as the end goal, it is an excruciating way to lose weight.

It is also very hard. You have a headache, dizziness, nausea, and your bowels are screwed up. I was a really disgusting human being for the three weeks I did it, and had to do something like an apology tour afterwards.

Most people will lose weight doing it because in total, three shakes a day equals an intake of 600 to 800 calories, so there is a kernel of truth to the idea the university alluded to on the subject. psychological benefits of a kickstart. I was allowed to supplement my shakes with two cups of vegetables. I tried making a “Big Mac sauce” from zucchini to accompany my roasted carrot burger. Desperate moments.

During this time of desperation, most weight loss surgery patients also envision a huge life change, fear of the unknown, an irrational fear of dying on the operating table and trying to peel away the layers of deep shit. and rooted that blend with our OS. We need to start unraveling years of bodily hatred, self-hatred, blame, shame, distorted eating habits and a myriad of emotional and psychological baggage that we carry that weighs three times as much as our bodies.

Would I, had the choice, chosen to have my jaw clenched to relieve at least one element of the psychological torture I felt I was undergoing? Maybe suppressing the temptation to eat a whole pizza would free my brain to panic about something else? Could I have been the extreme case that eclipsed the wave of anger over this barbaric jaw clamp?

I stood in my kitchen one night during the “opti phase” and cried as I struggled against that exact temptation. I was worried that I would never be able to eat pizza again. I didn’t want to eat another veg or sip the sickly sweet shakes no matter how much I pretended it was a Frappuccino.

But it is by contemplating this battle even with Satan’s pizza that the wheels emerge from this idea of ​​what could be the borderline case of the university.

You won’t meet a bariatric surgery patient, before or after, who doesn’t talk about “head stuff”, state of mind, or that surgery is a tool. These are the phrases that bounce around the support groups. They are given to us by healthcare professionals with whom we interact before and after surgery. The underlying implication is that while surgery is the best tool we have for a reset and a second chance to develop a different relationship with our body and the world around us, there is work to be done. It is not a quick fix. It requires commitment and a big shift in thinking that brought us to their doors in the first place. I saw and still see a psychologist, a counselor, a dietitian and my surgeon. I got my family and friends involved. I chose to be open about it.

The physical restriction created by the surgery gave me a good start for sure – I could only eat a quarter cup of food for three months – but in all my dealings with the army of people involved in my care, the name of the game has always been to bring me back to a place I love to eat and get rid of the restrictive diet mentality. To free myself from a cycle of frenzy, hunger, frenzy. To deliver myself to the promised land where I could question and understand the forces that work to completely screw up our relationship with our body and the food we put there. To equip myself to undo this thing for the rest of my life in a place of peace and strength. This is the job you have to do and very often the first time you realize it is during the first few weeks of your terrible Opti diet.

Beyond the lack of longevity of this study to really test if this “kickstart” is really all you expected on your way to peace and strength and the fact that it ignores the aforementioned “work” that it takes really, the idea that physically restricting someone to a liquid diet by squeezing their jaw ignores so many causes of obesity, it’s no fun.

The press release cites compliance as the main obstacle to “successful weight loss”. It doesn’t matter the poverty, the living conditions, the long hours of working in sedentary jobs or the freedom given to Big Food Inc to load the supermarkets with another dumb food mix or to plant a McDonald’s on every corner.

No matter the increasingly individual and isolated lives we lead, far from communities, traditions and common food sources.

Never mind the many multi-billion dollar industries that are designed to twist every thought we have about the bodies and profit from the wreckage.

Never mind the complex metabolic and hormonal science that now underpins most thinking about weight gain and loss.

The point is, they tried to close the wiring jaws in the 1970s and 80s as a weight loss solution and most people have gained weight back.

Even though I try to put together the most generous reading of this device as someone who could understand the edge case for this, a short term way for people to lose weight before surgery, bariatric or otherwise, its tone, heralding the device as a way to “help fight the global obesity epidemic” and the suggestion that it can “avoid” the need for surgery, reveals a whole bunch of wobbly thoughts that must be put to bed.

It fails the sniffer test because it endorses and celebrates debunked ideas about obesity and brings us back to the unnecessary position of believing that willpower and restriction are all that is needed to lose weight.

Even if you manage to lose the 6.3kg in two weeks like the seven trial participants (all female, all of European descent) did and even if that kick starts you on a journey to changing your habits, you will need a lot more than the restriction and the willingness to stay on a road that makes you feel healthy and happy.

Just ask any weight loss surgery patient. We have achieved the gold standard of kickstarts and most of us still need ongoing care and guidance to stay in a place that allows us to counter years of fucked up thinking, the obesogenic environment in which we have to. all live and attitudes perpetuated by this jaw-clamping device and its proud reappearance.

Fortunately, I am not muzzled like June, nor the experts on this complex subject. Something tells me that they may have more to say on this matter. The jaws are not wired and the floor is open.

This article first appeared on The Spinoff.

* Anna Rawhiti-Connell is a digital, social media and content marketing consultant and commentator writing on social media, digital news, politics, diversity and gender equality.

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