Skip to content
February 26, 2010 / Katie

Dieting as self-inflicted torture

There have been discussions in the past year about how often the recommended daily caloric intake of diets is similar to that of starvation techniques used in torture. At these low caloric intake levels, all kinds of nasty things start happening to the human body, including impaired cognition, mood regulation problems (i.e. depression, anxiety, angry outbursts), and physically the body goes into ketosis where it literally begins eating its own muscle tissue to stay alive.

It isn’t any wonder why this extreme caloric restriction is used as a torture mechanism, but it IS a wonder why on earth we choose to subject ourselves to this willingly (I’m included in the “we” here; I have done this to myself many times, literally to the point of physical illness).

So caloric restriction, at least in extreme forms, is literally torture. And, depressingly, a new way of torturing ourselves has arisen recently. Sweet Machine at Shapely Prose reports on a procedure where a polyethylene mesh is surgically implanted on your tongue, making eating extremely painful and “forcing a low-calorie, liquid only diet”.

You pay a nice man named Dr Nikolas Chugay to spend 10 minutes to stitch a torture device into your mouth, and you pay him $3,000 for the privilege, and then you eat 750 calories a day for a month. And you lose weight! And also you forgo all pleasure in life because you are combining constant pain with a sub-torture level of sustenance!

Apparently 35 people* have signed up for this procedure since September.

We have become a people who are quite literally willing to torture ourselves—or advocate torture of others—to try to whip our bodies into a smaller size. What does this say about the psychological makeup of fat folks and the culture that shames us? So many of us have been emotionally abused into such deep levels of brokenness that we are willing to literally undergo torture. So many fat-hating persons in our culture have such a deep lack of empathy or respect for us that they see us only as sub-human and thus have no qualms about our deserving torture if “that’s what it takes” to make us thin (and, it would seem, therefore actual persons). To add insult to injury, even these torture techniques almost never work in making and keeping us thin.

It is not our bodies that are disgusting; it is the culture that stomps on our souls, breaking our spirits to the point that we are willing—and sometimes gladly—to undergo torture, that is disgusting.

This is not what God has in mind for us. Insofar as God has any plan for us, this is absolutely not in that plan.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. –Jeremiah 29:11

God’s plan is for our welfare, not our harm. God’s plan is for the enjoyment of food as a good gift, not self-restriction and deliberate pain-making to the point of torture. God’s plan is for love, for respect, for trust, for peace. God’s plan is for radical love for self** and neighbor.

God’s plan is for us to have a future filled with hope. Not the torturous, elusive hope of being thin, but the hope that one day we will be able to love ourselves and one another in community without our body size having anything to do with that love. That one day all of us will embrace one another as the sacred beings that we are. That one day the idea of torturing anyone, be they fat, or suspected terrorists, or whoever else the popular “other” is at the time, would be truly disgusting and abhorrent to all of us.

God’s plan for us not torture; it is love and it is hope.


* Note the headless fatty in the Vancouver Sun article.

** I hate that I have to qualify this, but I don’t mean self-absorption here. I don’t mean vanity or self-infatuation, I mean a true, deep, unconditional love and acceptance of ourselves as sacred human persons as we accept and love our neighbors in the same way.


Leave a Comment
  1. cloakedmonk / Feb 26 2010 12:41 pm

    Nice. Thanks Katie! It bears repeating:

    “God’s plan is for our welfare, not our harm. God’s plan is for the enjoyment of food as a good gift, not self-restriction and deliberate pain-making to the point of torture. God’s plan is for love, for respect, for trust, for peace. God’s plan is for radical love for self and neighbor.”


  2. Genesis / Feb 26 2010 3:07 pm

    Well said

  3. Heidi / Feb 26 2010 3:54 pm

    Of course, the irony is a bariatric surgeon criticizing the method as being like medieval torture. Because cutting apart your guts and resewing them isn’t appalling (except in the minority of cases!).

    That’s just awful.

    • wriggles / Feb 27 2010 5:52 am

      You are so right.

    • Meems / Feb 27 2010 10:18 pm

      I think it speaks to just how barbaric this tongue patch is that even a bariatric surgeon finds the idea disturbing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: