Typically, we associate feeding tubes with the severely ill, patients in comas and others who have difficulty feeding themselves. But wait! According to a recent New York Times story, they’re also part of a hot new crash diet for brides anxious to lose weight before their wedding day.
Jessica Schnaider, a 41-year-old Floridian bride-to-be, spent eight days eating through a tube in her nose in order to drop those pesky last few pounds before going gown shopping in March. The procedure, which is supervised by a doctor, costs $1,500 and involves the insertion of a nasogastric tube through the nose, down the esophagus and into the stomach. Patients generally spend 10 days getting all their nutrition through the tube, which provides them with 800 carbohydrate-free calories a day (Schnaider removed hers early after losing 10 lb. in one week). Dr. Oliver R. Di Pietro, the Bay Harbor Islands, Fla., physician who administers the procedure, told the Times he sees a lot of brides looking for a prewedding fix. “At first I decided not to do it for people who just want to lose a few pounds,” he said. “But then I thought, why should I say 5 or 10 pounds are not enough? People want to be perfect.”
The procedure isn’t just some aberration of body-conscious South Florida either: a February report in the British newspaper the Guardian claimed that 1,200 patients went under the “diet tube” in the U.K. last year, while clinics offering the procedure have been popping up all over Europe.
If the idea of eating through your nose makes you squeamish, you could always try another diet fad mentioned in the Times article: daily injections of human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone associated with pregnancy that was popularized as a weight-loss drug back in 1954. Despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration recently reiterated what it said about the hormone injections the first time — i.e., that they’re totally ineffective — some patients swear by the $950 course, which includes weekly meetings with a registered nurse and a 500-calorie diet.
If anything, health experts say that it’s the strict dieting that makes a difference. One thing both weight-loss fads have in common is an immense reduction in caloric intake. “It doesn’t matter if it’s through a tube, a straw, a meal plan,” Dr. Scott Shikora, the director of the Center for Metabolic Health and Bariatric Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told the Times. “They all work, if someone goes from 3,000 calories a day to 800.”