Ahhh, gone are the days where you could simply count on your Uncle George or your Mother to track every morsel of food you put in your mouth.  And past are the days where you simply penciled your sins into a small tracker page in your purse so you could pore over the results every week in your “Fat Bashers”(TM) meeting.  Now you can count on a digital plate to track how much you’ve eaten and a little wristwatch to track how fast you’re putting the food into your face.

The Bite Counter watch subtly clocks the movements between your wrist and your mouth, and is being developed by researchers at South Carolina’s Clemson University.  Here’s how they determined the effectiveness of this puppy.  They tracked 77 people for a week and determined that the average calories per bite were 17 for men and 11 for women.  (I presume, during the study that the women were either taking “petite”  bites or had teeny tiny forks.)  They multiplied that times 100 (a suspiciously round number if ever I heard one) and said that since 1100 calories and 1700 calories represented low calorie diets, 100 bites is the optimal number of bites for people trying to lose weight.

They also noted that those who counted their bites ate fewer calories than those who didn’t.  (At least during the short-term study).  And the researchers suggest that the bite meter could be used to measure the rate of speed at which the food was consumed–suggesting that eating more slowly leads to weight loss.

Another device used to measure how fast somebody eats is the new talking plate.  FANTASTIC.  Now I can have a battery operated widget to ask me if, “I really need to eat that?” and ask me why I haven’t finished my broccoli.  It’s like a digital gateway to disordered and non-intuitive eating.  YAY!  (Not.)  The plate also claims to measure my fullness (how I can’t imagine.)

Except all of this is based on some notably faulty assumptions.  Low calorie diets have not been proven to lead to long-term weight loss–ever–for all but a tiny fraction of participants.  There is absolutely no reason to believe that these gadgets wouldn’t fall into the familiar pattern of lose some weight in the short term, gain it all back in the long term, and then a little more.

But the thing that absolutely terrifies me about these new measuring devices is the probability that fat people will ultimately be shackled to them by insurance companies and corporate wellness programs in the name of cost cutting and discrimination–oops I mean better health.  The research behind them is shaky and has been called out by other scientists in the community, the reasoning behind them is flawed in a way that seems obvious even to the most casual observer.  But I predict, that in short order, we’ll have fat people on food oriented house arrest in order to keep their corporate insurance policy.

Big Brother is here and he’s watching you–eat.

Want to learn new ways to fight against injustice for fat folks?  There’s still time to register for the Fat Activism Conference!


Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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