The Feeding Tube Diet: A Magical Weight-Loss Solution?

The so-called “feeding tube” diet has received a great deal of attention in the last week after the New York Times published an article titled “Bridal Hunger Games: Losing Weight in Time for the Wedding” that described this extreme weight-loss approach.

Katie Rickel, PhD
The Feeding Tube Diet: A Magical Weight-Loss Solution?
The Feeding Tube Diet: A Magical Weight-Loss Solution?

The so-called “feeding tube” diet has received a great deal of attention in the last week after the New York Times published an article titled “Bridal Hunger Games: Losing Weight in Time for the Wedding” that described this extreme weight-loss approach. 

Formally known as the “K-E diet,” originally developed in Italy and currently offered in a Florida-based clinic, this $1500 program limits an individual’s daily intake to an 800-calorie liquid supplement delivered through a K-E tube, inserted through the nose and going into the stomach. Dieters can drink water, unsweetened tea or black coffee, but no other food or drink is allowed during the 10-day treatment period. The brochure promises that “most patients [lose] approximately 1% of their weight in 10 days, as long as you follow the program completely.” 

I could expound upon the physiological dangers of following this very low-calorie diet outside of a supervised medical setting. I could also elaborate on the futility of embarking on any weight-management plan that does not include readily available forms of nutrition (food!) and exercise. But those very valid points have been belabored already.  

Instead, I’d like to hear your feedback on another weight-loss strategy I’m in the process of developing. To start, I will be giving you a magic wand. As long as you hold the magic wand all day, you will have no interest in food, and you will not experience physical hunger or any temptation to eat. This magic wand will cost $1500, and it will melt your fat away. To make sure you get some nutrition, I will also give you an 800-calorie protein shake, tell you to sip it throughout the day, but instruct that you not ingest any other calories whatsoever. Would you believe in the power of my magic wand? 

Guess what? My magic wand – if it worked as promised – would be doing the same exact job as the K-E tube. The fine print of the K-E diet states that the program will only work if the sole source of nutrition is the 800-calorie supplement.

Well, newsflash folks! It is the drastic calorie reduction – not the contents of the supplement, the use of a K-E tube, or the doctor’s visits – that causes the drop on the scale (which is mostly water that will return as soon as normal eating is resumed). The fact remains that the feeding tube has no more power than a magic wand to help you override the strong physiological and psychological drives to eat food. In other words, I would suggest that this approach is relying heavily on the power of the placebo effect.

Once again, we are left with the sobering reality that losing weight involves some work. The good news is that the work is doable and gets you real results. Eat less, move more, get enough sleep, manage your stress, and utilize your support system. No feeding tubes or magic wands necessary!

Blog written by Katie Rickel, PhD
Dr. Katie Rickel is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in weight management and health behavior modification. She...