Well, I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or be extremely offended. Microsoft recently set aside its operating systems and game consoles to bring us (wait for it) a high-tech bra designed to stop women from overeating.
The bra includes sensor pads and a microprocessor powered by a 3.7-volt battery. These sensors allow the bra to monitor heart rate and respiration with an EKG sensor, skin conductance with an electrodermal activity sensor, and movement with an accelerometer and gyroscope. When combined with data about current mood input into a smartphone app by the wearer, the bra is able to predict whether or not they’re eating because of stress. If the answer is yes, the bra sends a text alert admonishing the wearer to think twice before polishing off that pint of ice cream.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this delightful technology, it’s important to note that stress eating is a big problem, especially here in the U.S. According to a 2008 Stress in America Survey published by the American Psychological Association [PDF], the number of adults who turn to food to reduce stress is nearly equal to those who turn to smoking, alcohol, shopping and gambling combined!
So yes, stress eating is an emotional problem that can have negative physical results. But c’mon, an anti-eating bra??
First of all, why just a bra? That APA statistic clearly says ADULTS, not WOMEN. Men are just as likely to have emotional ties to food as women, but you don’t see Microsoft debuting the “Diet Jockstrap”.
“It’s mostly women who are emotional overeaters, and it turns out that a bra is perfect for measuring EKG (electrocardiogram),” Mary Czerwinski, a cognitive psychologist and senior researcher in visualization and interaction at Microsoft, told Discovery News.
Fair enough, and in Microsoft’s defense, they DID toy with the idea of sensory underwear, but it was too far away from the heart to gather accurate data so they excluded men from the study.
Still, I can’t help but notice that this research falls nicely in line with the entire double standard that exists around weight, gender, and beauty in our society: Men can eat whatever they want and if they gain a few pounds, it’s the subject of jokes. If a woman asks for seconds, it’s cause for raised eyebrows, and gaining a few pounds is cause for shock and horror.
And, as ThinkProgress notes, “stress-inducing eating may not actually be a huge public health problem in the first place. Gudrun Sproesser, a German researcher who recently published a paper on the subject, told Discovery News that emotionally-driven eating isn’t necessarily a negative thing, depending on individuals’ eating patterns during less stressful times. ‘Stress eaters should not be considered at risk to gain weight by default,’ Sproesser explained in a press release about her research. ‘Our results suggest the need for a dynamic view of food intake across multiple situations, positive and negative.’”