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The Cotton Ball Diet is Dangerous

cotton balls resizedThere have been many diets that sound a bit extreme – but that do involve actual food. The cotton ball diet, however, encourages people to eat a non-food item that their bodies cannot break down or gain nutrition from. The purpose of this diet, like all diets, is weight loss. It is important to know that the cotton ball diet is very dangerous!

There are certain times of the year in which a lot of people suddenly decide to go on a diet. One is shortly before summer, when people decide they want to lose weight in order to look good in swimwear. Others start a diet in between Halloween and Christmas in an effort to avoid eating extra calories and gaining weight. New Year’s Resolutions often include a desire to start a weight loss plan.

The best way to start a diet is to consult a doctor (who may direct you to a nutritionist). Health practitioners can help a person to figure out how many calories they should consume, what kinds of foods to avoid, and how much exercise they need. Unfortunately, most people don’t take advantage of the knowledge of doctors when they start a diet. They might simply choose whatever diet is “trendy” at the time.

Parents need to be aware that there is a trend called the cotton ball diet. Teens and children can find information about it online via websites and YouTube videos. This diet does not require a person to count calories or exercise (things that some people find difficult to do on a consistent basis).

Instead, it encourages people to ingest cotton balls – something that is obviously not a food. Some of the online information suggests that people dip a cotton ball into something that tastes good, like orange juice, before swallowing it. The goal of this diet seems to be to avoid feeling hunger. The person will feel full after eating cotton balls. The purpose is to replace actual food with something the body cannot digest in an effort to prevent weight gain.

Why is this such a dangerous diet? One thing to consider is that a typical cotton ball is made of bleached polyester fibers that contain a lot of chemicals. Another concern is that the body cannot break down or digest a cotton ball. Those undigested cotton balls can create bezoars – a trapped mass of material that can cause life threatening obstructions in the intestinal tract. It is also possible to choke on the cotton ball.

In other words, the cotton ball diet is not actually a diet. It is an unhealthy, disordered form of eating behavior. Girls ages 9 – 16 are resorting to swallowing cotton balls in a desperate attempt to prevent weight gain and distract themselves from feeling hunger. Parents should speak to their children about the reasons why eating cotton balls is dangerous.

Image by Mike K on Flickr.

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