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Parenting Adult Children for Your Peace of Mind and Their Accountability

Friday Food for Thought: The Versatile Cotton Ball

Posted on January 31, 2014 | 3 Comments

by Linda Herman, LMHC

The Versatile Cotton Ball

We’ve had them in our bathrooms for years. Those little fluffs  of cotton used for removing nail polish, makeup, mildew from damp corners, or scents from your fridge.  Now they are being used to remove something else:  pounds. That’s right.

One of the latest diet trends with tweens and teens is to dip cotton balls into orange juice or lemonade and then chew and swallow up to five of them.  The dieter feels full, doesn’t consume many calories and voila, becomes or stays thin.

Where did this come from? Some say models have been eating cotton balls for years, but as do other trade secrets, this one leaked out. Perhaps we baby boomers are among the last to learn the latest in weight management. But all you have to do is go to YouTube for live demonstrations by young girls.

Thankfully, experts in eating disorders are on top of this, citing two main problems with this kind of weight loss program. For one thing, eating the “balls” is not like taking an appetite-suppressing medication.  The soaked balls are indigestible and can cause intestinal blockages that may lead to the need for surgery. Second, most of today’s cotton balls are not cotton at all. They are made from bleached polyester.  The individual on this diet is not getting nutrients. While feeling full, she could be on her road to malnutrition or even starving.

As long as there is the need to eat and cultures that value thinness,  weight-loss experimentation and obsession will go on. The cotton ball diet, say the experts, is not truly a diet, however. It qualifies as an eating disorder.

I took a look at statistics in the UK, (from the Health and Social Care Information Centre) as reported in the Daily Telegraph 1/29/14

Here is some of what I found:

The number of admissions to hospitals for eating disorders is increasing annually.

The biggest increase in admissions to hospitals for eating disorders is in the 10 – 19 age group.

Of almost 1200 admissions for children 16 and under, 32 were ages five to nine; six were under the age of five.

Nine times as many girls as boys are admitted to the hospital for eating disorders, with the most common age being 15.

Here in the US, the National Eating Disorders Association,, has some of its own shocking statistics:

81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.

42% of 1st – 3rd grade girls want to be thinner>

46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often “ on diets and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets.

Since many baby boomers have the opportunity to be a positive influence in the lives of their grandchildren, knowing what they are exposed to can be helpful. Beyond that, reinforce healthy food and activity choices. As a grandparent you need not be the food police.  Those with weight problems know it, and may already be in food battles at home.  Take the opportunity to show your unconditional love and your wisdom.
(And If the cotton ball craze comes up in conversation,  be ready to calmly serve up the facts.)






3 responses to “Friday Food for Thought: The Versatile Cotton Ball”

  1. Ruth Nemzoff says:

    Grandparents have a role in helping both their children and grandchildren in tough

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