In pursuit of body perfection, dieting can take some extreme turns.
Videos on YouTube feature a method called "the cotton ball diet." It involves eating cotton balls soaked in juice or some other liquid.
The idea is to make the stomach feel full even though it's starved for nutrition.
"Since cotton is nondigestible and has something of a sponge-type effect, it might give you an initial feeling of fullness in the stomach," says internal medicine specialist Dr. Fred Campbell.
Professionals warn you could lose a whole lot more than extra pounds on the cotton ball diet.
"You are not getting the vitamins, the minerals, the calories, the proteins and fats that our bodies need to survive off of," says Kourtney Gordon, program manager of an eating disorders program.
And that can lead to hair loss, diminished bone density, impact organ function and even brain function. And here's something else to consider: most cotton balls aren't made solely of cotton anymore.
They are actually little balls of bleached polyester fibers laden with chemicals that can do serious damage to your digestive tract.
"It could possibly cause some sort of obstructive effect lower in the intestines. I would consider that a fairly dangerous technique," says Campbell.
Its roots may reach to the modeling industry. Up and coming model Bria Murphy, who is the daughter of comedian Eddie Murphy, talked openly about the cotton ball diet during a television interview.
"They dip it into the orange juice, and they eat the cotton balls to help them feel fell," Murphy explained.
While the cotton ball diet is garnering attention, it's not clear if many dieters are trying it.
Regardless, doctors hope it's a fad that will quickly fade.
"Long-term complications. We have no clue what that is going to do and even in the short term because it can lead to more severe eating behaviors in high-risk groups. It's not worth even trying," says Gordon.
What are potential signs of an eating disorder? Experts encourage parents to answer the following questions about their children.
- Do they avoid meal times and situations involving food?
- Have you noticed a change in dress that could hide a dramatic weight loss?
- Is there a rigid exercise schedule they stick to?
- Have they withdrawn socially?
- Have you noticed rituals around preparing food and eating it?
These are just a few of the signs your child may have an eating disorder.
If you suspect your child has an eating disorder, make an appointment with their pediatrician or your family doctor.
A doctor will be be able to determine if there are any signs of the serious health problems associated with an eating disorder, and may make recommendations for further treatment.