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March 8, 2011

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Starvation, cling wrap, breast cream

IT'S the season to shed winter fat and shape up for warm weather and revealing clothes. Many young women are going to extremes to look good. Zhang Qian steps on the scale.

As usual, women are taking risks with their health in the pursuit of what they consider beauty.

Losing weight, losing fat and enlarging their breasts with hormone creams are on the agenda for many young women as spring approaches.

Overweight people want to lose weight, normal weight people want to lose weight and even slim people want to lose weight and body fat. The objective ought to be losing fat, not muscle, but most young women don't care.

A year ago Linda Li, standing 165 centimeters tall, weighed around 100 kilograms and looked like a cube.

Determined to change dramatically, the 26-year-old skipped as many meals as possible, and only ate a few vegetables and fruit when she was starving.

Her record was going without regular meals for two weeks.

She felt extremely guilty when she ate more and then put the fingers down her throat to make herself vomit - she became bulimic, with a serious eating disorder.

She lost around 40 kilograms in six months but now finds that she cannot eat.

"I want to eat when see delicious food," says Li, "but I just can't help vomiting if I eat a little more." Two spoonfuls of fried rice make her feel full and stop eating. Her menstrual periods stopped four months ago. She figured that was because of her "diet," but wouldn't tell a doctor.

She was prescribed hormones, but so far she has no period and no appetite.

Skipping meals

Linda is an extreme case, but drastic diets and skipping meals are common among young women eager to lose weight.

"They have various theories that they either pick up from the Internet or their friends, such as no rice and only vegetables and no eating after noon," says Wang Tao, a nutritionist with an internationally known weight-loss program. She sees a lot of undernourished Chinese girls.

Most of these are unhealthy, can cause problems and don't work in the long term. Carbohydrates in rice and flour are essential to keep the body fueled and the metabolism running; good metabolism is essential to burn fat.

Few of these girls take up regular cardio exercise, which is essential for health and an excellent way to burn fat - but if the body isn't fueled with carbohydrates, there's no power to exercise properly.

Crazy diets are reflected in drawn pale faces, dry hair and low spirits (of course, no energy).

People who skip meals get hungry so they tend to overeat at the next meal.

Skipping meals over a long period can lead to infertility, according to Dr Li Yuxing, vice president of Cheng Zhitang Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinic, which specializes in gynecology.

She finds that most patients with irregular periods or premature ovarian failure had extreme weight loss in recent years.

"Sufficient energy and blood is the foundation of menstruation and nutrition in meals is the major source for energy and blood," she says. "How can you expect streams to flow if you cut off the source?"

Research also shows that a certain amount of body fat is necessary for normal hormone secretion. Too much fat loss affects ovulation.


Teresa Wang, a 26-year-old white collar, has just taken up aerobics to improve her shape.

Her weight is normal but she thinks her legs are too fat so she doesn't look good in a skirt.

"I don't need to lose weight, but a few inches off my legs would make me more confident in my clothes," she says.

Wang followed the advice of wrapping her legs with preservative film, and felt that it was working because her wrapped legs were sweating more.

The idea is that nonporous film will higher temperatures and increase metabolism and fat burning.

"It helps to lose a little weight," says Wang, "but do not expect that film-wrapping alone can help get rid of a lot of weight."

It also doesn't allow the skin to breathe and can cause allergies.

Wrapping the body with preservative film will make it difficult for the skin to eliminate heat, according to Dr Wang Li of the Plastic Surgery Center of First Affiliated Hospital Medical School of Xi'an Jiaotong University.

Sweating will gather on a partial skin area, possibly leading to skin problems like edema and folliculitis.

Besides, water in the cells are consumed more than fat are in the case, meaning the weight will rebound when more water is taken.

Breast creams

Various breast-enlarging products, including creams and medicines, often make girls lost.

Some are fakes that do nothing; some contain estrogen, the primary female hormone, than can disrupt the endocrine system.

Jacqueline Feng, who already has nice breasts, was dissatisfied and wanted a bigger bust, so the 24-year-old bought a breast-enhancement cream.

She massaged her breasts every night but gave up after three weeks when she saw no "improvement."

Actually, she was fortunate not to seem "improvement" as cream that do work contain estrogens that in excess are bad for health, according to Dr Ye Changsheng of the Breast Disease Center of Guangzhou's Nanfang Hospital.

The proper amount of hormones keeps the reproductive system functioning normally, but too much only disrupts normal secretion and leads to problems.

Benign tumors of the uterus, breast tenderness and even breast cancer can be caused by excessive hormones, she says.


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