Extreme Dieting: Now with Parasites?

In many areas of the world, females are under immense pressure to be thin. This pressure is especially intense in Asia, where women always seem to be looking for ways to get skinnier. Experts say dieting in Asia tends to be more extreme than in the West, because of cultural perceptions of size. Asian men tend to be small. So, in order to feel masculine, they appreciate a woman who is even smaller than they are.

“The magic number is to be below 100 pounds, no matter your height or your weight,” says Philippa Yu, a clinical psychologist at the Hong Kong Eating Disorders Association. Often, women do not exercise to achieve this unrealistic weight, because of the perception that it will cause muscle growth, which is seen as masculine.

When they want to reduce their weight, they eat less or take laxatives. They might also visit slimming centers, where ultrasound technology promises to melt away fat. They are also covered with Chinese herbs and bandages, then encased in a heat-emitting machine that is said to draw out toxins, while toning and shaping the body.

But, the newest weight loss fad goes above and beyond – women are ingesting parasites to get slim. This has become popular enough that the Hong Kong Health Department issued a warning in February that these worms, which are sold on Chinese websites, can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and even death.

The number of women suffering from eating disorders has more than tripled in the last 10 years in cities like Shanghai, Seoul, and Beijing.

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