All About The Cotton Ball Diet And Its Effects On Your Health

Last Update on December 15, 2022 : Published on December 16, 2022

There’s never been a time when I haven’t heard of a weird dieting trend. But, let me tell you, there’s one weird trend that I couldn’t understand at all! I mean, let’s be honest; over the years, there have been the craziest things people have done but the one thing to top the charts would be the Cotton Ball Diet.

This cotton ball diet, as the name suggests, is where people eat cotton balls dipped in juice or smoothies to control their calorie intake as well as restrict their diet. However, no matter how appealing this may sound, eating cotton balls as a diet can not only be harmful to your physical health but can also leave some mental health wounds too.

This “Cotton Ball Diet” is said to come from modeling industries where maintaining a “thin figure” is the norm. Promoted by modeling influencers and teenage girls, this cotton ball diet is said to be a good way to lose weight.

Not only can this diet be harmful to your overall health, but it can also be even fatal. While the cotton ball diet is not formally recognized as an eating disorder in the DSM-5, it still represents a kind of disordered eating disorder.

Let’s explore what the cotton ball diet is, how it can be dangerous, and how you can seek treatment for disordered eating.

What Is The Cotton Ball Diet?

A cotton ball diet is a distorted form of dieting that encourages you to eat cotton balls in a misguided attempt to lose weight. This isn’t a healthy diet but is a type of disordered eating habit. Just like other eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, and binge-eating disorder, the cotton ball diet can have serious (and even fatal, in some cases) effects.

More often than not, poor body image and body dissatisfaction can result in eating disorders. If you look at the statistics, more than half of the people diagnosed with eating disorders have other co-occurring disorders such as mood disorders, depression, and low self-esteem.

So, if you know someone who’s following the cotton ball diet then they could not only be dealing with an eating disorder but also a mental health disorder.

Now, to understand why people follow the cotton ball diet, you need to understand disordered eating disorders. Let’s take a look at that.

What Is Disordered Eating?

Disordered eating is when you engage in behaviors such as restricting your calorie intake, purging, or consuming food that is not considered food items (such as cotton balls dipped in liquids) to feel full. These eating habits are often an unhealthy way to cope with emotions, lose weight, or even regain your sense of control.

Disordered eating can be dangerous and can cause eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorders.

Other than disordered eating, the consumption of non-food items can be a symptom of pica, a rare eating disorder where people regularly consume items such as cloth, paint, clay, ice, etc. The cotton ball diet involves eating cotton balls not to gain any nutritional benefits but to lose weight, only.

This kind of behavior and condition has also been associated with mental health disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, and intellectual disabilities (ID).

Side Effects Of Eating Cotton Ball As A Diet

The cotton ball can be harmful to your health for many reasons. Not only does this diet deprive your body of the nutrients it needs, but it also presents a lot of medical and psychological side effects. Take a look at some of them;

1. Intestinal Problems

Cotton balls are not consumable or edible for that matter so eating cotton balls as a diet can cause intestinal problems. When you swallow cotton balls, they can obstruct your intestines and clog your digestive system.

When you eat something indigestible, it can mix with other food particles and form a bezoar. This bezoar can clog the digestive system causing intestinal problems such as constipation, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, etc.

2. Causes Toxicity

Cotton balls contain bleach and other chemicals that can be harmful to your body. Sure, they come from cotton plants but not all cotton balls are produced from cotton plants, some are made with polyester. Chemicals in such substances are harmful to human consumption and can have fatal side effects.

3. Leads To Malnutrition

When you will not consume any nutrients or calories, how can your body sustain itself? Eating cotton balls as a diet can lead to malnutrition because it prevents you from taking important nutrients.

When malnutrition occurs, it can also cause other health conditions such as poor cellular metabolism, loss of body tissues, poor immunity, and an increased risk of catching infections. If you’re showing these symptoms, then you should immediately contact a doctor for treatment;

  • Bleeding gums
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Joint pain
  • Weakness

4. Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder as well as a psychological disorder that involves a fear of gaining weight. This condition causes you to restrict calorie intake to lose weight. This disorder can cause significant loss of weight and other issues such as abnormal heart palpitations, organ failure, bloating, abnormal hair growth, fatigue, osteoporosis, and more.

Why Do People Eat Cotton Balls?

There could be reasons why people eat cotton balls. Some of the most common reasons can include; wanting to lose weight fast, diet culture, low self-esteem, etc.

With the acceptance and normalization of diet culture, many people have resorted to weird diets. Diet culture essentially idolizes the belief that you’re only healthy when you “look thin” and that the ideal body shape should be “thin”. If you’re thin, only then you can achieve success and happiness in life.

While the belief is not true, many people still fall victim to this diet culture as they are mostly met with fat-shaming comments and discrimination.

Such responses from society, social media, commercials, and other media often contribute to low self-esteem, negative thinking, poor body image, an unhealthy obsession with losing weight, and disordered eating habits. These behaviors can ultimately lead to not only poor physical health but also poor mental health.

Is Recovery From Eating Disorders Possible?

Yes! Eating disorders and even disordered eating habits such as the cotton ball diet can be treated with a combination of psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, social support, and even medications, in some severe cases. Of course, the specific treatment plan may depend on your condition and the intensity of the symptoms of eating disorders you have.

The treatment for eating disorders focuses on replacing negative thoughts and behaviors that lead to unhealthy eating behaviors as well as learning new and healthier ways to cope with eating habits. You may also learn to make some serious lifestyle changes to aid in your recovery.

Recovery is possible only when you address the eating disorder on time, seek professional and social support, and stay on your treatment plan.

Final Thoughts

Losing weight can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean you should follow diets that can do more harm than good. It’s important to focus on eating healthy foods and maintaining an active lifestyle. While the cotton ball diet may seem enticing, it can be fatal.

If you need additional help maintaining your weight, you can contact a nutritionist or a doctor for more information. If you’re struggling with eating disorders, then you can connect with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Helpline or call for support at 1800-931-2237.

I hope this blog helped you understand the cotton ball diet and its effects on your health. For more, you can connect with us at or DM us on social media. Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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