Health & Wellness

No, honey, cotton balls aren't food!

Jacobsen /Hulton Archive/getty images / Today
eating cotton balls for food

That models are supposed to be representative of young, healthy, attractive women has got to be one of the biggest jokes in the industry. Case in point: model Bria Murphy, 23-year-old daughter of Eddie Murphy, recently revealed on “Good Morning America” that the pressure to be perfect is driving some of her modeling workmates to eat cotton balls to stave off hunger.

"I've heard of people eating the cotton balls with the orange juice … they dip it in the orange juice and then they eat the cotton balls to help them feel full, because the cotton's not doing anything. It's just dissolving. And it makes you think you're full, but you're not," said Murphy.

Cotton. Balls. How this trend ever got started is a mystery. Perhaps when you’re that famished, little puffs of spun cotton start to look like airy clouds of candy? It kind of makes you realize just how desperately hungry these models must be—and how extremely malnourished they all must be.

Dietician Marissa Lippert told Shine that the cotton is likely dipped in orange juice just to help the glob go down. There’s so little OJ on the pad, she says, that they’re not getting any nutrients from the juice. According to Lippert, when you’re that deprived of food, your blood pressure and blood sugar levels sink to dangerously low levels, so it’s possible that a dab of OJ could be giving them enough of a sugar spike to make them feel better. And by better, I mean like they’re not about to drop dead from exhaustion.

Dr. Manny Alvarez of Fox News reports that this isn’t only a ludicrous way of losing weight, it’s also extremely dangerous. Beyond the fact that cotton has no nutritional value, it also is not meant to be ingested. As fanciful as it sounds, cotton doesn’t just dissolve like a piece of saltwater taffy. You actually have to empty it out of your system. Any complications on the way through can lead to severe abdominal pain, and of course, death. One could choke on the ball going down, or they could suffer a bowel obstruction or a twisting of the intestines, if the fibers get wrapped around the organs.

Not that I support finding healthier ways to starve yourself, but if you were a supermodel, don’t you think you’d try other actual food items first like, oh, I don’t know, celery or those zero-calorie shirataki noodles?

I would joke that it sounds like many of these models have cotton for brains, too, but the average age of a runway model is 16. She’s 5’10” or 5’11” and weighs 120 pounds. She’s told on a daily basis that she’s too fat or too flabby or has a big nose. When models who are thinner and booking more jobs than she suggest eating cotton balls to get rid of that terrible gnawing sensation in her stomach, it probably sounds like a perfectly sane solution to a completely insane industry.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.