A 21-year-old Chinese Douyin influencer known as Cuihua has died on June 10 after a stint at a weight loss camp in Xi’an, China, according to Chinese media reports.
Douyin is a version of TikTok available in China.
Cuihua, who started at a weight of 312 catties (a Chinese unit of measurement which converts to about 187kg), was looking to lose 200 catties (120kg), more than half her body weight.
She documented her weight loss journey on Douyin, where she had 11,000 followers.
Rapid weight loss prior to death
Cuihua had claimed to have lost 57 catties (34.2kg) in two months, and 80 catties (48kg) after eight months.
She had previously posted a video where she said that she had done high-intensity training, and ate very little in the weight loss camp.
Her diet consisted mostly of coarse grains, cabbages, eggs, and fruit, according to Sixth Tone.
A still from the video shows her working out with a trainer, a pained expression on her face.
In addition to training during the day, Cuihua would apparently hold a live broadcast at night for her fans, and work out even more in front of them.
On June 13, however, all of Cuihua’s Douyin videos were made private.
Only two posts were left, containing statements believed to be from her family.
The first reads:
“We ask that malicious netizens stop debating over this issue. We are already grieving, please don’t hurt us again. The matter has passed and we do not wish to speak of it anymore.”
The more recent update appears to contradict reports that Cuihua had died at the camp:
“The matter has nothing to do with Da Huang Feng training camp and did not occur there. Please do not cyberbully any training camps anymore.”
The message also repeats:
“The matter has passed and we do not wish to speak of it anymore.”
Tackling obesity in China
In recent years, obesity has become a topic of concern in China.
According to data from the Report on the Status of Nutrition and Chronic Diseases in China in 2020, approximately half (50.7%) of adults in the country were overweight (34.3%) or obese (16.4%).
In response to this trend, weight loss camps like the one that Cuihua attended became more common.
In a 2021 report, Goldthread, a culture publication run by the South China Morning Post, said that one such camp called “The Biggest Loser” guaranteed that girls would lose at least 7% of their body weight in their camp, while boys could lose at least 8%.
“The Biggest Loser” had 31 branches across China at time of reporting.
Some of these camps charge participants up to RMB20,000 (S$3,748) a month.
Campers face a restricted diet and have to partake in four hours of enforced exercise a day.
Some have expressed concern about the safety of such camps.
Jiemian News reported that one participant said they were starved, with daily meals being whittled down to one egg a day.
The participant was also forced to exercise three times a day, for four to five hours, and reported feeling chest pains.
Some participants were injured as a result of the training, and a few were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis.
Rhabdomyolysis, usually associated with spinning, occurs when damaged muscle tissue releases its proteins and electrolytes into the blood.
These substances can damage the heart and kidneys, and cause permanent disability or even death.
The obsession with weight loss isn’t just limited to the overweight.
While the Chinese beauty standard has always favoured the pale and thin, the obsession with thinness has intensified in recent years.
A height and weight chart titled “BM Girls’ Ideal Weight Chart” went viral on Xiaohongshu, a Chinese social platform, for stipulating the exact height and weight proportions to be able to fit into clothing by Italian fashion brand Brandy Melville.
Brandy Melville is a brand notorious for its one-size policy, and has been criticised for catering only to the very thin.
Other concerning trends that have gone viral in the past include:
- Women trying on children’s clothing in Uniqlo stores, presumably to flex their thinness.
- The “belly button challenge“, which involves women wrapping one arm around their waists to touch their belly button from the other side, to show how small their waists are.
- The “A4 waist challenge“, where women cover their waists with a sheet of A4 paper as a measure of thinness.
Top image via 新闻晨报/Weibo.
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