A social media influencer who was trying to lose more than half her body weight as an inspiration to her followers, has reportedly died while attending an intensive weight-loss boot camp in China.
The death of the 21-year-old influencer, who posted on social media under the name Cuihua, has prompted Chinese state media to warn citizens over the safety risks involved in weight-loss camps and renewed concerns over the pressures women are under to conform to beauty standards set by social media.
She died on June 10, Chinese media said. Her death comes just weeks after a young man in the country died after live-streaming himself drinking several bottles of strong alcohol.
Cuihua had been documenting her weight-loss journey to her tens of thousands of followers on Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, in a bid to encourage them in their own fights against obesity.
She had recently posted several videos of herself undergoing intensive training exercises and shared that she weighed 156 kilograms (344 pounds) and was trying to lose 100 kilograms.
Videos posted on the account showed her running and weight-lifting and they were shared heavily on Chinese social media . Her videos also appeared in various state media outlets following her death.
China National Radio reported that Cuihua – identified by her family name of Zhou had joined several weight-loss camps in various cities in a bid to reach her goal and had lost more than 27 kilograms (60 pounds) in the two months leading up to her death.
CNR said Cuihua had attended her final camp in Shaanxi province just two days before her death.
While that camp promoted “nutritious meals, rest and healthy exercise,” they said she had chosen to limit her diet while also undergoing intense exercise.
Videos of Cuihua training have since been removed from the account and pictures deleted.
State media outlets said that the influencer’s family had received “compensation” from the weight loss camp in Shaanxi, but did not say how much.
Local authorities have said they are investigating the death and whether the weight loss camp was conducting excessive or improper training.
Experts in eating disorders and sports nutrition warn that even seemingly healthy behaviors such as increasing levels of exercise and dieting can be harmful when motivated by a negative body image and taken to extremes.
In extreme cases, problems can go beyond mental health and lead to severe medical complications affecting the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and other organs.
Recent national survey in Chinese data suggests more than half of Chinese adults are now either overweight or obese, according to the Lancet, and obesity rates are expected to increase.