Skinny Chinese model ripped for water-only diet that lasts 12 days

Society & Culture

A useful guide to a diet that will get you in shape for the summer, or a recipe for self harm? Chinese internet users seem to think that a 36-day diet featuring 12 days of only water is crazy, even if it it did work for actress Zhou Weiting.

water-only diet
Photo from 36 day diet post by Zhōu Wéitóng 周韦彤.

It’s that time of the year again — at least, in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the time when people (or at least, women) start to feel pressure, with summer rapidly approaching, to slim down in order to appear in shape on the beach and on Instagram.  

Encouraging and tapping into the summer body anxiety, Chinese celebrities are sharing their successful diet stories, too. Some of these experiences can be inspiring, but the one shared by Zhōu Wéitóng 周韦彤, a Chinese actress and model, has made her enemy number one on Weibo, where she was slammed for promoting an extreme and potentially dangerous diet and encouraging oppressive body standards.

On Wednesday, Zhou shared an infographic (in Chinese) with her 10.6 million followers on Weibo that presents a complete breakdown of what she ate during a 36 day program in which she lost 12.5 kilograms (27.5 pounds). During her more than a month-long diet, she survived on fruit, vegetables, green smoothies, lean meats, supplements, and appetite suppressants. 

While these are common in many diets, Zhou’s battle against fat also included 12 days straight when nothing but water passed her lips. To be more precise, “a lot of water plus occasional intakes of supplements,” she said.

Describing her publicizing of the diet as her way to give back to those who “oversaw and encouraged” her, Zhou wrote: “Slimming down is not my ultimate goal. For my next step, I will eat healthy and exercise diligently in order to obtain a nice body. Summer is just around the corner. Let’s be pretty together!”

The post also contained a “disclaimer,” in which Zhou told her followers to “make diet plans based on their health conditions” and “take it slow” while on a diet. “Don’t copy my method blindly,” she wrote.

Despite the warning, her post stirred up controversy on Weibo, with many accusing her of advocating water fasting, a controversial cleanse that they said could be potentially lethal to people with eating disorders. 

Some also pointed out while the water-only diet was nothing new, it was mostly performed by those who were extremely obese and suffered from diabetes, as well as under the supervision of a doctor. For someone as slender as Zhao to publicly promote the method and encourage others to take part, she was pushing young women like her to unhealthy lengths, especially at a time of year when body image anxiety was at its peak.

Here’s a sampling of the negative reactions going about Weibo regarding Zhao’s diet story:

water-only diet“[This is] nonsense. People will die because of this.”

water-only diet“She should do something else with this level of perseverance. Even studying Buddhism is more useful than this.”

water-only diet“Women who reach the final stage of her diet won’t have their periods…Basically, not far from death.”

water-only diet“I want everyone to know that there are only three ways to lose weight rapidly: being amputated, being cremated, and starting your next life.”

water-only diet“Ladies, don’t do this. Not taking in carbs can cause irregular menstrual cycles.”

water-only diet“Normal people would end up in the ICU if they attempted to eat like her.”

water-only diet“Don’t do this! This is self-harm!”

water-only diet“Is she trying to become a supermodel and not work at all? She won’t have enough brain bandwidth for her work while eating like a bird.”

Zhao is far from the only celebrity in China to have flaunted their lean figures on social media and documented their progress while trying to lose weight. Last month, actress Yáng Mì 杨幂 was forced to apologize after taking part in a body-shaming online trend, in which she shared a self-portrait in a pose struck by a super-thin girl in a manga drawing.