When it comes to food, people have their favourites. Maybe you can’t resist sweet things or you just can’t say no a chop dripping with sauce and pap, or fried chicken. Sooner or later, however, these might lead to weight gain and as easy as it can be to put on the pounds, getting rid of it requires effort and dedication. Unfortunately, some people decide to take the unhealthy route when they decide to lose weight – with dire health consequences.
The human body is naturally inclined to store fat to have a reserve of energy for times when food availability is limited. There are several factors that can influence weight loss in a healthy manner, such as following a strict and healthy diet and physical activity.
On the other hand, some people go over and above, such as using unlicensed drugs and life-threatening methods to lose weight.
‘I used marijuana to lose weight’
Losing weight had been a long-standing struggle for Siyabonga Bonga from Gqeberha, causing him immense emotional distress. He explains that when he was in his early twenties, his friends would frequently tease him about having a feminine physique. The pain was exacerbated by random people who would insult him, making comments about his feminine look.
Bonga shares with Health for Mzansi that he was searching for quick methods to lose weight when he came across the idea of using weed. To him, it seemed like a readily available option from the streets, with the potential to help him shed weight rapidly.
“I used marijuana for six months without losing weight. I heard that mixing it with a cigarette can produce amazing results. However, I tried it myself and found that it didn’t work at all.”
He admits that he enjoys junk food and that marijuana even increased his cravings for it. Instead of losing weight, he continued to gain even more.
“Back then, marijuana was still illegal. I used to put my life at risk by hunting marijuana on the streets of Cape Town in search of a quick fix. If I was caught with one, police officers would beat me up.”
After making the decision to join a gym, he began to lose weight and regain his confidence. However, he later found it difficult to resist the temptation of using marijuana. He explains that it took him more than a year to overcome his cravings, which presented another challenge due to the harm it was causing to his lungs.
Be cautious of street theories
According to Dr Manduleli Bikitsha, a physician based in Ilitha Park, Cape Town, it is important for people to exercise caution when considering the information they hear from the street. This is because not all of it is accurate, and in fact, some street theories can pose serious risks to one’s health.
He says there are certain illegal drugs that some people believe can suppress appetite. He emphasises that the notion is mostly a street theory, which is not true, but rather very dangerous.
According to Twin Rivers Rehab, people start to use methamphetamine (tik) as a stimulant for its powerful enhancing effects on sex, mood, energy, alertness and ability to concentrate as well as for weight loss and appetite suppression. This illegal street drug is cheap and easy to get hold of, and using it leads to drug addiction.
Nkosi explains that when someone uses drugs, it impacts their brain. The brain is responsible for sending messages to the entire body, such as signalling hunger, the need to urinate, or feeling tired. When people use drugs, their cognitive abilities are impaired. As a result, they may even forget about their hunger, leading to weight loss for certain people.
“When the body does not have enough protein, it relies on muscle protein for functioning. This can lead to significant weight loss. This occurs when protein-rich foods are not consumed to provide the necessary protein for the body’s proper functioning.”
Dangers of laxatives for weight-loss
Some people take extreme measures, such as purging (vomiting), and using laxatives, in order to lose weight. Bikitsha warns that the excessive use of laxatives can result in electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, and deficiencies in minerals.
“Misuse of laxatives can lead to long-term and potentially permanent damage to the digestive system, which may include the development of chronic constipation.”
When a person’s body experiences a loss of both potassium and sodium, they may experience symptoms such as a drop in energy levels, confusion, as well as feelings of nausea and vomiting. He explains that seizures are the most severe, leading to coma and death.
Purging is one of the popular weight-loss street theories. Those who purge may have significant nutritional and metabolic imbalances, which might eventually affect their bodies’ functioning.
Most people do not feel hungry after vomiting. This is why people purge, but it is a risky technique that can result in major throat health problems, including life-threatening throat haemorrhage.
No matter how desperate you are to lose weight, turning to unhealthy and dangerous ways can cost you your life. Speak to a psychologist, contact your nearest clinic or find a support group if you cannot lose weight on your own.
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