Thin at Any Cost?

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Diet pills on a plate with a measuring tape

You only need to stand in a supermarket checkout line to realize our society is obsessed with how people look. Magazine headlines scream, “Guess Who!” next to a picture of a flabby stomach. Or they praise “So-and-So’s Awesome Post-Baby Body!”

Both girls and guys tell themselves that they need to be thinner or bulk up. The dangers and repercussions of steroid use are well known thanks to baseball and cycling scandals. Possibly less well known are the dangers of taking diet pills to lose weight.

Many diet pills are sold as “dietary supplements.” That means that these pills don’t have to meet the same strict standards—required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—as medications do.

So you might not know exactly how the ingredients in diet pills will affect your body. Some common diet pills contain combinations of different drugs, like both stimulants and depressants, and can really mess with your metabolism and even your heart. In addition, some of them carry mental health side effects, like depression or even thoughts of suicide.

In our supersized Nation, many people do need to drop a few pounds—safely, by cutting out excess fat and sugar and replacing them with fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean protein. If you think you need to lose weight and aren’t sure how to start, talk to a nurse or doctor.

Tell us: Do pictures of thin or muscular celebrities affect your body image? What’s your favorite healthy way to stay fit?

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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