The mainstream view that Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia nervosa are eating disorders that one looks to overcome and be cured from is not subscribed to by sites such as ‘Starving for Perfection’, 2b-Thin, Anorexic Nation or Totally in control.
These and sites such as these offer support to people who “just want to be thin”.
The premise is that everyone wants to be thin, and if you have the will power to do so, then, you are somehow better than the rest of the gluttonous world.
But validating eating disorders as a lifestyle choice, Pro Ana and Pro Mia sites not only tell people that it’s OK, even desirable to have an eating disorder, they are actually pernicious to health because they isolate anorexics and prevent their recovery or access to help.
Many sites do offer information about the side effects and debilitating nature of eating disorders and the way in which there are very real negative consequences to health such as organ damage etc but others are actually very pernicious because many of these sites and forums have or do the following:
- Exchange of ideas about how best to induce vomiting (for Bulimics), the most effective emetics and purgatives,
- Share methods of crash dieting (a study found that 67% of these website offer these tips and techniques
- Offer challenges where forum members compete at losing weight, undergo group fasting and express solidarity with one another by virtue of these actions
- If permitted quantities of food are exceeded, there is binging or inability to hold on to a fast, there is commiseration, expression of sympathy
- Tips are offered about how eating disorders and consequent weight loss may best be hidden from parents and doctors.
- Tips on how best to ignore or suppress hunger pangs
- Members are often very competitive about their weight loss, measurements and are cliquish and wary and unwelcoming of new comers.
- There is hostility directed at those who express shock or disapproval
- There is ridicule of Wannarexics, those dieters who join these sites in the hope that they may be able to lose weight more effectively
Studies have noted negative impacts of these pro ana pro mia sites and they were seen as being triggering in nature and thought to induce viewers to develop a negative body image.
The National Eating Disorders Association has spoken out against Pro Ana websites as “no useful information on treatment but instead encourage and falsely support those who, sadly, are ill but do not seek help”.