While browsing the web, I came across a blog that was having a “friendly weight loss competition.” I won’t reveal the name of the pro-ana blog, but it was created by a pro-anorexia blogger. These bloggers tout the benefits of anorexia, at times presenting it as a way of life rather than an eating disorder.
Pro-anorexia blogs are part of a growing phenomenon. Individuals with eating disorders use blogs as well as social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram as a way of coping with the uncomfortable feelings associated with their eating disorders. Pro-anorexia (or pro-ana) sites allow affected individuals to communicate with others who are struggling with the same issues.
Weight loss competitions are just one of the unhealthy behaviors endorsed by pro-anorexia sites. They often share crash dieting techniques, “thinspiration” pictures of underweight models and celebrities, tips for hiding weight loss from parents and doctors, information about reducing the side-effects of eating disorders and more. The content on pro-anorexia sites might be shocking to those who haven’t either struggled with an eating disorder or known someone who has. But otherwise, the content should seem very familiar. The issues and opinions discussed on pro-anorexia websites reflect the struggle that individuals with anorexia struggle on a daily basis.
A 2012 study of pro-anorexia bloggers showed that a majority of bloggers (72%) listed the sense of sameness and belonging and finding inner peace as a main benefit of participating in the pro-ana community. In contrast, only 28% listed actual weight loss as a benefit.
Though there has been backlash–Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr have banned or attached warnings to pro-ana content–pro-ano communities continue to grow. Though Pro-anorexia content should certainly be regulated, as it can trigger dangerous eating disorder behavior, it’s important to know that banning thinspiration and pro-anorexia content is not going to make eating disorders go away. If anything, the prevalence of pro-anorexia bloggers should serve as a wake-up call that these eating disorders are rampant, they’re serious and they require treatment.
We ask individuals who frequent pro-anorexia sites to remember that anorexia isn’t a lifestyle choice. It’s a dangerous disease that can be fatal if you don’t receive treatment.