Anorexia and Bullimia are disorders fueled by Body Dysmorphia, meaning that what the person observes in the mirror is not what their mind tells them they see. It can be likened to an optical illusion, where the brain re-creates the image based on the information it perceives, not that which is actually there. 

     Appearance of the condition stem from:

- social interaction that supports the condition, such as family members who are diet-obsessed or impress health too hard on others

- lifestyles that lack control. People who feel they are overpowered in their life, sometimes turn to dietary impulses as a way of having control

- experiences that impact their self-concept, such as competitions of looks where they failed miserably, or even won, but are worried someone else might beat them in future

- households that own bathroom scales which are used in regular routine

- and finally, Pro-ana or Pro-mia sites

     Most commonly, eating disorders stem from lack of control and negative self-concept, precisely, events that make the person feel inferior. Or a diet-obsessed household that hold irrational thoughts, such as "if you eat between meals, you're a pig" or "only fat people eat that!" The seed is then implanted, waiting for the next time the person is feeling negative, for the thought or memory to burst forward into their mindset. It might not be in their intention to starve, but the feeling of suddenly being able to control something might be intoxicating, or they might feel they're doing the right thing by not eating like a pig. Then the cycle begins.

     Maintenance of the condition comes from the momentary endorphic sensation or pseudo-control that is achieved. There's a notion of power, where, as they lose weight, the person will feel empowered they have lost so much weight, but still it's not enough. There is an internal battle of the new and old: the new, skinnier person who believes they are powerful, but still, the old, fatter, weaker person, who listens to body complaints and wants to eat, but is often bullied by the other self. Therefore, intense fear is also in the mix, as the sufferer will believe by eating they will become the weaker, fatter person again, and prove they are all the negative things they believe of themselves, such as quitter, loser or failure. Nobody likes to feel that way about themselves, so the maintenance is often wanting to avoid these feelings, but instead of healthy programs such as counselling, the young person tries to adapt to an eating disorder. 

     In modern times, when it's wrong to judge something negatively, patients of Anorexia and Mia are given further support to follow their intense food avoidance via a lot of campaigning. There are slogans, new terms, and even communities that teach how to avoid detection, limit body complaints or symptoms, and how to change their lifestyle to lose even more weight quicker. It all started with Pro-ana and Pro-mia.

 

What are Pro-ana and Pro-mia?

     The terms began with Ana and Miawhich were not known to the casual observer. They were the names used by Anorexia (Ana) and Bullimia (Mia) sufferers to speak about their disease in code, when suspecting authorities are listening. Additionally, it's said that girls' names were chosen, because often the condition is considered a secret friend, or release that the patient relies on for comfort. Often, it's seen as a treatment for their pain -- even though it can create just as much itself -- and becomes almost a medication of improvement. Ana helps me, they believe, or Mia protects me for being bullied for being fat. Although living on very litle food is difficult, it doesn't deter them because of the good it does, but the issue can be impacted on by the new form of support -- websites and communities!

 

Why websites that support Ana and Mia?

     These websites are often written and maintained by sufferers themselves, looking to use the condition as a way of bonding. Some of them truly believe they are not responsible for the risks of death, but instead, they are helping people who are suffering with a lifestyle they have chosen. They're like private gurus who cheer the young person on to be the person they want to be, even if it could mean their demise. The published information will include tricks on how to avoid detection, how to lose weight faster, social communities where men and women can talk and share their ideas and celebrate their weight losses, and many slogans and affirmations to keep them fighting against their biological needs.TV movie, Starving in Suburbia, focuses on this peer pressure, featuring one such site owner, who starts as her friend, offering to mentor the lead character. Interestingly, as the movie goes on, the actress playing the site owner is transformed into a darker character, becoming less of a person, and more the voice of the health condition. The movie shows that while the owners of these websites are not evil, the information they share can be.

     Wesaytheysay.com is a website that withholds judgment, therefore I hold no opinion of those who visit or run these sites, and only wish to share information that could be important to saving young people from death.

 

 

  • What do Pro-ana sites suggest to their readers?

     These suggestions are not being published for use. I do not condone starving the body for vanity reasons. However, I do believe Anorexia and Bullimia are serious conditions and unknowing families should be informed of the tricks, as these might help unearth cases that might have gone hidden. As a counsellor, I am bound to protect others from self-harm, so I add some of these suggestions for detection only. Of course, visiting such websites could give the information, but would also give the websites more popularity and expose readers to more graphic images than what I have submitted here. 

     RULES, RULES, RULES! begins one website. The websites often press the importance of discipline and control over oneself, no matter the pain it inflicts. Therefore, many of these sites aim to mask the hurt by emotional soothers or physical masks. Here is a collection of suggestions from the list of 58:

 

Do not, under any circumstnaces, eat after 6:00.

Drink a full glass of water before you eat and then sip a full glass between bites, you'll get full much faster. Remember it takes 20 minutes for the brain to realise the stomach is full.

Think before you eat. Don't eat while distracted (TV, etc). Stop and consider if you really want to eat that and then consicously give yourself permission.

Never eat anything bigger than about a cup, your stomach will expand and you'll get hungry more.

Drink up a shot of apple cider vingear before eating, it's supposed to minimize fat absorption. Also speeds up metabolism and can help curb cravings. Drinking more than a shot causes a vague nausea which helps suppress appetite.

Ice or gum are good food substitutes. Celery works too if you're hungry.

Create a methodical routine for eating. Cut food into tiny pieces, count your bites and the number of tmes you chew, set your utensils down between bites and sip water between bites.

Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it when you want to eat food. Food = pain.

Write your current weight on one hand, and your goal weight on the other. When you go to eat, you'll be reminded how fat you are, and how skinny you could be.

 

     Generally, Anorexic or Bullimic behaviours are characterised as food-obsessive or focused symptoms, such as playing with food while eating, being overly specific about food times or how it's cooked, becoming emotional or defensive during food discussions, or appearing too busy to eat. Some of these symptoms could be connected to extreme fussy eating or other health conditions, so must be watched for appropriate consideration. A red flag is often a red bracelet, said to be the symbol of eating disorders.

     The above rules were published on a blog-type site where people can post comments. Several individuals posted to encourage the removal of the rules, or have readers reconsider their lifestyles. The 2300 responses featured some eye-opening phrases:

     Anti-eating disorder poster said: 

     When people (friends, family, bloggers) approach you (pro-ana) with concern, it is not because they think you should be "happy being fat". They are approaching you because you are mentally unsound.

     Inside all of us is a young version of ourselves. Imagine 3 year old you - he/she is hungry. Would you deprive a 3 year old of nutrition and tell her/him how fat they are? Would you slap a rubber band on your 3 year old so they know not to eat unless it is between the hours of 3 and 6 pm? I would hope not - because that is considered child abuse. What about your pet? Or your 95 year old grandmother? Would you deprive them of food? Because that is also considered abuse.

 

     The responses: 

     Some of us have tried to stop... to "just eat," as some may word it. It's NEVER THAT EASY. The thought of eating is so truly terrifying. Telling an anorexic to eat, is like telling someone depressed to be happy 

     It's our body we can do what we want with it. Stop trying to control people you don't even know. You're obviously just jealous.

            Atleast we will be thin.

     Is recovery on an out-patient basis even possible? I've tried but it didn't work because I am still hurting (depression, social phobia, GAD) and the only thing that makes me feel better is my eating disorder so I go to pro-ana for comfort and for the short sense of joy it gives me.

     For years I have wanted to be beautiful and thin this site will help everything and make it better. I don't care what anyone else says I am going to be skinny whatever it takes. Thanks to those people who will support me in this x

     It consumes you, its hard to think of anything else. Its not always a choice. But yes, it is my life and when I reach my goal, I will be ecstatic.

     my ex told me that fat girls don't deserve happiness. He was right. These tips are really good, I'm almost at my goal!

And finally. . . 

     If anyone wants a pro Ana trainer email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Who shuts down Pro-ana websites? Can they?

     There are two schools of thought concerning these websites. The belief system moderators belong to will determine the future of such pages. It will also determine a decent flow of traffic, consider 12.5% of girls admit to visiting such sites, compared to 5.9% of boys.

 

SHUT IT DOWN CREW

     The belief behind this side of the discussion is that encouraging Anorexia or Bullimia could see as enabling self-harm. While many would say it's the person's choice to read and take the advice, it could be seen as assisted murder. A similar case would be the recent arrest of teenager, Michelle Carter, during 2015, who was telling her friend to go kill himself via text messages. After he died and messages were found, Carter faced manslaughter charges.

     Facebook are on the side of shutting down these resources. They stated that these pages could be considered as promoting self-harm, which is against its Terms of Service.

     Yahoo, after receiving, complaints began removing websites promoting eating disorders. 

     Microsoft shut down four sites that were placed on their space.

 

LEAVE IT CREW

     Many organisations suggest deleting such sites, however, a lot believe it's of benefit to leave them, as education aids or leads to uncover those who need help.

     Victorian-based assocation, eatingdisorders.org.au, state, "There is a lot of debate as to whether a ban would be effective and enforceable and unfortunately, we don't have a lot of research on the subject. It will be very interesting to see how the proposed French ban will work. The internet is a global tool and is extremely difficult to regulate. We would obviously like to see some further research done into the issue and measures introduced in Australia if research suggests it will be effective."

     UK's Social Issues Research Centre say, "Pro-ana sites force us to confront these preconceptions by forcing them into our faces. Why is eating only fruit for a week dangerous if it's a diet but ok if it's a detox? Why is the Atkins diet a safe and healthy way to "slim up for summer" when it causes acne and constipation? We should be glad of the insights that pro-ana websites offer us into the anorexic psyche. Not only do they allow non-sufferers a new perspective on eating disorders, but also they reveal some of the delusions and hypocrisies that underlie accepted attitudes towards food and dieting. Perhaps it would be more constructive to tackle our own preconceptions about weight before publicly condemning pro-ana sites for their encouragement of delusional and dangerous aspirations."

     When asked in 2007, LiveJournal stated, "Suspending pro-anorexia communities will not make anyone suffering from the disorder become healthy again. Allowing them to exist, however, has several benefits. It reassures those who join them that they are not alone in the way they feel about their bodies. It increases the chance that the friends and loved ones of the individuals in the community will discover their disorders and assist them in seeking professional help."

     MySpace interestingly takes a different approach. They leave such websites intact, but cycle Anorexia treatment ads on the sites. A spokesperson said, "it's often very tricky to distinguish between support groups for users who are suffering from eating disorders and groups that might be termed as 'pro' anorexia or bulimia. Rather than censor these groups, we are working to create partnerships with organisations like b-eat."

     In years since, many countries have made laws against Pro-ana websites, including the French National Assembly, where it was argued "giving young girls advice about how to lie to their doctors, telling them what kinds of food are easiest to vomit, encouraging them to torture themselves whenever they take any kind of food is not part of liberty of expression."  Ministers aimed to subject a 30,000 Euro fine with two years imprisonment onto those who owned the sites. 

 

Do people ever recover from eating disorders? 

     There are some cases of success, however the treatment is a long-winding, sometimes unpleasant, journey. One such survivor was Bronte Cullis, who was featured on Australian TV for many years. Her family had her seeing psychologists and taking food by tubes, only for her to rip them out at all hours of the night. Many lost hope for her, until she went into a specialised treatment centre in another country for months.

    

 

     Whether we want to hide or expose eating disorders, they are an active feature in today's society. The further the world invests into competition and the strive to be better, as job markets and education become more defining, the more likely depression, anxiety and eating disorders can occur. While it's okay to aim to be the top of your field, it is better to aim for positive reasons, positive goals, and invest in self-care regimes.

     If you have a friend or family member (or yourself!) are having issues with food, even if it's a mild case at the moment, be active in seeking help. An eating disorder is a psychological condition and needs to be dealt with by professionals. Encouraging a friend to eat will not help. The Dietician's Association of Australia suggest talking to someone who knows the person well, and can aid in ongoing support. Additionally, seek support from your family doctor, psychologist or an Accredited practicing dietician. 

     

See Also: Starving in Suburbia

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