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Dangers of pro-ana sites

By: Kelly Tansor, Copy Editor, (ktanso2@uic.edu)

I’m normally pretty outspoken about how women are portrayed in the media.  Everywhere we look, we’re being told that we need to have a thigh gap, a flat stomach, tiny arms and legs – basically what I call “stick-figure skinny.”  We see this everywhere – movies, magazines, TV, ads, etc.  There is another medium where we see these messages that not as many people talk about: pro-ana sites.

pro-ana3Pro-ana sites, short for “pro-anorexia Web sites,” have been around arguably since the Internet was created.  I’m currently doing research on these sites, and I’ve noticed that there seems to be a broad definition of the sites.  Typically, they will give advice on weight loss, purging, hiding the binging and purging from family and friends, and inspirational quotes meant to inspire more extreme weight loss, known as “thinspiration.”  There may also be photos of very skinny models and celebrities that pro-ana site users may aspire to be like.  They may also serve as a forum where visitors can anonymously post their stories and struggles online.

Why are these sites so appealing?  More than you may think.  For one thing, the anonymity of the Internet gives the site users a chance to speak openly about their struggles without being judged by people close to them.  It also gives them a community of fellow anorexics that understand what they are going through instead of belittling them.  I learned that many people go on these sites looking for a “buddy,” someone to keep them motivated to lose weight and someone to talk to.  In fact, many comments I’ve seen on these sites end with someone either asking for a buddy or offering to be one.

pro-ana2It is important for everyone to know – whether you have an eating disorder or not – that these sites are NOT a valuable source of medical advice.  Pro-ana site users see anorexia as a way of life, something they choose to have.  Fact is, anorexia is a serious disease that needs medical attention.  NO ONE should aspire to have an eating disorder.  In fact, many frequent anorexics are baffled at why sites like these exist, why anyone would aspire to be like them.  It is great that anorexics have a place to turn to so they can vent about their issues, but as more anorexics come together defending their disease, it gets much harder to treat them; they typically become very stubborn and resilient to treatment.  Some may even compete with each other to see who loses more weight.

Sadly, it is impossible to take down every pro-ana site out there.  More sites pop up each day just as quickly as they can be taken down.  However, it is important that everyone is aware that anything in the media that perpetuates the idea of the “stick-figure skinny” girl should be taken with a grain of salt.

That being said, I thought I would leave you with some of the things that have been said on these pro-ana sites…

If people are beautiful fat, they can be beautiful skinny
My mom is making me eat in front of her and I’m so huge
I will lose 20 pounds no matter what
I’m fat…fatty fat fat…
I weighed myself and I’m sooooo disgusted
I know my body is a temple of God that is why it has to be skinny…doing this gets me to His liking
But it’s only until i feel Beautiful… right? So it’s not wrong… Right?
Thanks for the support, everyone just says how bad it is
The smaller, the better
Ever since losing weight guys are interested in me
I wish I could purge to get the food out…I want that stuff out of my body NOW!
I’m never happy with my scale
I eat sleep and breathe thin.  I am always empty.  Perfect.

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1 Comment

  1. Good article, very informative keep up the good work.

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