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Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I grew up fascinated by eating disorders.

"Fascinated" sounds like a horrible descriptive word, I know, but it's true - they enthralled me. I was captivated by the skeletal women I saw on LiveJournal pro-ana (pro-anorexia) communities. How committed they were to this goal and each other, telling other girls to "stay strong," the discipline. It never occurred to me through the computer screen these girls had a serious problem, could die from this disease.

This is the perfect example of glamorizing the illness that has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, according to National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders are ever treated for their illness. In the US, up to 24 million men and women are currently suffering from eating disorders.

I'm not sure when my viewpoint on them shifted. I had always flirted with the idea of it - had crash dieted to 400 calories a day, had plastered by bedroom walls with model cut outs from Seventeen. And then one day it was almost like a click in my mind, a little ping! of information that said: this is wrong.

Now I'm immediately turned off when I come across sites that feature "thinspo." Livejournal, which has lost most of its popularity, still has pro-ana communities. "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."

While I can see that there may be the few people who make friends that encourage them to seek help, it's also a way for them to share secrets with each other. I shouldn't know that you can drink a ton of water before a weigh in to fluctuate your weigh, or stick rocks in your underwear. Pro-ana groups are also a trigger for men and women recovering from eating disorder's.

Some sites are actively working against them, like Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram.

Facebook staff seek out and delete pro-ana groups because it violates their terms of promoting self-harm, Tumblr shuts down blogs that "actively promote or glorify self harm," Pinterest changed their terms of service in 2012 to ban pro-ana content and Instagram said it would disable accounts with pro-ana hashtags on images. (It should be noted that Tumblr and Pinterest have been largely unsuccessful in regulating pro-ana communities, photos and blogs.)

It's easy to shift blame for the "thin trend" onto one person, like Kate Moss, who has long been a target for her controversial lifestyle and drug abuse. She began modeling at 14 and popularized the "heroin chic" look of the 90s in the Calvin Klein underwear campaign that made her famous. Her unique look was a complete turn from models like Cindy Crawford and in 2009 in an interview with Womens Wear Daily she was quoted saying, "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels," which has become a mantra of the pro-ana community.

Moss and other celebrities with a similar body type (like Keira Knightely, Nicole Richie) have long insisted that they don't suffer from an eating disorder. And body acceptance means you have to love the body you're in, whether you're a size 0 or size 10, and comes down to learning to be healthy and loving yourself.

What's important to remember is eating disorders don't teach a healthy and happy life - if there's anything I've learned from my adolescent years stalking the "thinspiration" and pro-ana boards it's that being thin doesn't automatically mean you're going to be happy, and often times an eating disorder can mask a deeper emotional problem.

I'm not going to lie, I still suffer with body image issues, but improving yourself in beneficial ways is how to start down the right path to accepting yourself. 

For more information read and watch:
Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson
Wasted - Marya Hornbacker
The Best Little Girl in the World - Steven Levenkron (also a TV movie, I think)
Hunger Point: A Novel - Jillian Medoff (also a TV movie with Christina Hendricks)
Thin, a documentary 

Written by Stephanie Geske


  1. I'm thin. Naturally thin, I'd like to add. It means that because of my genetics and the way my metabolism works, I will never be able to gain a lot of weight. At the moment I'm size 8/10 (UK) and weigh around 8 stone. It hurts like hell when I read (and see facebook friends) join groups like "Real woman have curves" and so on.
    Why is there so much critisicsm on the way GIRLS look? Everybody is unique, every girl comes in every shape and every size.

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