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Friday, April 07, 2006

Pro-Anorexia Web Sites Surge Among Teens

This is a real concern and I'm not sure it's getting the attention it deserves. With our society's vanity and emphasis on being physically "prefect", teens are under a lot of stress to look great. I believe it goes even further, with the "sex is everything" mentality society pushes at every turn, someone without a "perfect" body feels excluded from that group too. Now to have web sites that feature starvation diets as an option, is just plain irresponsible. Any diet should be coordinated with your doctor and feature good diet and exercise. A good diet does not include super sized McDonald's and exercise does not include Play Station, by the way.

( - As spring break and bathing suit season approach for high school students, there is growing pressure for the teens to be thin. Internet sites are exploiting this attitude, promoting a "pro-anorexia lifestyle" that encourages starving oneself to lose weight.
"Any event coming up where, unfortunately, your body is on display is going to perpetuate the feeling that you need to lose weight. Spring break is a huge one," said Jenni Schaefer of the National Eating Disorder Association.
The pro-anorexia movement, also known as pro-ana, is described as an "eating disorder" by physicians, but on many Internet sites is labeled a lifestyle choice and is often personified as "Ana."
Eighty-five to 95 percent of anorexics are female and 86 percent report the onset of anorexia before the age of 20, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder at about 5 percent per decade.
The pro-anorexia websites, Schaefer said "are really sick, sickening sites." Schaefer is also the author of "Life Without ED (eating disorder)" and a recovered anorexic and bulimic.
The websites are "designed for weight loss in a really unhealthy way," she said, "designed by young women who don't realize they have issues with their own weight ...
"[T]hey design them as a weight loss technique to encourage and support other women who want to lose weight and are designed for people who [do not want] recovery and want to follow the ways of pro-ana," Schaefer added.
If the websites had been around when she was struggling with anorexia and bulimia, Schaefer said, they would have been "detrimental" to her recovery. But the current Internet makes the sites easy to find, she told Cybercast News Service. "High school kids have easy access to this stuff these days, it's really dangerous."
Web destinations such as and Xanga are popular among teens, allowing them to create their own home pages, many of which are pro-anorexia.
For example, a 16-year-old from Arizona, identifying herself as "Starved 2 Perfection," wrote on that "I decided to become anorexic. I have only been at it for a short time but already I'm in love. Ana helps me feel in control. She helps me do at least one thing right in my life."
Her site is adorned with pictures of teen celebrities Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie and Mary-Kate Olsen, all who have had anorexia. The photographs serve as "thinsporation," for girls and young women seeking to replicate the thinness in the celebrities they idolize.
Another pro-ana site, "Ana's Underground Grotto" offers readers 40 reasons not to eat and essays promoting anorexia as a choice.
"Anorexia doesn't just happen. It is the product of decisions made in the mind," Ana's Underground Grotto declares, adding that anorexia specifically involves "the decision to not eat, or to only eat certain 'safe' foods, in certain measured quantities, under a certain number of calories."
Another essay states that "Ana is an art form, a revival of the ancient art of body modification, only instead of just piercing, tattooing and adorning we are changing the structure and shape of the body itself."


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