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Beware of Sites Encouraging Bulimia and Anorexia

It was way too easy to find the background information needed for this blog. I use Google.com enough to consider Google a verb. This search was frighteningly easy. Recently, I cautioned against inaccurate and even dangerous information on the internet. The internet can be a fabulous tool to find the information you need to help you achieve your goals; but like most information, you have to consider the source and accuracy of the information presented.

The DSM-IV classifies Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa as eating disorders, but there are a slew of websites that market these mental illnesses as lifestyle choices. The nicknames “Ana” and “Mia” for these disorders not only make them more user-friendly, but personify them as a friend to young girls. Pro-ana websites are being used as peer support groups to encourage weight loss beyond the limits of health. Whether it is an online community or an informational site, you are likely to find:

  • Secrets on hiding these disorders and weight loss from parents, physicians, and others.

  • Crash dieting techniques, low calorie foods, and recipes

  • Ways to “trick” your body, avoid cravings, and ignore hunger

  • Sympathy and support for those who have made the “mistake” of “binging”

  • Advice on the best ways to induce vomiting and use laxatives and emetics

  • Weight loss competitions and group fasting events

  • Affirmation of the attractiveness of members and for their unhealthy goal weights

  • And “thinspiration”

Thinspiration can be anything that motivates weight loss. Thinspiration includes pictures and videos of women from thin to skeletal, catch phrases, lyrics (often from popular music), poetry, and blogs. Thinspiration also includes reverse thinspiration, which motivates weight loss by displaying images and other examples that could induce disgust.

Eating disorders can be fatal both physically and emotionally. There is a major difference between the health focus of diet and exercise presented at sites like DietsInReview.com, and the extreme and unhealthy information at pro-ana sites. An important distinction is the diagnostic criteria of a delusion concerning body image or the health of these practices. Unfortunately, these websites are creating communities which test the definition of a delusion as a belief not commonly held by one’s culture or subculture by creating that subculture online.

November 23rd, 2008