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    "People are crying up the rich and variegated plumage of the peacock, and he is himself blushing at the sight of his ugly feet."
    Sa'Di, posted by David Baxter

David Baxter

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British charity issues anorexia internet warning
Sat Jan 6, 2007

LONDON (Reuters) - Web sites that promote anorexia and bulimia as a lifestyle choice rather than as diseases are killing people, a British charity helping people with eating disorders said on Saturday.

Pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia Web sites present themselves as support networks and deny they are encouraging people to remain thin, but they also offer tips for becoming thinner alongside glamorous images of slim celebrities and models.

"The danger of these sites is that often young people with an eating disorder don't understand what is happening to them," Steve Bloomfield, the Eating Disorders Association's head of communications, told BBC Radio.

"The great danger is that the people who construct these sites often have no idea of the terrible medical complications that come -- the danger of losing your fertility, of developing osteoporosis -- for some people if you resist treatment.

"About one in five people who don't get appropriate treatment die prematurely, so they are literally killing people."

According to Professor Janet Treasure, head of the eating disorders service and research unit at King's College London, five to ten percent of women aged 14 to 24 in Britain suffer from some form of eating disorder. The ratio falls to 1 percent for the whole female population.

"We have seen research from the States that has definitely identified that the people who use these sites are more resistant to seeking help and treatment," added Bloomfield.

In December a pilot study -- published in the American Academy of Pediatrics' journal Pediatrics -- of eating disorder patients aged between 10 and 22 in the United States showed up to a third learn new weight loss or purging methods from Web sites that promote eating disorders.

Internet chat rooms also enable users to share tips, such as what drugs induce vomiting and what Internet sites sell them.

Eating disorders returned to the global spotlight late last year when two models suffering from anorexia died in Brazil and Uruguay.

The fashion industry has long been blamed for encouraging anorexia and bulimia among teenagers with its use of excessively thin catwalk models.

In September, the city of Madrid banned models below a certain weight from its fashion week shows.
 

Misha

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Killing is right... it still sickens me that I was a leader in this movement. I am so glad that I turned around but the guilt of these "murders" will always stay with me. Now, I often get the chance to hear other people's reactions as they hear my story about my journey through and out of the pro-ana movement. Either they shrug it off or are shocked.
That shock is what needs to become the social norm when hearing this kind of thing. We need to do an about-face and train the upcoming generation to hold values that ellicit a shock reaction to something like this.
For a person who is already consumed by the illness, there needs to be support and accountability to stay away from these sites. They are addictive and attract a cult following. The photographs are what I call "anorexic porn." This is much more dangerous and complicated than the sharing of a few tips and tricks. It is a culture all its own with a religion all its own...a religion that worships "ana," the personification of anorexia. The majority of people who visit these sites readily believe ana to be an existent entity who has power to do harm if she is not followed and emanated.
Getting out was hard...I believed that this "being" could kill me for betraying her, I missed the friendships I had developed with the other women, and on top of everything I still wanted to be thin, and wanted to be praised for it. What these sites give is affirmation, something most eating disorder sufferers don't find anywhere else. And eventually the "shock" value disappears for them and they become complacent to joining this death trap.
We need to revive the shock. Three things we need:
1) We need to prepare women to fight this battle before they get in it. We need to teach the children that this is wrong long before they type "weight loss tips" into Google.
2) We need to be prepared to provide accountability to those who struggle with this addiction. Like in the case of pornography, we need to get comfortable with talking about this. And we need to provide affirmation from other sources because if this need is not met, the accountablity leads nowhere.
3) We need to provide recovery resources for those who decide to leave the movement. I can not overemphasize the complexity of the relationship between a woman and this movement. This is a problem that calls for very specific therapy and resources. The psychological effects of acting in such contradiction to one's earlier values, the guilt of "killing," the effects of the disease of the eating disorder, and the distorted belief that this could possibly be healthy, these effects are profound. There needs to be therapy for being pro-anorexic as well as for being anorexic. There needs to be support communities that give women what they sought in friendships on these sites.
These are not easy steps. But I will advocate them as strongly as I used to advocate "ana."
 

foghlaim

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Am I right in thinking that these sites are brainwashing ppl.. at least that what we used to call the behaviour of cults and other groups etc.. that prey on vunerable ppl, especially and maybe more specifically the younger ppl.

qmnmd: I have to say i really admire your courage for getting out and for your desire now to advocate against these sites. I'm wondering if you are in contact with other ppl who may have gotten out as well and maybe team up and pool ideas\suggestions, lobby politicians.. ect as a group and individually as well of course. I believe young ppl (maybe most ppl) are more willing to listen to ppl who have "been there". (From the horses mouth so to speak.) I'm thinking maybe before and after pics as well as part of any talk being given, of young ppl who have secumbed (sp?) to these "cults", these I would think would be one of the ways (hopefully) ellicit the shock factor that you speak about to help turn ppl away from ever getting close to these "cults".

I'm glad you were able to get out. Well done to you and best wishes in all you do to advocate against these sites.
 

Halo

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Am I right in thinking that these sites are brainwashing ppl.. at least that what we used to call the behaviour of cults and other groups etc.. that prey on vunerable ppl, especially and maybe more specifically the younger ppl.

I think you are absolutely correct, Fog. I believe that with these sites they do brainwash people sort of speak and they prey upon the people because they know that they are vulnerable and sick.
 

Misha

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Absolutely this is brainwashing. There are creeds and commandments and psalms and "epistles" of Ana that are taken as authoritative, and there is punishment for those on the sites who question her authority (strictly "typing abuse", but the power of written words here is self-evident).

A couple of years ago, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published the following:
Best friend and bully, Ana tells (Kasey) Brixius when to eat and when to exercise. She applauds or mocks Brixius’ grades and weight. And she demands obedience and devotion. Brixius regularly reads or recites the Ana Creed or Ana Psalm she found on the Internet.

“Ana is definitely a higher power, not higher than God, but higher than myself,” said Brixius, who is from Hot Springs, S.D., and attends Minnesota State University, Mankato. “That’s how it is for a lot of people.”

. . . On many websites, the deadly starvation disease, the most fatal of all mental health disorders, is developing a cult-like following complete with pro-anorexia commandments, psalms, prayers and moonlight rituals in which loyalty to the goddess Ana (short for anorexia) is sealed in blood.

So... brainwashing... yes. I was once hospitalized because I believed that Ana was going to kill me for leaving the site and "betraying" my friends there. I seriously thought she had the ability to reach into my body and stop my heart. Scary stuff.

As far as connecting with other post-pro-ana people, they are hard to come by. There is a website and forum for people who have left pro-ana but it really has become more of a general resource for eating disorders. And for the most part I don't blame them. These women are exhausted by this battle and most of them are still afraid.
Their are a couple of organizations that do things like write petitions to ban these sites from search engines, but really nobody who works on the personal side of things... they fight the societal battle but not the individual one. In that sense my advocacy is limited right now. I speak openly of my experience and of the women who disappeared at {{Edit: certain number of pounds}} and I can only assume the worst for. So much more needs to be done and I don't know how to make it happen. I am still in the middle of my eating disorder and it's hard to fight a battle that's still so personal for me.
 
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Misha

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A tidbit of information - there are 3 main kinds of pro-anorexics:

1) those for whom it is a religion... this is the women in their mid 20s who have come out of the "gothic" culture of the 90s, or those who have turned Wicca/godess worship into the worship of Ana, themselves being a sacrifice... they want to die for Ana.

2) those for whom it is a "lifestyle choice" that they feel is inherently good... this is mostly a few radical older leaders with a following of young anorexic girls. They believe that there is nothing wrong with what they do.

3) those who believe it to be an illness, but one they have succumbed to... this population is mostly older, married career women (an absolutely fascinating population). Most have been in treatment at some point, even recovery, but ultimately have given up the fight. These women give tips and tricks, but their is an underlying desire to be anorexic in the most healthy way possible. They discourage dieting teens from entering the sites and do not advocate anorexia as a good "diet" choice. This is the wolf in lamb's clothing.

In my opinion, all three are equally dangerous. Some sites are one or the other, some are combinations.

Another important factor to consider is that many pro-anorexics are not actually anorexics. Many would not meet the DSM-IV criteria for the condition. Many are overweight, many want to be supportive but not active, many are just women on diets who have taken it too far, many take a stand just for the sake of taking a stand. The problem here is NOT the eating disorder... it is more a social deviance than anything else.

Sorry I have sooo much to say on this topic... but knowledge is power.
 

foghlaim

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So much more needs to be done and I don't know how to make it happen.
Just a thought that springs to mind here on this.
Your own webpage! your story, how you became anorexic, how these sites or site got a grip on you, how you were able to get out, and maybe how you are still fighting the fight.
If this were possible for you to do, (when you are strong enough to think about it, if you want to think about it even ) with some help,, maybe others might join with you with their stories. This is just one idea as i said, maybe others have other ideas.

Another thought that came to mind is that, Maybe the same principal applies here as with those who host these sites (pro ana) and those who promote paedophilia. As posted on this forum, Italy has decided prosecute those host those sites, maybe in time this could happen with these sites as well. I might be wrong on the "same principal" tho. To me the underlying issue here is they are destroying lives.

A tidbit of information - there are 3 main kinds of pro-anorexics:
Thanks for the info.. I was wondering about some of those you outlined, so you have answered some questions for me by posting these.

Can you expand a bit on this part tho.. i'm not sure i understand it correctly.
it is more a social deviance than anything else.

thanks
 

Misha

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Just a thought that springs to mind here on this.
Your own webpage! your story, how you became anorexic, how these sites or site got a grip on you, how you were able to get out, and maybe how you are still fighting the fight.
I do have a lengthy post on my blog about this and have been considering starting a forum as well. I expect that a webpage is the way I will go with this... we need to use the web to fight the web. I have bookmarked pages for "national" eating disorder organizations in various countries that would be able to "spread the news" and support my efforts. But again it's a big task....

Another thought that came to mind is that, Maybe the same principal applies here as with those who host these sites (pro ana) and those who promote paedophilia.
It's true... and acutally more close than you think. Many young underage girls post pictures of themselves (half-dressed so you can see the bones), and I know that there are many older men lurking on these sites.

Can you expand a bit on this part tho.. i'm not sure i understand it correctly.... "It is more a social deviance than anything else."
I struggled with using those words even as I typed them. I think my point was mostly that we are dealing with a problem other than anorexia. Think about it this way... going to pro-ana sites is not a symptom of anorexia. Nor is anorexia (in the form of met diagnostic criteria) necessarily a symptom of going to these sites. It goes without saying that the sites are about anorexia and that their "wrongness" is in encouraging and supporting anorexics. BUT the fact of the matter is, and everybody on the sites knows it, that there are young women there who are on their deathbeds and are dangerously anorexic. And they are "loudly" encouraged to stay the course. The principle problem is the fact that these websites seem to have the ability to "suspend" the ethical in the minds of these women. The sites create a society with values deviant from our own, values of significantly lower quality. The further you get in, the more you become entrenched in this deviant society. That is the hold that it has on young women. Of course they are drawn in by already weakened minds due to starvation, and other effects of anorexia. But what holds them there is the power of this morally suspended society that will make killers out of them, but that, in its sheep's clothing, pretends to be a society of acceptance and affirmation.
 

foghlaim

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Thanks for expanding on that for me, I can see now where you were coming from. It brings it back to the power of Brainwashing and the use of reverse psychology on the minds of vunerable ppl.
(i use "ppl" instead of women because i believe that there are young men out there who also have anorexia, Hope this is okay with you. )

Could you maybe post a link to your blog here, i would be very interested in reading it. :)
 

Misha

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You are very right in using "people," there are probably, oh I'd guess 1 male for every 100 females in the pro-ana community. Although I know there are others who hide their gender.
Sure I don't mind linking to my blog... I've got a lot of other stuff on there too, it's just one long post about pro-ana, but like I said, my attention is on creating (probably a different site) a page with more purpose.
allthingsbroken.blogspot.com
 

Misha

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I just went to my blog... don't look at it too often, I just post and run... and the pro-ana blob is deep in the archives... still there, though.
 

ThatLady

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I really appreciate the information given by both the article David posted and the comments by qmnmd. I'm genetically thin, as is my mother and as was my father. I don't think I could get to be overweight if I concentrated on it! The slightest increase in the level of stress in my life (I admit, it's pretty high normally) will result in weight loss that is very difficult to regain. The same is true for my mother. We have to fight like tigers to get the weight back!

All in all, this has been a difficult phenomenon for me to understand. However, the article and qmnmd's additions and comments have made it much more clear for me. :)
 

Misha

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Thatlady, I am glad your understanding has increased. That's all we can do to fight this.

I can not imagine what it is like to be a thin person and know you are thin... I'm a far cry from being anywhere near healthy on this one, the distorted mindset consumes everything. Even my screenname, qmnmd, was my pro-ana name. Quod me nutrit me destruit (qmnmd): what nourishes me destroys me. Bull****. (maybe I ought to think of not using it anymore)

Anyways, what I'm trying to say is that in the battle I am thankful for people like you who model healthy self-image and that one day this mountain may be behind me.
 

Misha

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If people are interest in this topic there is a book called "Ana's Girls: the essential guide to the underground eating disorder community online" that is supposed to be quite good, and does a good job of exposing the movement for what it is. I haven't read it yet as the library doesn't have it, but it's high on my wish list.
 

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