ARTICLES, HEALTHY LIVING & WELL BEING. EATING DISORDERS
Eating Disorders: Have You Met Ana and Mia?
They are the best friends you could ask for. When you feel like you need to lose weight, they are there to support you and tell you that you cannot be attractive if you are not thin and that you should stop at nothing, even risk your health, to achieve that perfect body. They make sure you feel guilty every time you do eat, congratulate you when you go hours without eating, and they are there to punish you if you gain any weight. They are tall, beautiful, and extremely thin – in fact, they are dying to be thin and encouraging you to join them.
Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia
Ana and Mia are the personifications of the severe eating disorders of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, both of which include the possession of a distorted body image and immense desire to change one’s body. There is no doubt that the media and the beauty-and-body obsessed culture we live in largely influence these diseases. Young girls and boys are constantly bombarded with images of the perfect male and female figures from runways to music videos, magazines and TV commercials. This all portrays an idea of what it means to have a perfect body and the belief that if we finally obtain that perfect body, we will be perfectly happy.
Although there is plenty of information available online on how to deal with such feelings of negative self-image and how to seek help, there is also a multitude of websites that encourage anorexia and bulimia. These sites can have an extremely strong and negative impact on someone battling with their body image.
These sites are known as Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia. They act as a supportive community for those that believe anorexia or bulimia is a lifestyle choice rather than a serious mental health disorder. Often, these websites contain forums and chat groups where members can support one another in their extreme weight loss journeys. Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia websites quite often also contain pages dedicated to “thinspo” or “thinspiration”, which are repeated images of models and women that have desired characteristics such as flat stomachs, protruding hip bones, thigh gaps, and exposed rib cages. It can also include inspiring quotes to motivate followers to remain strong in their journey, or contain “reverse-trigger” images of overweight women to serve as a reminder of what will happen should someone give in to the temptation of eating. These sites are often blogs run by women or young girls suffering from an eating disorder and they provide tips and advice on how to achieve weight loss results.
For example, these points, known as the “Thin Commandments” are taken from a Pro-Ana website:
- If you aren’t thin, you aren’t attractive
- Being thin is more important than being healthy
- You must buy clothes, cut your hair, take laxatives, anything to make yourself look thinner
- Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty
- Thou shall not eat fattening food without punishing afterwards
- Thou shall count calories and restrict intake accordingly
- What the scale says is the most important thing
- Losing weight is good, gaining weight is bad
- You can never be too thin
- Being thin and not eating are signs of true will power and success
This is one of the hundreds of websites that encourage such habits. It may seem absurd to believe such “commandments” or use these sites for support, however, to a young teenage girl or boy that feels alone and unsupported, and views their body image as the root cause of all their unhappiness and problems, sites like these offer a community of individuals struggling in the same way. The issue is that it becomes a community supporting the deterioration of the mental and physical health of an individual. These websites are increasingly becoming an issue as they glorify extreme measures of weight loss. So much so that for example, France has recently put in place a year-long prison sentence and/or extreme fine as punishment to those who encourage extreme dietings, such as in pro-ana and pro-mia sites.