Thanks to Twitter and blogs, how-to methods for eating disorders are reaching kids and adults with frightening speed, according to a study published today in the American Journal of Public Health (APHA).
The term “pro-ana” refers to pro-anorexia sites, “pro-mia” to pro-bulimia sites.
The APHA study checked out nearly 200 active pro-ana and pro-mia sites. Results show that 83 percent of the websites openly advised visitors on how to start or continue an eating disorder. More than 90 percent of the websites are open to anyone, though some carried “warnings” that those who weren’t serious about being anorexic or bulimic should just stay away. About 80 percent provided tools such as calorie and body-mass index (BMI) calculators.
Curiosity borne of my own battle with bulimia drove me to some of those sites years ago, and again to those sites today. Not much has changed, except there seem to be far more sites than ever before.
I won’t share links. Sadly, I don’t have to. The internet is rife with sites, videos and blogs about the “best” ways to starve and barf. Some offer accurate information about the damage eating disorders can do to your body, but most are just filled with pages of tips, photos of emaciated girls and women, creepy poetry, diaries and forums. Here are just a few of the listed tricks on one pro-ana site:
· Eat in front of the mirror. Hell, eat in front of the mirror naked and see how much you want to eat then.
· Stay away from food and the kitchen (unless your parents are around, then pretend like you just finished getting a snack).
· Munch on ice cubes to get rid of the cravings of chewing.
Understandably, there aren’t as many pro-mia sites. I found most pro-mia info appended to the more popular pro-ana sites. Some pro-mia tips:
· When purging, stick your fingers as far down as you can and keep them there until you can't anymore. This will be hard the first few times, but it'll get easier.
· Weigh yourself before purging and after purging to make sure you got rid of everything.
· Using the end of a toothbrush can be good for stimulating a gag reflex to prevent your hands being damaged from acid, but it takes long and can often hurt.
(How’d you like that last one?)
If there’s any good news, it’s that the study shows that doctors are also visiting these sites and learning about all the sneaky ways their patients are cheating on weigh-ins and hiding evidence of eating disorders.
This is good, because anorexia nervosa will kill you faster than any other psychiatric illness – within 10 years of onset, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
It’s no secret that it’s mostly white women who suffer from eating disorders, but it is a secret just how many women of color suffer. Definitive stats just aren’t available. I’m willing to bet, though, that the number of black women with anorexia and bulimia is on the increase. It’s all about assimilation and acculturation.
But here are some interesting facts:
· 1 in 5 women struggle with an eating disorder. (National Institute of Mental Health)
· 90 percent of people with eating disorders are women ages 12 to 25. (Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
· The most common behavior that will lead to an eating disorder is dieting. (American Anorexia and Bulimia Association)
(How’d you like that last one?)
When purging, place toilet paper in the toilet so the water doesn’t splash up and hit you. ~ Advice from a pro-ana/pro-mia website
Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.