You’ve most likely heard of them, Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites. Pro-ana refers to the promotion of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. It is often referred to simply as “ana” and is sometimes personified by anorexics as a girl named ‘Ana’. The lesser-used term pro-mia refers likewise to bulimia nervosa and is sometimes used interchangeably with pro-ana.
As a recovered(ing) anorexic, these sites absolutely disgust me… It is known through research that Anorexia nervosa is a VERY dangerous and serious illness, and has the highest mortality rate of any psychological disorder. However, a majority of these sites claim that this disorder is a “lifestyle choice” that should be respected by doctors and family…
The presence of these sites is EVERYWHERE from Tumblr, Facebook, to even personal blogs. I came across a Pro-Ana site this morning and it literally made me sick to my stomach, I shook with anger and even teared up. Knowing that there are people out there promoting this disease obviously really upsets me.
The list below is what the sites/members promote – which was compiled on Wikipedia: ((Yeah, I know it’s not the most reputable resource – but all are supported by research.))
- Endorse anorexia and/or bulimia as desirable (84% and 64% respectively in a 2010 survey).
- Share crash dieting techniques and recipes (67% of sites in a 2006 survey, rising to 83% in a 2010 survey).
- Coach each other on using socially acceptable pretexts for refusing food, such as veganism (which is notably more prevalent in the eating-disordered in general).
- Compete with each other at losing weight, or fast together in displays of solidarity.
- Commiserate with one another after breaking fast or binging.
- Advise on how to best induce vomiting, and on using laxatives and emetics.
- Give tips on hiding weight loss from parents and doctors.
- Share information on reducing the side-effects of anorexia.
- Post their weight, body measurements, details of their dietary regimen or pictures of themselves to solicit acceptance and affirmation.
- Suggest ways to ignore or suppress hunger pangs.
And just because a site doesn’t outright call itself a Pro-Ana one, or try to promote and eating disorder – sites and posts called “Thinspiration” or “Fitspiration” are just as dangerous. A BEAUTIFULLY written blog post was written by a man named Kevin Moore on his blog, Reembody Me, titled “The 6 Most Shockingly Irresponsible ‘Fitspiration’ Photos.” He goes through some of Fitspiration photos and dissects them and discussed how they are dangerous and irresponsible. Seriously, you NEED to read his post – just hover over the title of the blog/post and click!
Why I’m Anti-Ana – I HATE Ana, She’s a Life-Ruining Bitch: This is What Ana Did to Me
I write this blog to aid me in writing my book, “My Marathon 2 Recovery.” I also have been going through my old journal entries from 10+ years ago. And in doing so, I’ve come across some very depressing entries. I did not boast about losing weight or write down tips on how to burn more calories. I was angry, sad, and ultimately sick.
I really didn’t like what I was doing to myself, or I should say, what my disease was doing to me. I did it because I was ill, because it’s what my disease, or as the pro-ana sites name it, Ana, was telling me to do. I would have never promoted what I was happening to me among others. I wouldn’t share my “tips” – I wouldn’t wish such a disease on my worst enemy!
Now, while these pro-ana sites promote eating disorders, I’m going to share some excerpts from my own personal journals while under the cold, hard grasp of the hands of my disorder as well as an essay I wrote in high school about my struggle… Be prepared, you won’t want to be anorexic after reading these – this is what “Ana” did to me…
“I had lost over 15 lbs in a very short period of time. My Pediatrician dually diagnosed me with Anorexia Nervosa and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He wrote a note to my school making me sit out of Physical Education and made me quite soccer and softball until I had weighed gained six more pounds. This was not as easy as it sounds. I struggled with the consistent low weight from November of 1999 to March of 2000.
Hair falling out constantly. I was so weak, I could barely scrub my scalp in the shower.
One day as my mom combed my hair after a shower (too weak to do it myself), she noticed how dirty my hair still was even after a shower. I couldn’t properly clean my own hair I was so weak!
I started developing peach-like fuzz on my face – my bodies response to the lack of body fat to keep my warm.
My mom noticed a fruity smell to my breath, which was my body breaking down fat and producing acids known as ketones. This is called Starvation Ketosis, which is a natural metabolic process which helps the body survive during times of starvation.
I remember the arguments and fights with my family. Being so angry and annoyed.
My mom ended up quitting her job so she could make it to all my doctor and counseling appointments, as well as accompanying me in my 5th grade classroom during lunch to assure that I would eat. Yes, we had to eat lunch in our classroom.
I remember becoming so weak and tired. In the car, I remember not being able to hold my own head up – I had to lean it all the way against the seat.
I had stopped following my food plan and became worse than ever. I’d suffered from malnutrition, my hair would fall out in the shower and in my hair brush, my clothes appeared baggy on me, I became so weak to the point that I could barely keep my head up when I sat down.
I’d gone three days with only one cup of chocolate milk (plus the weeks of self-deprivation). I was so weak that I just lied on the couch the third day not able to move. That was when my mom took me to Rainbow’s Babies and Children’s Hospital.
I was so weak, that I didn’t even fight my mom as she drove me to the hospital.
Drawings from my journals(sorry they’re a little blurry):
“Here lies Colleen Beth Fitzgibbons. The girl who wouldn’t eat.”
At the hospital the doctors weren’t as lenient as my past doctors I’ve dealt with. I had to eat according to their meal plan, three full coarse meals and two snacks a day, other wise they would feed me through a Nasogastric Tube – Gastric incubation via the nasal passage. They would have to stick the feeding tube up my nose through my sinuses and into my stomach. Not wanting the painful way, I ate as they told me and stayed overnight for three days. Those three horrid days really got me thinking. I decided that I wanted to get better and be healthy. I didn’t want to suffer like this my whole life. But, it wasn’t easy…
Looking back at the age of 15. I started menstruating at 12, but had suddenly stopped for a whole 6 months. When I saw my Pediatrician, he said I had Amenorrhea due to the lack of proper nutrition (starving myself) and over-exercising. I thought to myself, “Eh, whatever.”
It was when he told me that if I don’t start taking care of myself, eating, and listening to my body I would not be able to have kids one day.
That’s when it hit me. I felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach. I burst into tears.
What Ana was doing to me was about to ruin my future. I would not be able to conceive, to raise children of my own.
That was the biggest slap in the face and what motivated me to evict Ana out of my life.
After a while, and struggling with eating, I began to menstruate again and still do to this day. But, I’m still fearful that I may never be able to have kids for what that bitch, Ana, had done to my body and organs.
Know the Red Flags and DO SOMETHING
As a public health professional, I know that prevention is the best possible method. So, please, please please, if you or someone you know/love and notice any of these red flags, please seek help – IMMEDIATELY!
If you’re concerned that a loved one may have anorexia, watch for these possible red flags:
- Skipping meals
- Making excuses for not eating
- Eating only a few certain “safe” foods, usually those low in fat and calories
- Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing
- Cooking elaborate meals for others but refusing to eat
- Repeated weighing of themselves
- Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
- Complaining about being fat
- Not wanting to eat in public
Unfortunately, many people with anorexia don’t want treatment, at least initially. Their desire to remain thin overrides concerns about their health. If you have a loved one you’re worried about, urge her or him to talk to a doctor.
Visit the National Eating Disorders Association’s site for Help & Support.
And if you come across a Pro-Ana/Mia site or Thin/Fitspiration post on social media, SPEAK OUT! Report the site or image to administrators and help put an end to this “trend” that is killing millions… Become an Anti-Ana/Mia Activist!