Pro Ana and Social media

Posted by on May 31, 2013 in Addiction, Anorexia Nervosa, Body Image, Eating Disorder, Pro Ana |

 Pro Ana and Social Media


What is pro ana?

Pro ana literally stands for the promotion (pro) of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa (ana). In relation to pro ana there is also pro mia which stands for the promotion (pro) of the other common eating disorder bulimia (mia). Pro ana groups differ in their supposed stances. Some pro ana groups claim that they only exist to give a non-judgmental environment to anorexics and others deny the fact that anorexia nervosa is a mental illness and even go so far as to claim that anorexia is a lifestyle choice that should be respected by doctors and family members.

What pro ana and social media is like

Pro ana advocacy got its start on the internet and more specifically through social media. There are many pro ana groups centered on social media sites such as Tumblr, Xanga, LiveJournal, Facebook, MySpace and Pinterest. These pro ana groups on social media are small, hidden, and have a dominantly female following.

Members of pro ana and social media groups usually:

  • 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.

Some pro ana groups on social media are very warm and welcoming especially if they are recovery oriented or they can be cliquish and suspicious of newcomers. The cliquish and more suspicious pro ana social media groups usually have hostility towards anyone who disapproves of their “lifestyle choice”, for instance family members, spouses, relatives, and friends who appear on the site to post threats and warnings against their eating disorder. They also tend to be very mean towards causal dieters who join believing that eating disorders will cause them to lose weight faster or more effectively. These cliquish pro ana social media groups call these people “wannabes” or “wannarexics”.

The negative impact of pro ana and social media

There are a lot of dangerous and negative impacts of pro ana and social media. Pro ana and social media can negatively impact the eating behavior of people with and without eating disorders. Individuals without eating disorders, (84%) in one study, decreased their caloric intake by an average of 2,470 calories per week after viewing pro ana social media groups. And only about half of them noticed the difference in the caloric intake. Women who view pro ana social media sites also experience an increase in negative affect and a decrease in self-esteem and perceived attractiveness. These women also feel heavier and were more likely to think about their weight and that they were heavier.

Anything that promotes a mental illness (anorexia is a mental illness) is not healthy. The pro ana social media sites and groups will probably never disappear forever but the more knowledge out there that is focused on the truth of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia the better.


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