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Pro-Anorexia and its Types

Posted Jun 11 2012 1:08pm

When people hear “Pro-Ana” or “Pro-Anorexia,” they automatically picture the girls who are obsessed with becoming thin and those who convince themselves they have an actual eating disorder, when in reality, they probably do not. These are the girls who encourage dangerous behavior and enable others to engage in practices commonly seen in actual anorectics or other eating disordered individuals, like dieting, food restriction, fasting, laxative abuse, vomiting, etc. These are the girls who post pictures of barely underweight models next to pictures of themselves, lying on the floor, sucking in their gut as much as they can so they can get a nice rib shot. These are the girls who are like, “OMFG, I’m such a fat-ass, I ate like 600 calories today, shoot me now.” Let’s call this “Type 1″ of pro-anorexia.

Then there are those websites out there that have this weird philosophy of what pro-ana actually means, and according to them, it is less of a ploy to promote anorexia and more of a lifestyle choice that helps others with anorexia manage their disease in order to limit both physical and mental consequences. These people offer support to each other, probably both emotionally and in enabling aspects of the disease, but either way, this form of pro-ana is seen as the “real” pro-anorexia and outsiders are urged to “get educated” on what the term actually entails. Apparently according to this group of people, throughout the years, media and hype have soiled what it actually means to be pro-anorexic and it’s because of the media and hype that we assume all pro-ana is bad, bad, bad. Let’s call this “Type 2″ of pro-anorexia.

Alright. Call me naive, but I think bothtypse are total bullshit.

The former type of pro-anorexia I think misuse the term without even realizing it. These are the girls who aren’t really formerly educated on the actual mental disorder of anorexia/bulimia, but because they automatically equate the term “anorexia” with “thin,” they think it’s the end all be all of losing weight. They don’t understand that it’s not a choice one makes, and that it’s not something you can switch on and off. I think there is also a romanticism with anorexia, just as there is with depression and self-harming, and people like the attention that comes with having a “problem.” Anorexia sure does seem like the lesser of two evils; not only do you get brownie points for having an “issue,” but you get to lose weight in the process. And people who are lost in the world and have no sense of self are usually going to be the ones to cling to these ideas. And those produce your “wannarexics.” I should know, I have been there . What these girls should actually be calling themselves though, is “wannaskinnies” or “wannadieters” or “pro-dieters” or “pro-food restricters.” Because it really all just boils down to the fact that you cannot choose to have an eating disorder. So if you never develop one but engage in dangerous dieting behaviors, you’re really just abusing dieting and other ED behaviors. As I’ve said before, just because you abuse drugs doesn’t make you a drug addict. There are distinct differences between an abuser and an addict, just as there are distinct differences with someone who diets, someone who has disordered eating, and someone who has an eating disorder.

The second type, the type who thinks their pro-anorexia is justified, is just mind boggling. Although I’ve probably engaged in this type before, even with people here on wordpress, I think it’s a sorry excuse to stay in the eating disorder. I do believe the majority of these pro-anorexics actually do have legitimate eating disorders, but I also think the majority of them hide behind this label as a way to stay sick. If we convince ourselves that we can manage our diseases well into old-age (as I have done myself), we again are simply treating this mental disorder as more of a choice/lifestyle than something that is out of our control. Some of these people are very vocal about their refusal to recover, or their beliefs that recovery actually does not exist, and that they are able to manage quite well under the circumstances. And to them, that makes living in an eating disorder A-OK.

Am I missing something here?

Now, looking at my own eating disorder, I’m not really in a place where I want to recover. Hell, there are days where I actually like my eating disorder.  But would I consider myself pro-anorexic? No! Although I try to respect people’s decisions as much as possible, I would never encourage anyone to stay in their disorder. And if they choose to stay in their disorder, I would never encourage them to go deeper into their disorder.  And as much as people claim it’s their choice to stay sick, or that “recovery isn’t really possible,” who are we to say that’s not their eating disorder talking for them? We are sick, we are sick in the brain, and I’ll be damned if we don’t make illogical and unhealthy choices on a daily basis. Who are we to say all those things we tell ourselves to stay sick isn’t just apart of our illness?

I get it. I said those things, too. I say those things now. But thinking back to when I was strong in recovery, I could finally see all those things for what they were: pieces of denial that were conjured up by the eating disorder.

I think those in the first bunch are simply uneducated and naive to what eating disorders actually are.

I think those in the second bunch are just too scared and close-minded to break free from their eating disorders and make a change. It’s easier to stay sick than it is to face what we are running from. Because in the end, as much as we think we “manage our eating disorders,” the eating disorder will affect our lives in one way or another, and not in a positive way.

Now, in order to drive this home, I think I have to talk about two more things: 1.) Whether or not I believe EDs can be cured, and 2.) The actual underlying problems and issues accompanied by an eating disorder.

I don’t think eating disorders can be cured. I think once we have one, we will always have one. But I also believe that eating disorders can be managed to the point where we can live healthy, happy, and productive lives without ED symptoms popping up everywhere. However, in order to attain that, point two needs to be addressed.

The actual underlying issues. My eating disorder, on the outside, was about food and weight. On the inside, it was about my anger, rage, sadness, resentment, jealousy, envy, fear, confusion, and depression. Both types of pro-anorexia seem to fail to address these issues at all, and even though type 2 pro-anorexics offer emotional support to one another, they are still enabling the disease. And I just don’t think any good friend would ever, in a million years, enable a disease that could potentially kill you. If these types of pro-anorexics really wanted to support one another, they would support the people, not the eating disorders. And I don’t believe you can support the person without, on some level, encouraging recovery, because only ongoing recovery will truly heal all the hurt the person is going through. 

I think Type 2 are settling for the lives they have because they either A.) don’t know any better or B.) are too scared to change. Because true recovery not only requires change in food behaviors and weight, but it requires you to change all that other stuff you are stuffing down: the anger, hate, rage, sadness, depression, jealousy, control, etc.

Our eating disorders aren’t really the issue. Our eating disorders are the manifestations that stem from our underlying issues. And it’s those issues we should be tackling, not the food behaviors. You can take away the food behaviors but that won’t erase everything that caused them in the first place. 

So you may ask yourself, how is recoveringanorexic any better?

I’m not. But the thing I want to make clear is just because I am not actively seeking recovery right now, that does not mean I want to be lumped in with either type of pro-anorexia. I will admit there isn’t much difference between me and them, but I think the main difference is that I still believe recovery is possible. I still believe that it’s achievable if worked at daily. I believe my life would be 100 times better if I were to go back. But like I said, it’s easier to stay sick than it is to get well. But I’m not going to fool myself and say that “that’s okay.” Because it’s not. It’s NOT okay, and anyone who chooses to see this as a lifestyle choice, whether Type 1 or Type 2, is either naive or in denial.

I’ve been both Type 1 and Type 2, but today? I think I see things a little more realistically. There IS no positive outcome from this. NONE. And if anyone is okay with settling, my heart goes out to you.

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