I’ve been hearing for awhile about websites glamorizing or rationalizing eating disorders. I was a little shocked at first but then realized that it’s to be expected. The web attracts like-minded people of all sorts, including those with destructive or self-destructive ideologies and disorders. Still, it’s a disturbing phenomenon, one I was reminded of when I read a new report from web content security vendor Optenet, reporting a 470 percent increase in the number of sites devoted to a pro-anorexia or pro-bulimia message over the last couple of years. The company doesn’t know how much traffic these sites get; still the growth in the number of sites is an issue.
I feel like a bit of a prude (or a New York Times writer) in the way I’m writing about this topic. I really don’t want to encourage people to visit these sites, though, so I’m not going to name them or link to them.
I spent some time on Pro Ana and Pro Mia (as in buliMIA) sites to understand what they contain. They tend to have warning signs on the home pages telling people not to visit if they’re going to be judgmental or use the sites’ content to say anything negative about the Pro Ana and Pro Mia movement (as they refer to it). There are even legal warnings to scare people off.
Inside the sites are supportive forums and tips. There are even BMI calculators with lower numbers than you’d normally see. It’s sometimes hard to tell what behaviors are being encouraged. For example is a person supposed to be pleased when they reach a BMI of under 17.5 “anorexic” but have gone too far once reaching 15 “emaciated”?
Some of the tips were pretty disturbing, such as how to survive on water and vitamins, how to avoid eating, how to purge, how to maintain secrecy and how to deal with people probing into what you are doing.
If you are a family member of someone who may have an eating disorder I encourage you to seek professional assistance even if the person you are worried about doesn’t want you to do so.