Pro-Ana: The Dangerous Inspiration Behind Anorexia
“Pro-ana” refers to the promotion of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. Many pro-ana organizations claim to exist as nonjudgmental environments for anorexics, while others deny anorexia as an eating disorder and instead refer to it as a lifestyle choice that should be respected. Since the scientific community recognizes anorexia nervosa as a serious illness, “pro-ana” organizations and materials are often regarded negatively.
What is Thinspiration?
Thinspiration is a term that refers to images use to inspire weight loss in pro-ana communities. The word comes from a combination of inspiration and thin, and usually uses images of models or celebrities to inspire weight loss. Generally, the person trying to lose weight will use pictures of another person who meets the desired standard of his or her goal. While this practice can be useful in weight loss if the loss is healthy, thinspiration can be debilitating.
What Does Thinspiration Look Like?
Thinspiration can be an image or video montage that features image of slim or emaciated women, often showing visibly protruding bones. Reverse thinspiration images feature women who are overweight or women near fatty food and are intended to disgust viewers into losing weight.
Thinspiration can also take the form of inspirational mantras, quotes or even lyrics from poetry or music. Common mantras include “Ana’s Creed” and “The Thin Commandments”. Generally, this kind of “inspiration” refers to spirituality and includes metaphors of bodily purity or refers to food in reference to sin and corruption.
Research Into Pro-Ana Popularity
Until recently, very little research has been done regarding pro-ana websites, which is where the material is primarily concentrated. However, in May 2005, Stanford researchers presented results from the first study designed to assess the health impacts of these websites, which outnumber pro-recovery websites five to one.
Though the results weren’t clear-cut, researchers learned that adolescents with eating disorders certainly use the sites. In one survey, some 40% of adolescents responded that they had visited a pro-ana website. Those who visited the pro-ana websites spent less time on school work and more time in the hospital.
Though there is still much to learn about pro-ana websites and organizations, researchers concluded that much can be learned about young people’s needs from the information obtained there.