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Pro-diet sites glamorize anorexia, and girls are eating it up

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Despite bans put forth earlier this year by popular social media communities like Tumblr and Pinterest, pro-anorexic websites are on the rise.

A UK review, Virtually Anorexic--Where's the Harm?, recently found that thousands of individual blogs, YouTube channels and other websites are spreading like wildfire--all promoting an unhealthy ideal of being rail-thin.

Starving to be sexy

The sites take on different angles depending where you go, but many promote dangerous diets, rigorous calorie counting or deprivation practices and even advice on self-harm tactics. The overall theme? Self-punishment through starvation or extreme dieting is sexy.

Dr. Emma Bond, senior lecturer in childhood and youth studies at the University Campus Suffolk, Ipswich, conducted the review. One study found that, in a year, more than 500,000 girls had visited sites of this nature.

"It starts with an individual who wants to share their experience and as they get a following they set themselves up as almost Goddess-like," Bond said. "When I started this research last January I came across a website set up by a girl who was disgusted with herself because she had put on a few pounds at Christmas. She planned to fast for three days and regain control."

Bond says the girl had an instant following on the Internet, with comments from other girls that called her "an inspiration."

Dangerously skinny

The nature of these "pro-ana" sites is disturbing on many levels. Girls will compete with one another to see how much weight they can lose or how long they can starve themselves. Many also promote the use of laxatives or illegal diet pills. And since the sites can give a young woman a sense of belonging and communication with other girls who support self-destructive behavior, Bond says it's a bigger problem than ever.

"Some of the websites are works of art in themselves, very beautiful with illustrations, clips of film and letters and poems to ‘Ana.’ To a vulnerable teenager they appear lovely, pretty and attractive and give a sense of belonging. But they have a gruesome side too."

Source: The Independent