Health12 Oct 2009 02:30 pm
Anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric condition that describes an eating disorder characterized by extremely low body weight, skewed body image and an obsessive fear of gaining weight. People with anorexia primarily control their weight through extreme caloric restriction, excessive exercise, abusing diet pills and/or laxatives and diuretics. Anorexia disproportionately affects women (90%), especially during adolescence, and causes a host of psychological and physical problems for the sufferer, often prompting an intervention from concerned family and friends. However, anorexics are notoriously stubborn and resistant to recovery, as weight gain in an inevitable outcome of ‘getting better.”
As such, it is unsurprising that the Internet has facilitated the explosion of “Pro-ana” (pro-anorexic) websites, aimed at the promotion of anorexia as a “lifestyle” choice instead of an eating disorder. While some pro-ana websites claim that their purpose is to provide an open environment for women to discuss their illness, the vast majority of these websites make no such claim. In fact, the content of most pro-ana websites are rife with crash dieting tips, advice on how to hide weight loss from parents and doctors and ‘helpful’ suggestions about how to suppress hunger pains and avoid ‘binges.’ Moreover, in an effort to encourage further weight loss, most pro-ana websites include a photo gallery of extremely thin women, often culled from popular fashion magazines, as “thinspiration” for their readers.
There is even a widely disseminated list of rules for anorexics to live by, called the “Ana Commandments”:
1. If you aren’t thin you aren’t attractive.
2. Being thin is more important than being healthy.
3. You must buy small clothes, cut your hair, take diet pills, starve yourself, do anything to make yourself look thinner.
4. Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty.
5. Thou shall not eat fattening food without punishing oneself afterwards.
6. Thou shall count calories and restrict intake accordingly.
7. What the scale says is the most important thing.
8. Losing weight is good / gaining weight is bad.
9. You can never be too thin.
10. Being thin and not eating are signs of true will power and success.
Unsurprisingly, pro-ana websites have come under heavy fire from parents and mental health professionals. However, efforts to ban these sites have just pushed them underground and made them more attractive to devotees. But as doctors and parents of anorexics should know all too well, stubbornness and tenacity are a condition precedent of the disorder. Thus, these young women will only recover when they have made the decision to forsake their isolating and unhealthy behaviors. Sadly, these websites make it even harder for them to do so.
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