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Rosie Scribble

Dieting to destruction

Please note: this post contains images that some people may find disturbing, particularly those attempting to recover from an eating disorder.

I am a huge supporter of Metropolitan Mum‘s Malnourished Monday which she describes as her own little grass roots campaign against size zero. Every Monday Deborah  posts a recent image that incorporates the
size zero trend to show just how depressing and grotesque the whole look is.

I’m backing Deborah all the way any joining her grass roots campaign. I’ve already written about skinny mummies, about the bleakness of anorexia, and I’ve openly criticised Kate Moss’s recent comments.

So here’s my next addition to the campaign – Pro-ana websites.

Scales image

You may have heard of them since there are over 4 million of them in existence despite calls for them to be taken down. They are generally run by eating disorder sufferers who have no medical training, a biased view towards their illness and no desire to even consider the option of recovery. Instead, they see anorexia as a lifestyle choice and actively encourage others to follow their example and self-harm through extreme starvation.

Such harmful sites actively encourage visitors to lose weight by offering potentially lethal weight-loss tips and posting images of emaciated bodies that are supposed to provide ‘thinspiration’.

Images like these, for example, taken from pro-ana sites easily accessible via Google:

Pro-ana

Pro-ana1

As discussed in a earlier post, Kate Moss is heavily featured on these sites too, which is why her comments to journalists really do matter:

Kate pro-ana

If you saw someone in the street looking emaciated, would you offer them weight-loss tips or encourage them in forums to eat less and less each day? Because that is exactly what is happening on-line.

Very few of these sites offer links to sites that promote recovery, such as B-eat. Nor to they list the negative effects of starvation which include organ failure and death.

Despite their harmful content, pro-anorexia websites are not currently defined as such by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. The Royal College of Psychiatrists are calling for this to change.

In the meantime, your child, or someone you know could be accessing these sites. Many parents, teachers and others who play an influential role in their lives are unaware of the dangers of pro-ana websites.

There may be  people out there  playing an even greater role in influencing the course of our children’s lives than we are aware.

And they are only a click away.

48 comments… add one
  • Dan

    I’ve had a look at some pro ana sites in the past and have always been shocked by the fact they are allowed to exist. I suppose they come under the remit of free speech, and so I guess I’d defend their right to exist – but they leave me feeling very uncomfortable

  • Aly

    I’ve commented on this before when you’ve wrote about it.Being a recovering anorexic myself I hope you reach out and make people (men boys and men suffer too)that being skinny isn’t healthy and it certainly ain’t beautiful.Thanks for being so passionate about informing others and making them aware.

  • I understand your point but I strongly believe they should be flagged as harmful by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety.

  • Gawd those photos are awful!

  • Dan

    Oh yes, i agree. Flagged, but unfortunately not banned

  • I agree on the flagging. I think there needs to a change in society as whole. MadDad informs me that super skinny does nothing for him and they boys will be brought up to respect woman and know what a relastic expectation of a woman to look like is hopefully. I think that we need to attack this from all levels. I see it as my duty as a mum of boys to try and educate them.

  • Not sure our defense of free-speech extends to other sites promoting harm to masses of innocent people Dan.

  • Well done you for highlighting this. Those pictures are truly shocking and websites that actively encourage women and young girls to achieve that look should be banned with immediate effect.

  • Thanks Aly, yes I do remember you commenting on earlier posts and I appreciate your support hugely. Thankfully I get many sufferers reading these posts so I feel I can use my blog to help raise awareness. It’s just a small contribution but it has to be better than nothing, I suppose. Thanks again.

  • Those images are disturbing. the idea of my daughter finding one os these sites and believing that is beauty is sickening. they should be flagged so that parental controls block them.

  • I agree, and I did not have to search hard on the internet to find them at all, which is a worry. There are thousands out there.

  • I agree with you. And an alarming number of men are affected by eating disorders too. It is no longer just an illness suffered by females only.

  • These photos are horrendous and the thoughts of the pro ana websites even worse. I’m so glad there was nothing around like that when I was ill.
    It’s been a while since I really thought about the impact of things like this in the media until my 15 year old niece tweeted last night, boasting that she’d only had a bowl of Cheerios and 2 Krackerbread to eat all day. She could easily find these websites. It only takes a bit of encouragement to these insecure teens to start them on a slippery slope into an easting disorder. I had a word with her but can’t imagine she’ll listen. I felt like I was breaking a confidence (think she forgot I tweet) but rang my sister in law to let her know.
    I may have gone completely overboard, my niece may have been lying, she may have only done this on one day but what if this is a regular thing?
    I’m not as eloquant as you and couldn’t write this well about these issues. I will however be retweeting this as I know my niece will be online today and I want her to read it.

  • You certainly have a point there, Tim.

  • This is certainly a worry. It is better to have gone overboard regarding your niece’s worrying situation than saying nothing at all. If there is a problem then you have rightly flagged it up and hopefully something can be done. If she is actually okay then no harm has been done, you have simply raised the issue out of care and concern and I would have done exactly the same.

  • Anorexia is an addiction. Pro-ana sites offer advice on how to live – and even how to make it fashionable – with a potentially lethal one. Pro-cocaine websites aren’t allowed. So why are pro-ana sites???
    Thanks for all your support, Rosie. xxx Deborah

  • Good grief. I have a friend who suffered from anorexia in her teens after a horribly traumatic childhood. She’s completely recovered, thank goodness, but her stories are horrifying: growing downy black hair all over her body…being force-fed in hospital. These sites are horrendous. Well done for taking a stand x

  • The Dotterel sent me over saying this was a good post and I agree – it is.
    As someone who wants to lose weight and already has an unhealthy view of their body, this is probably something that I could of been sucked into (but won’t cause I like food too much). I find it shocking that sites like this exist without some form of flagging and I will stand beside you in thes campaign

  • These are terrible sites and I would hate the thought of young girls finding them. I’m all for free speech, but they are just as harmful as sites that would promote drugs or weapons, so why not ban them?

  • Well said Rosie. These websites are dangerous and a disgrace and should be banned in my view.
    There is no doubt that slim is the healthy way to be but certainly not skinny. And the only way to stay slim is to adopt a healthy eating and exercise lifestyle. Even ‘diets’, which are short term and ineffective, are arguably the thin end of the wedge, for some at least…

  • Crystal Jigsaw

    I’ve seen pictures like these before and find them very disturbing, especially when girls are being told to lose weight if they want to get on in life. There are some very odd people out there. I always get cross with my sister when she tells me she’s dieting. She’s only a size 8 and has absolutely nothing on her. I’m a size 16 and am so much more content with my body.
    Great post, CJ xx

  • Perhaps the most worrying thing is that a lot of anorexics have underlying issues which lead to the anorexia in the first place. it’s not just about being skinny, it’s often about wanting one area in their lives where they feel they have control.
    Good post.

  • well said Rosie – terrible terrible damage can be done with these sites. My 4 year old has zero interest in food and i have to feed her every day. she is skinny (loves sweets and choc though) and although she’s only 4 and has no concept yet of body image, it really bothers me that she could follow a road like that because it fits with her dislike of food. scary stuff – well done for keeping up the fight.

  • These sites scare me – girls are under such pressure now to look a certain way and the internet is a powerful tool for people to push their views onto impressionable children
    I believe that Kate Moss is indirectly responsible for an awful lot of weight / image issues – men seem to be separated into those who hit adolescence before she became famous and who think normal woman is attractive and those who hit adolescence afterwards and who think we should all be thinner than nature intended, irrespective of our genetic make up

  • The thought of either of my children ever venturing onto sites like this chills me to my very bones.
    I fear it’s a sad fact that they will never be banned (how can you police it?) and I doubt that a warning would really be an effective deterent to someone who really wanted to visit and engage with others on there.
    I think the best course of action is to do what you and Deborah are doing – show these sites for what they are, rasie awareness and make sure that all parents are empowered to raise their children believing that healthy and happy is the most beautiful thing of all and that these men and women are not to be aspired to.

  • Chic Mama

    4 million websites? That is unbelievable. With you all the way, just tell us what to do.

  • These images are so disturbing, I can’t go in and look at the sites. My cousin died when she was just 21. I remember visiting her in hospital and it was just awful, not least because she was so nice and funny. Thank you for campaigning against these sites. Like Chic Mama, just say the word. Anorexia is a terrible, terrible illness.

  • Thanks for raising this issue. It is important that we are aware of it.
    The issue of pro-ana websites is that people are able to find others to reinforce their belief that they are doing the right thing in continuing to diet, and that they are not the only ones doing it, which means it must be ok. That is what I find scary.

  • I’m staggered that there are so many annorexia websites. It makes me want to cry. Puts wanting to lose a few Christmas pounds into tear-jearking perspective.

  • Good post. I am recovered, although with the occasional wobble, and I am very thankful that 13 years ago I never had internet access or access to these sites. I would be horrified to think of my daughter looking at sites like this when she’s older.
    I agree with Tara that it would be great but possible impractical to get these sites banned. I think awareness raising and talking to our children about these issues are really important too.

  • I struggled with bulimia as an adolescent and even as a slim adult with a healthy attitude to food, I can clearly remember the pain and anxiety of being dominated by an obsession with weight and size.
    Recently I met a psychologist who specialises in adolescents and eating disorders and she told me, interestingly, that fathers can play a very positive preventative role by continuing to hug, kiss and cuddle their emerging adolescent daughters. Many men begin to feel odd about physical contact with their girls as they develop breasts and hips – worry that it is inappropriate etc., but the girls still need the love and miss the cuddles and affection from their dads, it’s not their fault that they are big and awkward and they didn’t ask for the change in body, they feel responsible. Some girls will subconsciously try to starve themselves back into lovability. Interesting, eh?

  • What an excellent point, Deborah. Of course pro-cocaine websites would never be allowed, so why pro-ana?

  • What a relief to hear your friend has recovered. Anorexia does have some very unpleasant and unattractive side effects – growing downy black hair being one of them.A friend of mine was tube-fed in hospital – all very horrific. She didn’t make it, unfortunately.

  • I think I would have been sucked into these sites too, in fact I know I would have been. Thankfully they did not exist when I was ill, otherwise I may not be here today. That is why I want to raise awareness. Thanks for your support.

  • I wish they could be banned, they are definitely extremely harmful and highly dangerous, but banning them would be impossible to police, unfortunately. They do need to be flagged up as dangerous and more parents, teachers etc need to be aware they exist. Many don’t. Thanks for your comment.

  • Thanks for your comment. You are absolutely right – the only way to be slim is to adopt a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise. Diets just do not work. Of course the dieting industry know this which is why they make a fortune, especially at this time of year, sadly.

  • Thanks for your comment CJ. These images are definitely disturbing, as you say, and there are an alarming number of them out there on the internet easily accessible via Google. It’s a dreadful worry.

  • Expat Mum, you are absolutely right, It has very little with actually being thin. Starvation and the pursuit is a way of coping with some very serious underlying issues that need to be addressed before a healthy weight can be restored and maintained. But while someone is starving they are unable to think clearly and become too unwell to addresss this issues. A potentially deadly vicious circle.

  • Scary stuff. I’ve had a complex relationship with food myself, and worry about the same for my daughter. Honestly despite being a healthy not too skinny mummy, I do wish I were thinner and I do think Kate Moss is beautiful, though I know I shouldn’t! I think/hope that as mothers we can do a lot for our daughters by example, and by generally maintaining our kids self esteem. The media sure works against us though, and we can be our own worst enemy.

  • Scary stuff, most definitely. My daughter has always been a difficult eater and was especially fussy aged 4. She is a lot better now 2 years on. I think as long as they feel loved and valued, they should be okay. It is those that don’t that start to self-destruct. x

  • The most vulnerable childreb and teenagers are definitely the ones most influenced by these sites. You would have to be feeling pretty low in terms of self-esteem to go searching for them in the first place. I do hope parents educate their boys too about body image.

  • Tara, you are right. These sites cannot be banned, just as those sites which tell people how they can attempt suicide cannot as there is no way of policing them. So, yes the internet can be a very dangerous place for our children as well as an interesting and exciting one. While a warning would not deter anyone wanting to visit these sites, I think it is important parents are aware they exist as many are not.
    You are right, the best course of action is for Deborah and me to work together and spread the word through the blogosphere. It is early days but we hope to really get this thing going.

  • Thanks Chic Mama. The best thing we can do is what Tara suggests which is for Metropolitan Mum and me to continue raising awareness on our blogs. If other bloggers are able to promote these posts, maybe on twitter for example, then that will spread the readership and help get the message out there. xx

  • So sorry to hear about your cousin. That is just awful. I lost two friends. They were both in their 30s – proof that it does not just affect teenagers. As I have said to Chic Mama, the best anyone can do to help is promote these posts and those written by Metropolitan Mum. That would be the best way to support our little campaign. Hope you are okay, by the way.

  • The problem is that people with anorexia are rarely able to support each other when in the grip of the illness so they end up competing with each other instead, and that is what is going on on these sites.

  • Brilliant post lovely. You know I’ll be adding my own food issues post to the pot at some time. It terrifies me that E and M might one day access sites such as these. I’m so glad they have you as well as me in their lives. Love you.

  • I had no idea such sites existed and I gotta say, I find those images extremely disturbing.
    I don’t have an issue with size zero though – there are some people who are tiny (and healthy) and I know a few of us like that. I would say that I struggle with people’s perceptions of thin people though. Not everyone who’s thin has an eating disorder.
    On yet another note, as a fitness instructor, I also struggle with realizing, guessing who in my class has issues. I am asked questions all of the time about how to lose weight, etc, and though my answer is generally the same, I am very sensitive to what and how I answer that to someone who I suspect is having some issues.

  • phentermine

    Such a good post! Thanks for sharing and guess i will be back soon on your blog!

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