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news: the thin commandments: combating pro-ana and pro-mia sites

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Title/Topic: The Thin Commandments: Combating Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia Sites
Posted On: 11/15/2007
 
Carbondale, IL, Nov 15 2007 (wsiltv.com) – It’s an online sub-culture that some say encourages – even glorifies – eating disorders.

There are more than 500 destinations online, known as pro-ana and pro-mia websites, that target those with anorexia and bulimia.

Instead of offering help, the forums do the opposite, teaching the victims how to avoid eating. There’s even a ‘thin-spiration’ section, complete with photographs of models and celebrities.

On one of the so-called pro-ana websites, you’ll find ‘the Thin Commandments’, written just like the religious doctrine, but with a much different message.

“Thou shalt not eat without feeling guilty.” “If you aren’t thin, you aren’t attractive.” “Being thin is more important than being healthy.”

“When you look at these web-sites, it’s blatantly obvious that this is a mental illness” says Dr. Sharon Peterson, with the Department of Food and Nutrition at SIU.

It becomes apparent that the creators of pro-ana and pro-mia sites try to convince others this is not a disease, but a lifestyle choice.

Here browsers find a plethora of photos featuring skinny models, also some dangerous diet plans.

“People are being shown what to do to consume XXX calories* a day, which is completely inappropriate” says Peterson, pointing at one site.

“Scary– that’s the one word I can say to describe them” says Michelle Ostien, a graduate student at SIU who is studying eating disorders.

Sharon and Michelle have seen the harmful effects of eating disorders. Michelle had a friend who suffered. Sharon went through her own experience.

“I had an eating disorder. I had anorexia. I’m 5′ 7. I got down to XX pounds*.”

Both women can speak to the many images in the media compelling people to become obsessed with their weight.

“There’s something called the ‘Desperate Housewives’ syndrome– seeing all these perfect bodies of middle-aged women on T-V and regular sized women feeling the pressure to be that thin” says Michelle.

Pro-ana and pro-mia web-sites just perpetuate that pressure while at the same time offering a false sense of community.

“In order to make themselves feel better, they are seeing if they can find other folks to be in their club.”

Sharon says there are hundreds of these websites permeating the internet. They can be hard to monitor, but she says some servers are starting to take action.

“Yahoo has taken all the pro-ana websites off their server” says Sharon.

Parents can take action too, by using internet blockers, and promoting a positive body image to their children.

News 3 tried to contact several pro-ana and pro-mia site creators to see if they thought their online forums were harmful and promoted the wrong kind of image. No one got back to us.

By: Jackie McPherson
jmcpherson@wsiltv.com

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* Numbers removed by Pale Reflections
 

 
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