The pro-Anorexia movement

Newsweek has a sobering article about websites that support young women with anorexia, to the point of encouraging it:

A Web page labeled “Ana Boot Camp” recently offered its members a seemingly irresistible proposition: a 30-day regimen designed to help them drop some serious pounds, no exercise needed. The catch was that the group’s members were to vary their daily caloric intake from 500 (less than half the daily minimum requirement for women recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine) to zero. They were supposed to track their progress, fast to make up for the days they accidentally “overate” and support each other as they worked toward their common goal of radical weight loss.

Pro-anorexia, or “pro-ana,” Web sites (with more than one using the “Ana Boot Camp” name) have for years been a controversial Internet fixture, with users sharing extreme diet tips and posting pictures of emaciated girls under headlines such as “thinspiration.” But what was unusual about the site mentioned above (which is no longer available) was where it was hosted: the ubiquitous social networking site Facebook.com. The (largely female) users who frequent pro-ana sites have typically done so anonymously, posting under pseudonyms and using pictures of fashion models to represent themselves. Now, as the groups increasingly launch pages on Facebook, linking users’ real-life profiles to their eating disorders, the heated conversation around anorexia has become more public. Many pro-ana Facebookers say the groups provide an invaluable support system to help them cope with their disease, but psychologists worry that the growth of such groups could encourage eating disorders in others.

HT: Frank Sonnek, who asks “will this kind of openness increase the misery that is a consequence of sin or allow treatment of it or both?”

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

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  • Katy

    This is absoloutely disgusting.
    Support of such “camps” is the height of irresponsibility.
    Girls are under such huge pressure to look right nowadays.
    For example, my eight yr. old sister told my eleven yr. old sister that they should try to lose a few pounds-they have BMI’s of 17 and 19 respectively.

  • http://castingoutnines.wordpress.com Robert Talbert

    My wife was anorexic in college. She almost died from lack of nutrition at the time, and it’s caused irreversible damage to her body. She is 8 months pregnant now and during the pregnancy has had to battle gestational diabetes and a number of other diet-related issues because her body was irrevocably screwed up by her fling with anorexia. You think these pro-ana people are giving the long-term consequences a second thought?

  • http://castingoutnines.wordpress.com Robert Talbert

    I should mention that my wife was in college 20 years ago, not a couple of years ago, so this really is a long-term effect.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Yet another example of how this culture is one that loves death, sad to say. From Goths to this….

  • FW

    My thought is that being tolerant of people expressing themselves on this in an open way can encourage damaging behavior. at the same time, it opens a space to treat those behaviors honestly and maybe help people deal with the underlying illness.

  • FW

    there are also spiritual opportunities here as christians , who because of the incarnation and hope of the resurrection of the body, believe that the body is as important as the soul and inseparable from it.

    quite possibly one reason for the discordance of these women with their physical self image is that they do not share this christian viewpoint or if they do, they need some reinforcement with a strong gospel tinge to it!

  • FW

    #3 robert talbert

    scriptures: “confess your sins to one another and you will be healed” .

    The secular version is: “we are only as sick as our secrets”

    maybe if your wife had had a forum to talk about her problem openly, she might have attracted the help she needed?

  • emma

    I am currently collecting information for a website project for university. I am writing about the 'slim fo Him' programme in the states. Is there anyone who would be willing to share there personal experiences with me? I am looking at the pressures young women are put under by religion (particulary Christianity) and society (through the media).

    I would also like to comment on the above posts. Having anorexia nervosa is a direct result of the pressures of the environment around you, whether it is from people or living up to media representations of what 'beauty' is concidered to be. It is only one dimension of the multitude of practices which include tatooing, piercing, branding, cutting, binding, bodybuilding and gymnastics in which the outer body is transformed, inscribed and altered. Anorexia and fasting is just a slower waty to achieve similar means. It is much more dangerous.

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