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Pro-Ana
Pro-Ana

Pro-ana refers to the promotion of anorexia nervosa as a lifestyle choice rather than an eating disorder. It is often referred to simply as "ana" and is sometimes affectionately personified by anorexics as a girl named Ana. The lesser-used term pro-mia refers likewise to bulimia nervosa and is sometimes used interchangeably with pro-ana.

Pro-ana organizations differ widely in their stances. Most claim that they exist mainly as a non-judgmental environment for anorexics; a place to turn to discuss their illness, and to support those who choose to enter recovery. Others deny anorexia nervosa is a mental illness and claim instead that it is a "lifestyle choice" that should be respected by doctors and family.

Medical professionals treating eating disorders have long noted that patients in recovery programs often "symptom pool", banding closely together for emotional support and validation. Anorexics, in particular, may come to collectively normalize their condition, defending it not as an illness but as an accomplishment of self control and an essential part of their identity.

Such advocacy has flourished on the Internet, mainly through tight-knit support groups centred around web forums and, more recently, social network services such as Xanga, LiveJournal, Facebook and Myspace. These groups typically have an overwhelmingly female readership and are frequently the only means of support available to socially-isolated anorexics.

Pro-ana sites tend to be relatively articulate (with a 2006 survey finding 75% of their content at a reading level above eighth grade). Many have high-traffic blogs and forums on which members seek companionship by posting compulsively about the daily details of their lives or boast about accomplishments of weight loss in competitive displays of one-upmanship. The communities centred around such sites can be warmly welcoming (especially in recovery-friendly groups) but are more often cliquish and openly suspicious of newcomers.

As an encouragement to further lose weight, members often exchange thinspiration (or thinspo): image or video montages of slim women, often celebrities, who may be anything from naturally slim to emaciated with visibly-protruding bones. Conversely, reverse thinspiration features fatty food, overweight or obese people intended to induce disgust and motivate further weight loss.

Thinspirational clips circulate widely on video sharing sites, pro-ana blogs often post thinspirational entries, and many pro-ana forums have threads dedicated to sharing thinspiration. Thinspiration can also take the form of inspirational mantras, quotes or selections of lyrics from poetry or popular music (94% of sites in a 2003 survey).

Thinspiration often has a spiritual-ascetic flavour, referring to fasting through metaphors of bodily purity, food through allusions to sin and corruption, and thinness through imagery of angels and angelic flight. Exhortations like "Ana's Creed" and "The Ana Commandments" are also common.

Social researchers studying pro-ana have varied explanations for its popularity, with some characterizing it is a rejection of modern consumerism and others suggesting that pro-ana functions as a coping mechanism for those already emotionally stressed by eating disorders. Most, however, agree that pro-ana sites:

* Initially attract both the non-eating disordered (who first visit seeking tips and techniques for losing weight) and the eating-disordered (who seek advice on prolonging their disorder).

* Give their members a strong sense of community and common identity.

Red bracelets are popularly worn in pro-ana, both as a discreet way for anorexics to socially identify and as a tangible reminder to avoid eating. Pro-mia bracelets, likewise, are blue or purple. Most such bracelets are simple beaded items traded briskly on online auction sites.

Pro-ana has proliferated rapidly on the Internet, with some observers noting a first wave of pro-ana sites on free web hosting services in the late 1990s, and a second wave attributed to the recent rise of blogging and social networking services.

A survey by Internet security firm Optenet found a 470% increase in pro-ana and pro-mia sites from 2006 to 2007. A similar increase was also noted in a 2006 Maastricht University study investigating alternatives to censorship of pro-ana material. In the study, the Dutch blog host punt.nl began in October 2006 presenting visitors to pro-ana blogs on its service with a click-through warning containing a disparaging message and links to pro-recovery sites. Although the warnings were a deterrence (33.6% of the 530,000 unique visitors logged did not proceed past the warning), the number of such blogs actually increased tenfold, with their monthly traffic figures doubling on average by the end of the study.

In a 2009 survey by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven of 711 Flemish high school students aged 13–17, 12.6% of girls and 5.9% of boys reported having visited pro-ana websites at least once. In another 2009 survey, by parental control software vendor CyberSentinel of 1500 female Internet users aged 6–15, one in three reported having searched online for dieting tips, while one in five reported having corresponded with others on social networking sites or in chat rooms for tips on dieting.

Visitors to pro-ana web sites also include a significant number of those already diagnosed with eating disorders: a 2006 survey of eating disorder patients at Stanford Medical School found that 35.5% had visited pro-ana web sites; of those, 96.0% learned new weight loss or purging methods from such sites (while 46.4% of viewers of pro-recovery sites learned new techniques).

Pro-Anas do not generally care much for music or fashion, or anything else- their desire to be thin almost all-consuming. That, my dears, is just tragic.

Info from wikipedia, last paragraph by me, image is a digitally-altered photo by Ivonne Thein.


 

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