WARNING: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN IMAGES AND CONTENT THAT COULD PROVE TRIGGERRING OR DISTURBING. PLEASE PROCEED WITH CAUTION. It may be a good idea to do some self-soothing activity, or something calming if you decide to proceed with this post. Remember that you can stop reading at any time and that you can always return to focusing on your breath to soothe yourself. This is an informational post, not one condoning any sort of Proana, Promia or Thinspo material.
Since the early 90's when the cult of thin was born, the Kate Mosses and Naomi Cambells of this world, ruled at the top of the food-pyramid of chic. The sequins and shoulder pads of the 80's were gone and it was grunge all the way, and just like the garments they were wearing, models became smaller, less substantial and increasingly waif-like. While the ripped jeans, over-sized shirts, army-surpplus boots and jackets were having their moment in the sun, their wearers mirrored their state of careless despondency. Rakish young women staggered on their new-foal-legs in and out of the trendiest nightclubs and restaurants, were seen braless with their tiny nipples hard through sheer fabric in Winter cold, cigarette in one hand, glass of champagne in the other, coked up to their eyeballs to keep them from feeling hungry, to keep them from wanting. They must be tiny, empty, pure, and, most of all, perfect; and all the rest of the world could do was try to keep up.
Followers of my Instagram know that I am documenting a journey, that my starting pictures featured a sick looking girl, but that every week I am getting stronger. I'm also extremely candid, but optimistic and positive; it's a project designed to encourage others, to show them they are not alone and, most importantly, that there is hope, they an get better, if I can then they can too. However, I have had many negative comments, mainly from people who, I assume, have not actually looked at the rest of my feed but looked back on a picture of the start of my journey. Most recently was from a charming user (naming and shaming) @1000pieceunicorn puzzle; "do you think that having repeated photographs of your slim body is inspiration not to be anorexic? I only show pictures of my skinniness in reference to it specifically." I'm not even sure what that final part means, but the point is, for every hundred positive comments and messages of encouragement I receive, there are people who seem to seek out opportunities to release some of their own pent up frustration. Possibly these people are suffering with eating disorders themselves or are extremely unhappy with their self body image, but these people do not bother me in the least. I thank them for their input, encourage them to look at the chronicle of my journey as a whole, to take hope and encouragement from it if they can and if not then I bid the farewell and wish them all the best.
However, I recently received a private message from a young girl that disturbed me very badly, much more than all of the negative comments combined ever could. I will not be naming her, I'm just going to call her Little Sister. Her message read, "Hey, can I ask you a question? It's not rude or anything. Well, I'm not sure what to do, I've been trying really hard to be anorexic and I just don't know how :("
This message broke my heart. The idea that there was a young girl out there looking at my page and not being encouraged or inspired, but rather was so focused on becoming thin that thin was all she saw; and, in seeing that, she thought I could help her to develop Anorexia. This seems ludicrous, it's akin to someone asking a diabetic how they too can become diabetic. You don't choose Anorexia. You may choose to diet, restrict, exercise, but no one chooses to be shackled by the disease that that turns into. There is a huge misconception to do with Anorexia, a buzz word bandied about by many- control. "It's all about control"; this is not quite the case. In the beginning it is, but for a select few who are predisposed genetically to the illness, it may become something more, suddenly the individual is no longer in control and Anorexia is their jailer, their boss, their confidant, their best friend, their family, their reason for existence. Nothing makes sense except for restricting, calorie-counting, label-examining, exercising, and self-flagellation bordering on obscene if any of the 'rules' are broken.
It was clear to me, Little Sister had been looking for Thinspo; thin inspiration. Photos of young women, emaciated, sad looking, with tiny thighs and protruding bones; they often carry slogans such as "Skip dinner, wake up thinner" or "a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips." Thinspo tends to come hand in hand with Proana, or, pro-anorexia. Proana isn't just the belief that it's ok to be anorexic, it goes much, much further than that. It is something I had not looked deeply into before researching for this blog, though I was aware of its' existence. What I discovered was horrifying and deeply disturbing.
Proana is so much more than a movement in support of extreme thinness.
'Ana' is referred to almost with deity-level status. Women, and a smaller number of men, dedicate themselves to the Proana lifestyle and acting only in accordance with the rules and commandments of Ana, to as great an extent as possible. The following that the Proana lifestyle has generated has undoubtedly reached cult status. Proana sites are vocally not for those in recovery, rather they are targeted at people who are determined not to conquer the disease, people who believe that 'Ana is the only way to live.' A desire to seek help or achieve health and wellness is seen as weak. Everyone deserves a platform but it is blackly ironic that these sites encourage followers to render themselves weaker and frailer in the name of strength.
Ana has 10 Commandments.
1. If you aren't thin you aren't attractive.
2. Being thin is more important than being healthy.
3. You must buy clothes, style your hair, take laxatives, 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.
One site also contains a number of tips and tricks to deal with cravings, producing a list that can only be described as coming from the mind of a very disturbed and unwell person.
1. RULES, RULES, RULES. This is important. You need to set rules for yourself, and if you are truly ana, you will have no problem sticking to them because you are STRONG! Rules are everything. Examples: Don’t eat anything white. Do not, under any circumstances, eat after 6:00. Don’t eat before 3:00. Cut each bite into x amount of pieces, chew x amount of times. Do not eat anything that has over 3 grams of fat. Make your own and keep adding to them.
2. Ana must be the center of your life.
8. Never eat anything bigger than about a cup, your stomach will expand and you’ll get hungry more. If you need to, eat more frequently, not bigger amounts
12 . Ice or gum are good food substitutes.
15. Eat in front of a mirror, naked or in underwear if possible. If you can’t, carry a picture of yourself in a revealing outfit and look at it when you want to eat. When you have cravings pinch your fat and look at your problem areas, don’t add to them!
22. Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it when you want to eat. Food = pain.
32. Friends will only get in the way. Avoid them until you reach your goals.
43. Do not eat anything unless you know the exact amount of calories in it.
THERE ARE 58 OF THESE OUTRAGEOUS RULES or, “TIPS”. I think we can take an extra moment to re-read number 15. And again, just once more, for posterity.
There is even a prayer, or promise to Ana;
I shall not be tempted by the enemy (food), and I shall not give into temptation should it arise. Should I be in such a weakened state and I should cave, I will feel guilty and punish myself accordingly, for I have failed her.
I will be thin, at all costs. It is the most important thing; nothing else matters.
I will devote myself to Ana. She will be with me where ever I go, keeping me in line. No one else matters; she is the only one who cares about me and who understands me. I will honor Her and make Her proud
Another website provides us with fasting tips;
1. Spin around in circles, it will make you too dizzy and nauseous to eat
13. Do some crunches.
16. Try enjoying hunger pangs.
18. Look at yourself naked and pinch your fat.
21. Look at thinspo if you feel hungry.
22. Go on Pro-Ana blogs
25. Eating ice will trick your brain.
29. Watch people eating and notice how disgusting it looks.
Aaaaaand let's just take a moment for number 16... I mean... In fairness.
Aside from the brainwashing nature of these sites, particularly on impressionable people; those who are young, weakened by low BMI and poor nutrition or lack any other support or outlet for what they are experiencing, there is another, darker side to the mass of uploaded Thinspo and Proana images.
Susan Ringwood is chief executive of Beat, the UK's largest eating disorder awareness charities. There is a little-known but disturbing link between pro-ana websites and online pornography, which makes their existence even more alarming. The rise of “skinny porn” is well-documented in the research world, but it is a difficult subject to broach with sufferers.
“It’s almost like grooming,” explains Ringwood. “There is a group of people who get sexual satisfaction from looking at these emaciated people, most of them photographed in their underwear or without many clothes. These individuals pose as young girls [in chat rooms and forums] and encourage others to post pictures of themselves. When you visit these sites, you get even more inundated with pornography than on other websites. They are linked. That’s because the same people access both.”
This is what I wanted to say to Little Sister, the young girl who wanted to be thinner because her boyfriend cheated on her with a girl who was 'skinnier' than she is. Being Anorexic doesn't make you happy. It makes you really, really sad. It makes you miss parties, birthdays and anniversaries. It makes you tired all the time. It makes soft, downy hair grow all over your body. It distorts your perceptions until there is barely anything of you and your personality left because it has been taken over by Anorexia with its rules and punishments. It makes your joints ache and it's impossible to rest in one position for too long before it becomes uncomfortable. All the things you think you'll do when you have that skinny, emaciated, child like body? You wont, because you'll be too tired and you actually won't be bothered. There is only room for your eating disorder. That boy you thought would like you? You won't even care anymore either way.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with 20 per cent of sufferers dying prematurely from the disease and associated medical complications.
I'm sure that that was not on people's minds when they 'decided' to 'become anorexic'. All praise Ana.
Lastly, I want to include some genuine comments from forum members on one particular site. These are a small sample of what's floating out there in cyberspace; wicked, vulnerable, confused, devious and destructive young and old, men and women, sitting behind their computers speaking to the world, with zero idea of how far their comments could reach and the damage they could cause.
JANUARY 5, 2017 AT 2:23 AM
I’m on my 2nd full day of not eating. I’m so proud I made it this far. Almost gave up a few times, I’ll admit. The rubber band helps. Also praying whenever you get cravings I find helps get you through them. I think I’m going to eat a banana for breakfast tomorrow though and maybe eat dinner. Then try to go another 2 days.
JANUARY 7, 2017 AT 1:31 AM
Im fuking fat im discusted of my self i want to follow ana and have her in the center of my life plz help HELP!!
Starvation isn't self control. Starvation is self destruction. JANUARY 8, 2017 AT 12:13 AM
Hello, beautiful people. Anorexia is a MENTAL DISORDER, not a lifestyle. If somebody was psychotic (caused by another MENTAL ILLNESS) and at risk of harming themselves and others, would you endorse a website where they and other people with MENTAL ILLNESSES, like schizophrenia and bipolar, ‘supported’ each other and encouraged each other to harm themselves and other people? You are harming yourselves and by default the people around you that care about you. Support is everywhere in the form of family, friends and medical professionals, but it is not here. You just need to find the courage to admit that you’re struggling and you can’t get better alone. Don’t be a slave to the norms of the media. Starvation isn’t self control. Starvation is self destruction.
WTF is wrong with your head?
JANUARY 9, 2017 AT 3:54 AM
Ok, who wants to be a liar? Who wants to be sneaky and hurt the people who love them? Who wants to suffer a lot of body problems (not just a little tummy ache, lol!) that may continue for a (shortened) lifetime? Who wants to lose their friends and give up activities? Who wants to go on a trip where you have a 20% chance of dying at the end?
Then welcome to ana. Your life is now over. You have wasted your potential and become something mainstream society (and common sense) considers wrong; stupid, an object of pity, an example of self inflicted physical abuse.
There is no beauty or happiness for anas. There is only starvation and failure and death
DECEMBER 16, 2016 AT 5:16 AM
You really need to have your head examined for wanting to be a whining pathetic little ana idiot. Get educated in nutrition and keep your ass off the couch. You can do a lot better for yourself than this worthless stupid shit.
Unless you just want to be a weak whining little drama queen and need another one to tell stupid bullshit to online?
DECEMBER 16, 2016 AT 8:38 PM
Those people are sick, it’s a disease so don’t be rude cause it doesn’t impress anyone.
DECEMBER 21, 2016 AT 3:46 AM
Wrong. Real anorexics don’t need. buddies or groups or meanspos to lose weight, their mental pain is such that they do it to themselves without that; many struggle to make themselves eat enough to stay alive. Educate yourself. Try reading the Karen Carpenter story.
Here we have a bunch of shallow stupid mostly fat people who think that joining a social club where people IMITATE THE MENTAL ILLNESS ANOREXIA and do sick fucking shit like having starving contests and bullying each other to malnourish themselves to lose weight.
Big difference between mental illness and being too fucking candy-assed weak to work out and maintain a healthy diet and exercise program.
File that under “Truth Hurts”
DECEMBER 19, 2016 AT 9:20 AM
Guys I need help. I’ve been forced to go through re-feeding after my diagnosis (I failed and got caught).Since then, I’ve gained around 10 pounds. Does anyone have any tips or tricks so that I could lose weight without my doctors or parents suspecting? Also, ever since being fed more and more, it’s gotten harder to resist food and I feel absolutely disgusting for being so weak and gross. I’m 5’4″. My weight is currently around 115. My waist size was 23, but has since grown to about 25. My goal is to first get down to 110 and then 105 again. Ultimate goal is 95 pounds. Please anyone. I can’t stand how fat I am now
DECEMBER 27, 2016 AT 6:07 PM
Aim to perfect your fake eating abilities. Cutting food up a lot, talking fast during dinner. Though they’ll be on close watch so you may have to focus on finding ways to Purge immediately after you eat
DECEMBER 26, 2016 AT 1:06 PM
He won’t want you if your main concern in life is how fat your ass is today. You have to have more to offer than that, so maybe working on your personality would be a better plan.
What do ya have to offer that’s happy and fun? Exciting, challenging, interesting?
And just so you know, guys don’t like jutting ass bones or hip bones jabbing them in the pelvis every time they stroke down, fucking a skinny girl sucks.
People are brave in front of a keyboard, but terrified to death of being judged in real life.
I don't know what the answer is in response to these sites, but to anyone reading this blog, sending me love and support, following me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, know that there is another way. There are positive supports out there, ones that will help you to recover, to rebuild, to gain strength and confidence, to learn how to live in comfort and harmony with your body once again, and what could possibly be better than that? How can worshipping Ana be greater that worshipping life and worshipping yourself?
I always say I'll help you all in any way I can, but I can't help you destroy yourself. If you think you need help but don't know what to do, reach out to me, I'll point you in the right direction, the direction of people who are trained to help you, who know what you're going through even though you may feel no one does, where there are other people just like you, wanting what you want. I will do everything in my power to help you so long as it is within my own moral compass to do so.
I stand for health.
I stand for mental and physical strength.
I stand for the people who recognise Anorexia for what it really is; a disease, not a lifestyle choice.
I stand for recovery and all those seeking it.
I stand for empowerment.
I stand for a life where sitting isn't a source of pain.
I stand for hope.
I stand for each and every person that has the courage to stand up and say 'I need help.'
I stand for every single one of my beautiful. flawed, magnificent, human, kind, disastrous and spectacular Yogilateral Warriors. I love you all so much. You remain my greatest source of encouragement and above all, hope.
Possibly one of the most iconic Thinspo images of all time. SHUT UP, Kate. Walking up stairs without passing out or having to take a break halfway TASTES PRETTY DAMN GOOD!
I love you all.