Is There a Silver Lining to Otherwise Awful Pro-Ana 'Thinspo' Blogs?

Illustration for article titled Is There a Silver Lining to Otherwise Awful Pro-Ana Thinspo Blogs?

Pro-ana blogs might actually help anorexics deal with their eating disorder and eventually seek recovery, according to a new study. After interviewing 33 people from seven countries involved in the online thinspo community, Indiana University researchers determined that the 24-hour support the blogs offer somewhat balances out all of the horrifying "I'm not starving myself; I'm perfecting my emptiness"-type memes.

"These communities are providing support, albeit supporting an illness that may result in someone's death," one of the researchers said in a statement. "But until they're ready to go and seek recovery on their own terms, this might actually be a way of prolonging their life, so that they are mentally ready to tackle their recovery process."

Researchers have analyzed thinspo blogs before, but the vast majority simply looked at the sites instead of reaching out to the bloggers themselves before concluding that the pro-ana community defends anorexia as a lifestyle choice instead of a disease. This new study is notable because the research team actually reached out and talked to the women (no men responded) behind the concave belly gifs and advice about how chewing celery burns calories; it turns out that only three called anorexia a lifestyle. Instead, 27 defined their eating disorder as a mental illness, and six said it was a coping mechanism.

Advertisement

"In other words, people living with eating disorders are not purposely making unhealthy or health-compromising decisions. They are trying to find the best way they can to live with this disorder," the researchers wrote.

Still, the findings seem more like a beginning than anything conclusive, since only 33 people were interviewed, and the researchers didn't specify how they defined pro-ana sites. The takeaway isn't that we should encourage 15-year-olds to make their own embroidered "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" pillows, but that we should take a close look at the qualities that make the thinspo community so hard to break away from — for example, how the blogs offer a round-the-clock security blanket that more constructive support groups could try and emulate.

Advertisement

"We need to see what about (the pro-ana blogs) is drawing people into the community and design blogs for recovery that offer the same kind of useful information so the recovery will work," one researcher said. "By knowing what they're doing in those blogs, we might be able to find better ways to provide online support."

Surprisingly, 'Pro-Ana' Blogging Communities May Help Sufferers of Eating Disorders [Medical Daily]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

sobullshit
bullshit reservoir is full

Rather than responding to anyone already here and bringing this to anyone who doesn't need to see it, I'm just going to let this float off on its own comment so it can be ignored if necessary. It's a pretty negative way of looking at things and it's honestly a bit on the whiny side. Feel free to skip this.

I don't have an eating disorder or a weight problem. My diet is nutritionally poor, but that's because I prioritize taste above all else and that's an entirely different sort of thing that I'm not here to talk about today. Today I'm here to talk about how people judge themselves, because although in my case it isn't about what I eat, I have thought patterns that look similar to some of the experiences that have been shared in the comments here. I label things as failures and hate myself for not living up to standards set by others. I do all of this, and I don't even feel that any of it is wrong. It feels perfectly natural to berate failure for being failure - to judge myself as lesser because others illustrate superiority.

For any given skill or trait I might claim to have, I can easily go to the internet and find dozens of individuals that are leagues and leagues above me. Of course not everyone can expect to be the best, but when the top is so far above you that you're an invisible speck, how can you ever take satisfaction in where you are? How can you make any claims of talent or feel any pride when it's so clear to anyone who cares to look that you have (and are) nothing?

I feel this way about absolutely everything I care about. I don't care about my body or my weight, and that might end up being problematic in its own right when my diet catches up to me, but if I did I can almost guarantee I'd have developed an eating disorder. How could I not? I would be a worthless failure in yet another category.

I don't see people talking about this way of thinking outside of eating disorders very often (if at all) and so it could be unique to me, but I doubt that. I think this is a mentality that people can develop about anything and everything, and we're focusing specifically on eating because of the much more immediate and direct harm it causes. This seems wrong to me. Thinking like that isn't strictly rooted in or caused by anything relating to food or body image. Thinking like that is APPLIED to body image and food.

Shouldn't effort be put into studying and diagnosing and treating the root of the basic, general problem instead of the most common specific variety? Shouldn't we try to attack self-flagellating thoughts of all stripes rather than only those about our bodies?

TL;DR, throw some of the psych studies my way. I don't have an eating disorder, but I'm sick and tired of never being able to be proud of a single thing I do and constantly demoting and devaluing myself for the countless, COUNTLESS "failures" I see everywhere in my life. Not that it would do any good. If I ever sought professional help, that would be admitting that not only am I a failure in all these other ways, but now I'm too weak even to deal with my own mental demons. I'm pretty sure I won't start any sort of therapy because I want to believe that if nothing else, I'm "stronger" than needing help.

Ain't I just a barrel full of laughter?