Pro-Eating Disorder Websites Challenge Treatment and Enable

A News Update

Thanks to concerted efforts to raise awareness and understanding about eating disorders by special interest groups and medical practitioners around the country and across the planet, issues such as anorexia and bulimia are fairly well-known disorders whose grave effects on both emotional and physical health are widely acknowledged. Impacting the lives of scores of young women and other demographic groups with high instances of the disorders, anorexia and bulimia are generally looked upon as extremely debilitating and harmful. But there are some whose perspectives are in stark contrast to the norm; a growing community of “pro-ana” and “pro-bulimia” groups want professionals and the international community at large to regard the disorders as “lifestyle choices,” and are challenging the goals of mental health professionals who aim to improve the lives of the afflicted.

Websites championing anorexia and bulimia as “beautiful” and positive conditions have been gaining momentum over the past few years, primarily in the west but also as distant and seemingly unlikely as Malta, as a national news outlet reports. Such sites are dedicated to providing emotional and social havens for those with eating disorders, encouraging them to become as thin as possible through a variety of means. Some sites reportedly hold contests between members to see who can lose the most weight fastest; others offer “meal plans” containing dangerously low calories and nutrients.

As one of the most difficult blocks to reaching victims of anorexia and bulimia is fostering an understanding of the disorders’ nature as valid, documented mental health issues, these websites and communities present a considerable challenge to therapists and counselors working with these issues. The improvement and enlargement of programs that target eating disorders may be greatly needed to help counter the impact of these enabling communities bent on being unhealthily thin.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Robert


    May 30th, 2009 at 8:11 PM

    This is definitely bad news!! If these websites are sites owned by registered companies or organizations, I am sure the govt. can hold them responsible for propagating dangerous and hazardous heath trends.

  • Hilda


    May 30th, 2009 at 8:53 PM

    How can there be anything beautiful about eating or not eating till the point of sickness? I think beauty pageants for the small and large encourage this trend indirectly. Therapists need to warn their clients of such websites or material as therapy can never be affective when the person has assimilated conflicting info.

  • Timothy


    May 31st, 2009 at 7:47 PM

    Fads galore these days I would say. Latest is glorifying eating disorders I guess. Being a victim of one, there is nothing beautiful and good about not being able to help oneself.

  • Timothy


    May 31st, 2009 at 7:51 PM

    Looks like this is the latest fad these days. Being a victim of bulimia for years, I can definitely say that there is nothing beautiful or good about not being able to help oneself

  • Eliza


    June 1st, 2009 at 5:37 AM

    This is so sick. Material like this that could potentially cause such harm to someone’s life should not be allowed to be posted on the web. Yeah yeah I know free speech and all but give me a break! These sites that have this kind of material are playing right into the hands and heads of girls and guys who already have poor body image and this is making them think that this is OK and that there are ways to be healthy and live with anorexia and bulimia as a way of maintaining dangerously low body weights and in some freaky way being in better control of their bodies. You have to have a really sick mind to read some of what these sites have to say and believe that they are true. But young kids are very impressionable so I know that there are some out there who go to these sites just like they would other help sites and get info that they think is going to help them stay skinny. Too bad they don’t tell you all of the dangers that come with unhealthy eating disorders too.

  • Kayla


    June 2nd, 2009 at 3:54 AM

    having suffered from bulimia for most of my teenage years and into my twenties I can say emphatically that there is nothing beautiful about this disorder. It is ugly and takes away any self respect you ever had. Maybe that is the kind of statements that they need to be posting to these sites.

  • Wendy


    June 3rd, 2009 at 2:47 AM

    These sites should be banned. But how can they if they are doing nothing wrong except hurting other people. Shame on them!

  • Camille


    June 3rd, 2009 at 3:43 AM

    I have read a lot on this blog and find it interesting that no one has commented that people with eating disorders should just be able to stop acting out in the way that certain authors here feel that other addicts should do. Why is that? Are anorexia and bulimia not considered addictions like other poor behavioral choices are? I am not challenging anyone nor do I make light of the problems experienced by others, but does anyone ever tell the anorexic or bulimic to just stop their bad behavior in the same way that we will say these things to and about alcoholics and drug addicts?

  • Tammy


    June 4th, 2009 at 2:58 AM

    This is absolutely Crazy! What do these sites encourage? Death? Surely something’s got to be done.

  • Hollis


    June 4th, 2009 at 5:00 PM

    all I have to say is that we have to be more careful every day about the content we allow into our homes, no matter the venue that it comes from. Kids and adults as well are easily influenced and who knows who is going to be taken in by this kind of sick material.

  • runninfast


    June 5th, 2009 at 11:59 AM

    I know that all of us probably think the same thing- that sites like these should be banned. But we all know that this is not something that is going to be a possibility. So why not start at home teaching our families the best ways to stay healthy and how to feel good about who they are and the choices that they make? There are of course some horrible influences on them in this world that we just cannot shield them from. But we have to know that when we are giving them the right kind of information and validation at home the chances of them buying into what sites like these have to say is smaller than it would have been otherwise. We can never keep them from everything negative but knowing that we are giving our kids a good foundation is a great way to start and to hopefully know that they are equipped to make tough decisions that are not going to harm them in the long term.

  • Meleah


    June 9th, 2009 at 1:55 AM

    I agree with you, runninfast. It starts at home and all we can do is do our best when educating our kids. That’s all we can do. Teach them what is wrong and the cons about doing this to our bodies and teach them what is right when it comes to appreciating our bodies.

  • Carrie


    June 12th, 2009 at 4:05 AM

    I don’t know who in their right minds think bulimia, anorexia or skinniness is sexy and beautiful. These websites that promote this need a reality check

  • Maggie


    June 16th, 2009 at 2:55 PM

    i’ve never heard of such a thing! I would have never thought anyone would even advertise something like this.

  • Gabby


    June 21st, 2009 at 8:41 AM

    I’m sure many of us think this is totally and utterly wrong, but what can we do? Nothing! It’s a shame that people who promote these sites, have no morals at all!

  • Della


    June 22nd, 2009 at 2:34 PM

    Too bad you can’t work up a petition to get these sites banned. I know… freedom of speech, but still yet, it’s hurting a lot of young girls and boys

  • Christy


    January 28th, 2010 at 7:54 AM

    I’m writing an essay on the pro-ana & pro-mia websites. i’m finding out a lot and i even visited one to check one out (i can’t write on a topic with genuine feeling that i’ve never seen or experienced before) and i was disgusted. they wrote up that bulimia and anorexia are not diseases, they’re a lifestyle choice. i’m sickened by the people who choose to invade other’s lives with harsh & cruel tips when they should just worry about their own life.

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