OPINION: Figurative girls pose very literal problems

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Meet Ana and Mia, two girls that want nothing but the best for you. They want you to feel comfortable in your own skin, and they will love you down to your bones.

If you listen to them, that is all that will be left of you: skin and bones.

Pro-Ana, Pro-Mia and Pro-ED are short for Pro-Anorexia, Pro-Bulimia and Pro-Eating Disorders. These online groups, websites and blogs are created by teens and young adults around the world who have said they believe in the “beauty” of eating disorders. The sites glamorize what it means to have an eating disorder, and displays the disease in a positive light.

Pro-eating disorder sites teach readers that eating disorders are a choice, not a mental illness.

Eating disorders have a tendency to isolate the diagnosed individual from those around them; they feel alone. Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites give these individuals a sense of belonging and take advantage of this weakness to promote their content. Those afflicted who view the sites often comment and ask for an “Ana buddy” or a “Mia buddy” to help them stop eating.

These websites provide support for people trying to become anorexic and bulimic. The blogs give these young men and women a sense of community and a place for them to bond with others like them. There are posts by young girls who are sobbing because they weigh 50 pounds, and posts by young boys who weigh 100 pounds and cannot fathom the idea of being in the triple digits.

Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia websites and blogs provide information to “help” these believers beyond the online support network. They provide ways to hide the disorder from their family, “thinspirational” quotes and photos as well thin commandments and other parallels with religion.

Seriously, this lifestyle is considered religion to these young men and women. They honestly and truthfully believe that there is nothing wrong with eating disorders, and the disorders become their way of life.

Studies have found that even healthy college women with absolutely no history of eating disorders can be affected by these sites. After 1.5 hours of exposure to these sites, the college students showed a decrease in their caloric intake the week after the study, according to a study published in European Eating Disorders Review.

Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites can be compelling. They are full of compassion for anyone who stumbles upon them. They make you feel loved and wanted. They tell you that you are not good enough yet, but it is okay, because you can be.

These sites are written by people our age. The content of pro-recovery sites, though, is controlled by medical professionals and are less inviting than Pro-Ana sites. No matter how genuine and encouraging pro-recovery sites are, they do not have the same draw as the Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites. This is very dangerous because the content of these websites encourages struggling young people to believe being skinny is the only option. While some websites do post warnings on their pages, disclaimers will not stop people from viewing the offensive and dangerous material, according to The National Eating Disorder Information Centre.

The deception of these sites breaks my heart. I have a 13-year-old sister who has full access to the Internet. It scares me to think that she could come across one of these sites. The chances of her falling into one of their traps scares me even more. Teens and young adults are in vulnerable stages of their lives, and these sites take advantage of that. My little sister is so unique and beautiful just the way she is, and no website should be able to make her feel that she is anything less. No site should have the power to make anyone feel inferior.

There are some Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites that do talk about the dark side of eating disorders, but they are not as well-known and there are not nearly as many as romanticized sites. While it is impossible to police online content, something should be done about these websites that could potentially result in the most serious of consequences.

Mallory Diekmann is a junior in agricultural communications and journalism.

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