Gabrielle Parisi Writing 100 Essay #3 10/23/2013 Wannarexic “We turn skeletons into goddesses and look to them

as if they might teach us how not to need.” - Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia. Anorexia nervosa is a disease of both the mind and body. It’s not a diet or lifestyle, it’s a physiological obsession centered on weighing nothing. People, a majority being women, have suffered from this disease since time has begun (McGee). What most people don’t see is a community that does not have actual anorexia but a more mild form of eating disorders that tries to follow the symptoms of the disease. Though “pro-ana” was created to positively support those suffering from anorexia, the negative use of “pro-ana” and “thinspiration” content on social networking websites used to glamorize eating disorders negatively effects society and brings adolescents to develop a variety of eating disorders commonly known as “wannarexia”. To better understand why these websites with “pro-ana” content affects adolescent girls so negatively you must first look at the content. “Pro-ana” is a collection of works, pictures, and websites that promote anorexia. You can find this content in individual websites or on social networking and blog cites like Tumblr. These websites include tips and tricks, quotes, stories, encouragement, and the most alluring of them all, pictures. Instead of a plate full of chicken breast, brown rice, and green beans, it is a plate that contains three peas and a cup of tea. While

fitness content shows six packs, “pro-ana” shows ribs; instead of quotes encouraging one to run there are quotes encouraging one to purge. A lot of the content also includes pictures of beautiful girls who are extremely thin. There is a large emphasis on the saying “collar bones, hip ones, and thigh gap.” These pictures and quotes glamorize a body shape that most people can not achieve by eating a sustainable amount of food. This body shape is the body shape of an anorexic. By beautifying these aspects that are in fact a result of a disease makes young adolescents feel as if they must adapt to the customs of the disease in order to achieve the results. This will often lead to a high obsession on appearance and unhealthy and unrealistic weight loss goals. Another large part of these “pro-ana” websites or web content is calorie intake logs and meal plans. Meal plans will be put out for people to follow. Some of these plans had anywhere from zero to three hundred calories a day. Usually totaling in about 600 to 800 calories a week. To a young girl with no knowledge on healthy weight lost they may pick up on these plans and try to follow them. If they fail (which most would since they do not actually have anorexia nervosa) feelings of failure and uselessness may subside. “Pro-ana” content is a viscous cycle of people putting up things to influence girls into making unhealthy decisions, then criticizing those girls for “copying” the disease. In the end it may lower their self-esteem and cause more problems. Many people may claim that the use of “pro-ana” content is for people who have already developed the disease. They claim that it’s a way for them to feel safe to talk about their issues without being judged from the outside world, and they share support and provide friendship so victims do not feel alone (Gay). The problem with this claim is that it largely ignores an entire group of people who use these websites. This group is adolescent girls. When I was fifteen years

old I already had been suffering from low self-esteem issues. I would diet off and on. After joining Tumblr I began to see pictures of thin women. The skeleton look these women had were not only alluring to me but addicting. After being exposed to “pro-ana” content I felt like what I was doing was not enough. What I previously thought was a disease started to look more like a lifestyle that I could choose to have. For three years I used these websites and developed what I like to consider was a self-enforced eating disorder. I never suffered from anorexia nervosa; however, this is because there is a line between the actual disease anorexia nervosa and what many people refer to as “wannarexia”. By fasting and doing other unhealthy practices I tried to lose enough weight to fit the mold. Many girls like me used the motto “thigh gaps and collar bones” to keep on a diet track. I often broke fasts and fluctuated in body weight. This was because I did not have anorexia, but because of the images and information I read everyday, I forced myself to attempt to make it a lifestyle. To understand the difference between the actual disease anorexia nervosa and girls who develop a less fatal “copy-cat” form of the disease, one must first know what anorexia is. Anorexia Nervosa has a variety of different diagnosis. Common factors are a distortion of the way one looks, refusal to stay at what the average or healthy weight that person should be, 25% loss of body weight, and no physical reason for the loss of body weight (Askefold). This physical barrier is what separates anorexia patients and people with mild eating disorders. To be anorexic it is crucial for one to be extremely underweight, some of the victims of “pro-ana” sites are not. Lastly anorexia is a mental disorder. Many of the victims suffering from anorexia do not consciously choose to develop it. Anorexia nervosa is not a disease that can be developed by surfing the web. Anorexia can be developed for a multitude of reasons. These reasons include

trauma, a need for control and perfectionism, low self-esteem, and many more (McGee). This reinforces the idea that “pro-ana” content encourages people to develop eating problems that they would not have originally had. The problem with “pro-ana” websites is not that it infects young girls with anorexia but it encourages them to participate in unsafe practices that may label them as “wannarexic” and lowers their sense of self. “Wannarexia” is the ideal that certain individuals suffer from a form of eating disorders bu are not mentally ill. The focus is mainly on girls who will crash diet in hopes to be anorexic. There is a large dispute that these girls are the ones giving the disease a bad name and the reason that these “pro-ana” websites become a negative community (Boero). Boero argues that “pro-ana” websites try to pick out the “wannarexics” by asking questions, posting pictures, asking for stats, and testing them. This is in hopes to keep away girls who take this “pro-ana” content and use it negatively. The problem with this case is that it is impossible to pick out the people who are actually suffering from the disease and the people who mildly have a distorted way of eating. They attack girls who try to starve but fail at doing so, by making them feel out casted. Coincidently girls who do stay on track and become extremely underweight get to become part of the community. This twisted sense of community and identity is what attracts many people to the disease. “Pro-ana” content creates a new group of girls that have mild eating disorders. They may occasionally fast, binge and purge, or a combination of both. These sights give girls an opportunity to create an identity. Behind this identity they are free to maintain whatever personal they choose to be (Gavin). In a sense these girls are able to be the anorexic girl they want to be. Since “pro-ana” websites allow girls to create this identity it also encourages girls to maintain it. This need to be as dedicated as they make themselves seem encourages them to practice

extremely unhealthy weight loss tricks. Though this may be an off and on process for those who do not become anorexic, it does create a form of a mild eating disorder (usually referred to as E.D.N.O.S). This eating disorder is detrimental to both the physical and emotional health of a person. If anorexia is not developed then other problems such as depression and self-harm can result. “Pro-ana” websites exposes individuals, many whom are adolescent girls, to content that encourages them to starve and shows how to do it. The expansion and use of these websites and content directly relate to the increase of eating disorders in young girls. A study was done on a few girls who first saw “pro-ana” content and then was influenced to participating in unhealthy eating choices. “The more Marta saw other girls so focused on their thighs, the more she zeroed in on her own body. Within days, she went from thinking the thigh-gap craze was crazy to using the photos as motivation to lose weight” (Barrie). This shows how the simple pictures that “proana” websites use can affect how a person thinks about themselves. Another large reason why adolescent girls may try to follow an anorexic lifestyle is to become part of the community. Ever since the internet came out for widespread use people have used it to form all sorts of communities. This gives people a chance to connect with like interest or in support. A young adolescent with poor self-esteem may reach out to these communities so they feel like they are part of something. Once joining however they may feel like they have to keep up. If it wasn’t for the “pro-ana” content, fitness and healthy living would influence many young girls into making lifestyle changes, not starving and purging. It would only be a mental disorder you had to acquire unwillingly, not a lifestyle you choose to practice. I think it is vitally important for our society to remove this “pro-ana” content off the internet as much as we can. At the very least take away the images and inner communities that

exist within public social networking cites. There was study done that showed what key phrases are most likely to pull up “pro-ana” content. One of the main phrases was “becoming anorexic” (Lewis). This shows the transition of anorexia being a mental disorder that you can not force yourself to have to it being a lifestyle by choice. It also shows how people are searching for this content in order to force themselves to maintain an anorexic way to eat and function. This alone shows how these sites are being wrongly used and should be restricted so the wrong people don’t get their hands on it. Eating disorders affects not only the victims but their family members and friends. As a whole this disease effects society. The increase in young victims developing eating disorders leads to more deaths. If the development increases, young girls from all walks of life may become anorexic or practice unhealthy life styles. The creation of “pro-ana” cites adds a poison into society that can effect anyone who has access to the internet. It is vitally important to work against these sites to get them banned and because of that certain social networking sites have begun to fight against the use of “pro – ana.” Tumblr is a very popular blog cite where millions of teens can share pictures, quotes, and stories. They have worked to delete “pro-ana” content in order to get that negative outlook on body image out of reach from young impressible adolecents (Gay). This trend is sweeping over the nation. If it continues to increase then the idea of beauty will be completely changed. Instead of healthy and fit young girls will look to unhealthy and stick like for inspiration. Daughters, sisters, and friends may develop life threatening habits in order to obtain an unrealistic and unnatural ideal of beauty. If it is not stopped we will let media, the internet, and social networking websites effect our lives and the lives of the people we love in detrimental ways.

Bibliography

Askevold, Finn. "The Diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa." International Journal of Eating Disorders 2.4 (1983): 39. Print.

Barrie, Leslie. "Is Tumblr Messing with Your Mind?" Seventeen Aug 2013 2013: 106. Print.

Gavin, Jeff, Karen Rodham, and Helen Poyer. "The Presentation of "Pro-Anorexia" in Online Group Interactions." Qualitative health research 18.3 (2008): 325. Print.

Gay, Kristen N. "Unbearable Weight, Unbearable Witness: The (Im)Possibility of Witnessing Eating Disorders in Cyberspace." ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2013. Print.

Lewis, Stephen P., and Alexis E. Arbuthnott. "Searching for Thinspiration: The Nature of Internet Searches for Pro-Eating Disorder Websites." Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking 15.4 (2012): 200. Print.

McGee-Vincent, Pearl A. "An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of Pro-Ana Websites." ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2011. Print.

Pascoe, C. J., and Natalie Boero. "Pro-Anorexia Communities and Online Interaction: Bringing the ProAna Body Online." Body & Society 18.2 (2012): 27. Print