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Pro-ana refers to the promotion or support of anorexia nervosa as a lifestyle choice rather than an eating disorder. It is often referred to simply as "ana" and is sometimes affectionately personified by anorexics as a girl named Ana.[1]

Pro-ana is a loosely descriptive term rather than an organized social movement, and as such encompasses a wide range of views. Many pro-ana organizations state that they do not promote anorexia and acknowledge that anorexia is a real medical disorder, and that they exist mainly to give anorexics a place to turn to discuss their illness in a non-judgmental environment: some promote recovery while still supporting those who choose to defer or refuse medical or psychological treatment. Others go further, disputing the prevailing psychological and medical consensus that treats anorexia nervosa as a mental illness rather than a "lifestyle choice" that should be respected by doctors and family.[1]


Online groups

Most pro-ana material is disseminated over the Internet, through tight-knit support groups centred around web forums and, more recently, social networking sites such as Xanga, Facebook and Myspace. [2] These sites typically have an overwhelmingly female readership and are frequently the only means of support available to socially-isolated anorexics[3]. Their readership includes a significant number of those already diagnosed with eating disorders: 2006 survey of eating disorder patients at Stanford Medical School found that 35.5% had visited pro-ana/pro-mia web sites; of those, 96.0% learned new weight loss or purging methods from such sites.[4]

Members of these support groups often:

  • Compete with each other at losing weight, or fast together in displays of solidarity
  • Commiserate with one another after breaking fast or binging
  • Advise on how to best induce vomiting and use laxatives
  • Give tips on hiding weight loss from parents and doctors[5]

As an encouragement to further lose weight, members often exchange "thinspiration" (or "thinspo"): image or video montages of slim women, often celebrities, who may be anything from naturally slim to emaciated with visibly-protruding bones. [6] Conversely, "reverse thinspiration" images are photographs of fatty food, overweight or obese people intended to induce disgust and motivate further weight loss. Journal entries on pro-ana journals often contain thinspiration pictures, and many pro-ana forums have threads dedicated to sharing thinspiration. Thinspiration can also take the form of inspirational mantras, quotes or selections of pop music.[7]

Criticism and controversy

From the medical profession

Pro-ana has attracted teenage girls who believe that inducing eating disorders will cause them to lose weight more effectively. Some medical professionals and anorexia sufferers take affront to this as they believe it glamorizes a serious illness.[8] Health care professionals and medical associations have taken generally negative views of pro-ana groups and the information they disseminate:

  • beat (Eating Disorders Association of the UK) has stated that "anorexia and bulimia are dangerous activities and people can be encouraged to copy them," but acknowledged "that the main reason people access these sites is to find support, understanding and acceptance. We don't call for the sites to be banned, but rather for everyone else to consider how they can also provide that understanding and acceptance so that these sites don't become the only refuge for someone."[9]
  • NEDA (The National Eating Disorders Association) "actively speaks out against pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia websites. These sites provide no useful information on treatment but instead encourage and falsely support those who, sadly, are ill but do not seek help." [10]
  • The Academy for Eating Disorders takes the position that "websites that glorify anorexia as a lifestyle choice play directly to the psychology of its victims", expressing concern that sites dedicated to the promotion of anorexia as a desirable "lifestyle choice" "provide support and encouragement to engage in health threatening behaviors, and neglect the serious consequences of starvation."[11]
  • ANAD (The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) states that "pro-ana and pro-mia web sites and communities create the opportunity to compare to more and more dangerous methods of weight loss, and increase the drive and interest, and increase the severity and frequency of eating disorder behaviors."[12]

In the media

In October 2001, the Oprah Winfrey Show hosted a special on anorexia; the pro-ana movement was discussed briefly by the guest panel, who expressed alarm at their appearance of pro-ana websites and recommended the use of filtering software to bar access to them.[13]

From Internet service providers

In July 2001, Yahoo—after receiving a letter of complaint from ANAD—began purging pro-ana sites from its Yahoo Clubs (now Yahoo Groups) service, stating that such sites endorsing self-harm were violations of its terms of service agreement.[14]

LiveJournal has not made a position statement regarding pro-ana. In August 2007, however, a staff member declined to respond to an abuse report filed against a pro-ana community hosted on its network, stating that: "Suspending pro-anorexia communities will not make anyone suffering from the disorder become healthy again. Allowing them to exist, however, has several benefits. It reassures those who join them that they are not alone in the way they feel about their bodies. It increases the chance that the friends and loved ones of the individuals in the community will discover their disorders and assist them in seeking professional help."[15]

In November 2007, Microsoft shut down four pro-ana sites on the Spanish-language version of its Spaces social networking service at the behest of IQUA, the Internet regulatory body for Catalonia.[16] A Microsoft spokesperson stated that such sites "infringe all the rules on content created by users and visible on our sites".[17]


  1. ^ a b Udovitch, Mim (2002-09-08). A Secret Society of the Starving. New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-11-04..
  2. ^ Williams, Alex (2006-04-02). "Before Spring Break, the Anorexic Challenge". New York Times..
  3. ^ Morris, Bonnie Rothman (2002-06-23). A Disturbing Growth Industry: Web Sites That Espouse Anorexia. New York Times.
  4. ^ (December 2006) "Surfing for thinness: A pilot study of pro-eating disorder web site usage in adolescents with eating disorders". Pediatrics 118 (6): 1635-43. Retrieved on 2007-11-06..
  5. ^ Slater, Marjorie (April 2006), " ", AngeLingo (USC College of Letters Arts and Sciences) 4 (2), .
  6. ^ Head, Jacqueline (2007-09-08). Seeking "thinspiration". BBC News. Retrieved on 2007-11-06..
  7. ^ Dolan, Diedre (2003-02-02). Learning to Love Anorexia? Pro-Ana Web Sites Flourish. New York Observer. Retrieved on 2007-11-06.
  8. ^ Mathis, Charlotte Grayson. Pro-Anorexia Web Sites: The Thin Web Line. WebMD. Retrieved on 2007-11-06.
  9. ^ Pro Ana and Social Networking Websites. beat (Eating Disorders Association, United Kingdom) (2007-11-29). Retrieved on 2007-11-30..
  10. ^ Position Paper: Pro-Anorexia and Pro-Bulimia Websites. National Eating Disorders Assocation. Retrieved on 2007-11-06..
  11. ^ Position Statement on Pro-Anorexia Web Sites. Academy for Eating Disorders. Retrieved on 2007-11-06.
  12. ^ Pro-ana and pro-mia sites. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Retrieved on 2007-11-11..
  13. ^ Archives: Girls Who Don't Eat. The Oprah Winfrey Show (2001-10-04). Retrieved on 2007-11-11..
  14. ^ Reaves, Jessica (2001-07-31). Anorexia Goes High Tech. Time Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-11-11..
  15. ^ LiveJournal user thevelvetsun (2007-09-07). LiveJournal forum thread. Retrieved on 2007-11-11..
  16. ^ Nueva ofensiva contra páginas pro anorexia y bulimia (Spanish). La Agencia de Calidad de Internet (IQUA) (2007-11-21). Retrieved on 2007-11-30.
  17. ^ Catan, Thomas (2007-11-22). Online anorexia sites shut down amid claims they glorify starvation. Times Online. Retrieved on 2007-11-30..
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pro-ana". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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