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Fat. Disgusting. Worthless.
These are words that race through the minds of nearly 8 million Americans who suffer from eating disorders.
Approximately 7 million women and 1 million men suffer from disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Unfortunately, that number is increasing due to an online trend that is slowly killing millions of people.
In a dark corner of the Internet, thousands of blogs are encouraging others to develop anorexia and bulimia.
Known as “thinspiration” blogs, they encourage readers to starve or purge themselves as a quick way to lose weight. They offer tips on how to purge and how to beat hunger. Additionally they post hundreds of photos of people they consider to be an ideal body type: thin women with protruding bones and emaciated bodies.
“It’s a distorted view of themselves,” said Coordinator of Health Services Debbie Rosenberger. “Where you and I would say ‘oh, you’re slender!’ they still see themselves as way overweight.”
A majority of these blogs can be found on Tumblr. Those who run them are choosing to promote anorexia and bulimia and believe it is an ideal lifestyle. They even personify anorexia and bulimia by calling them “Ana” and “Mia” as if they are friends.
The blogs take advantage of those who have eating disorders by encouraging them to starve and purge, and they can also lure people who are unaware of the dangers of eating disorders into a death trap.
“Unfortunately, the Internet has given us quick access to communities of people that can ‘feed’ the issue that a person is inflicted by,” Associate Director of Counseling, Testing and Health Services Joy Muller said. “One of the factors that plays into the etiology of an eating disorder is relational connection. I would presume some of the pro-ana and pro-mia sites have been successful due to the fact that it provides common community, even if the community deems it destructive to the individual. These sites may provide an illusion of relationship.”
Recently, Tumblr has been working on deleting blogs “glorifying self-injury or self-harm,” as the new content policy says. There has been uproar from several in the Tumblr community who claim eliminating the blogs will result in the removal of information that documents the struggles of eating disorders and that are a support group for others hoping to overcome their particular disorder.
However, the Tumblr staff has the power to ban any content and knows that support groups and, unfortunately, other pro-eating disorder blogs can be created elsewhere.
Many options are available for students who are hoping to overcome an eating disorder.
“All students can have eight free counseling sessions per semester,” Rosenberger said. “I would also recommend seeking help through their primary care physician, but that’s just the physical end of it. If you have an eating disorder, you need to work to help repair the physical and the mental. It’s generally not a quick-fix situation.”
If you would like more information on how to overcome an eating disorder, be sure to contact the Director of Counseling and Testing Nate Williams at (254) 295-4696.