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This is one of the key words associated with a deeply disquieting online trend. In the past couple of years or so a number of Web sites and chatrooms have appeared which actively promote anorexia nervosa (known on the sites as ana) and other eating disorders as lifestyle choices. Since 90% of anorexics are young women, these pro-ana sites are usually run by and attract that group (one term for them sometimes used by unaffected people is weborexics). Sites offer suggestions on how to become and remain thin, often through tips on avoiding eating, and how to disguise one’s condition from family and friends. Other themes often featured on such sites are self-mutilation (cutting) and bulimia (mia). Thin women, such as supermodels and Calista Flockhart, are presented as thinspirations, examples to emulate. Sites have had names such as Starving for Perfection, Wasting Away on the Web and Dying To Be Thin. Medical professionals in the US and UK are deeply concerned about them, because they accentuate the low self-regard of young women, who are particularly prone to eating disorders, put their lives at risk, and discourage them from facing their illness and seeking treatment for it.

The Internet is home to a number of pro-eating disorder Web sites, “places where sufferers can discuss tips, trade low-calorie recipes and exchange poems and art that may be used as “triggers” or so-called “thinspiration.”

Calgary Sun, Feb. 2002

A new trend among young adults has been sweeping the nation: pro-anorexia Web sites. Also known as pro-ana, these sites glorify anorexia nervosa and offer “thinspiration” on maintaining a starvation lifestyle.

University Wire, Apr. 2002

Page created 10 Aug. 2002

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World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 10 August 2002.