Pro Ana is bad

Ana and Mia - no hunger for life

Numerous blogs and groups in social networks glorify and trivialize eating disorders such as anorexia - they are presented as a desirable lifestyle.

Text: Michael In Albon

Every fifth girl in Switzerland suffers from an eating disorder. With the help of digital media, many affected people join together in pro-ana or pro-mia groups. Ana stands for anorexia nervosa, anorexia, Mia for bulimia nervosa, eating-vomiting addiction.

The offers deliberately have friendly-sounding names. They are mostly operated by people with an eating disorder who do not want a cure or therapy. On the contrary: You elevate anorexia to a lifestyle, practice anorexia with devotion and go deeper and deeper into addiction.

For example, the young women confirm that they are doing badly on their way to dream weight, but that the ordeal is worthwhile. To this end, they typically set up laws, creeds or ten commandments that preach only one thing: thinness is above everything - including health.

Good and evil

The rules in Ana groups are strict. Food is divided into good and bad. The teenagers are not allowed to eat the bad, the good only in a controlled manner and, if possible, not in combination. After every bite you should drink a sip of water - this increases the feeling of fullness. Counting calories accurately and weighing yourself several times a day is just as much a rule as exercising.

It is also recommended to document everything precisely in an Ana diary. So-called “thinspirations”, or “thinspo” for short, serve as motivation. These are pictures of young women who have already reached their “dream weight” and serve as role models. The pictures mostly show sections of the legs, stomach and bottom. Different criteria apply to the individual body parts: the thighs, for example, must not touch each other when the legs are closed, on the contrary, the distance should be as large as possible - this trend is called “thigh gap”.

Starving together in the WhatsApp group

There are certain conditions to be included in a group, for example on WhatsApp. First you have to reveal a lot of personal data: your BMI, maximum and minimum weight, suffering and possible hospital stays and therapies. Once you've been recorded, you usually have to post pictures regularly - of your feet on the scales, of yourself in your underwear.

Anyone looking for a personal companion can visit the so-called “twin exchange” in numerous forums. Here young people place advertisements and look for like-minded people who are roughly the same size and who are pursuing the same goals.

Eating disorders in the age of digitization

Anorexia and bulimia are not new. However, digital media give diseases a new dynamic: like-minded people find each other faster, feel understood and encouraged. Their negative self-image and the already distorted body perception intensify, and a dangerous vicious circle develops that drives the girls further and further into the disease. Because as part of a group it is difficult for them to recognize the illness as such, to give up the community and to strive for healing.

On Medienstark you will find tips and interactive learning modules for the competent use of digital media in everyday family life.