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Tweeting eating disorders (guest post).

Thu, Oct 22, 2009

Food Glorious Food, Guest Posts

In the U.S., as many as 10 million females and one million males struggle with the devastating effects of anorexia and bulimia.  Another 25 million suffer from binge eating disorder.  According to The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, the incidence of eating disorders has doubled since the 1960s and is increasing in younger age groups—occurring in children as young as seven. Eating disorders often begin in adolescence and are associated with substantial psychological problems, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide.

A few days ago, I reached out to MizFit to discuss this very issue with her.

The topic is fresh on my mind because not only did I begin suffering with bulimia and anorexia at the age of 15, but I have also been doing some research in this area for my website.  The conclusion I’ve reached: I am terrified by the number of young people (as well as adults) who are suffering from this spectrum of disorders. I may have been viewing the universe through rose-colored glasses after my own recovery two years ago, but it seems like the epidemic has only become worse.

In the early to mid-2000’s, there was much talk about “pro-ana” websites.  I must admit that those are the very websites that helped me become a better Disordered Eater.  I learned how to further sharpen my starving, binging, purging, and obsessive exercising skills.  I learned about ketosis, and the 2,4,6,8 diet.  I learned things that probably helped land me in treatment faster, because it was at that point that I became a “better” Disordered Eater.  I also became a sicker person, mentally and physically.

Parents soon found out about these websites that promoted and taught the principles of eating disorders, and the internet police started cracking down on them.  There are still a slew of “pro-ana” websites out there, but individuals need to be invited in.  At that point, they can enter the site for endless “thinspiration”.  So, the websites still exist, but they screen out the wanna-be anorexics, so you just have to be a “better” anorexic or bulimic to join.

The latest trend in Eating Disorder growth seems to be on Twitter.

Do you know what your child is Tweeting about?  Do the people your children follow encourage low self-esteem and poor body image?  Do you child’s Twitter friends talk about ‘GW’ (goal weight), ‘HW’ (high weigh), and state their measurements on their Twitter bio?  This is a problem.

Your child could very well be Tweeting for support with their starvation diet, or asking for tips on where to begin their journey through Eating Disorder Hell. Young people latch onto more experienced “professionals”, and they learn the tricks of the trade.

Developing a positive body image and self-esteem as a child is often a difficult job (we all remember those days).  With a very “thin is in” media presence, young girls in particular are often infused with the knowledge that losing weight and being thin will fix all of the problems in their universe.  They are prime candidates for an eating disorder.  When they are introduced to information praising the benefits of anorexia and bulimia, and the information is so readily available, it seems like the perfect fix in their developing minds.

By the time that parents realize what is happening, the child is already caught in their ED cycle.

I am not yet a mother, but if I were, I would be terrified at the thought of my child having access to information of this sort. I feel that parents should be aware that these  pro-eating disorder websites still exist, and that the risk is even higher now with the added complexity of Twitter.  Parents should monitor their children’s computers and cell phone activity for access to websites and Tweeting of this sort.

As with any other disease, prevention is key with eating disorders, but early detection is the next best thing.

Elisabeth is an eating disorder survivor and owner of two rescued dogs and a crazy parrot.

She has a passion for good food, jogging, and spreading the word about eating disorder awareness.  When she is not eating or jogging, you can find her blogging or working on her latest website devoted to body image.

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33 Responses to “Tweeting eating disorders (guest post).”

  1. Ventego says:

    Miz I respect your work and added your blog to my favorites.

  2. Michelle@eatingjourney says:

    I have to be incredibly honest..the thought of having girls scares the living daylights out of me. I am so thankful that you’ve shared your story and given people the realisation that we still have the obligation to protect children from this. It really can be about moniotring this or that. But what it boils down to is demonstrating healthy lifestyles.

    Thanks for your courage. ~M

  3. Erica says:

    Oh my goodness- I had no idea this type of thing was going on, on twitter. Very scary

  4. Gigi says:

    Thanks for the heads up. I have a 13 year old boy who occasionally sounds too worried about his weight as far as I’m concerned. I keep telling him that soon he’ll grow taller and things will even out but then schools and even his pediatrician start providing such “helpful” advice about their BMIs and he starts fretting all over again. Outrageous, especially given the extent to which the schools have slashed phys ed and recess.

  5. Certifiably Fit says:

    Great post to remind us to pay attention to what might be affecting our young women of the world.

  6. Jody - Fi tat 51 says:

    I have heard & seen shows on these sites for eating disorder people & how it encourages them to continue on their destructive ways.. and now Twitter.. OMG!

    All of this is disturbing & thank you so much for sharing!!!

  7. the Bag Lady says:

    I had no idea this was occurring. I have many thoughts on this, but (as usual) they are jumbled and confused and would probably come out all wrong.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Diana says:

    I knew about the pro ana web sites, but didn’t realize how much twitter could play a part of it all.

  9. charlotte says:

    Being of the “old school” of EDs, I am well aware of the pro-ED sites (although thank heavens I never read them anymore) but hadn’t even considered tweeting! It seems so public, so… not anonymous! But what you write makes sense. As a parent, I will keep it in mind!

  10. BeckStein says:

    Wow…shows you how naive I am, I had no idea what pro-ana was or that there were websites out there dedicated to killing yourself. Thanks for sharing the awareness.

  11. Sagan says:

    That gives me the chills. For some reason I didn’t think about how Twitter would be useful for pro-eating disorders, even though I’ve long since known about the various websites… it’s scary how social media networks can be used in that way. I guess that’s just another example of how it’s not so much the tool itself but HOW you use it that depends on if it’s positive or negative.

  12. Elisabeth says:

    Thank you all for reading and caring about this! I’m glad that I could shed some light on the topic!


  13. Lyn says:

    I never thought about kids using Twitter this way. Wow. As a parent I am on top of what sites my kids use, etc, but I never thought to check their tweets. I have teen boy who definitely do not have eating disorders, but I can think of other things that could be a problem on Twitter now that I think about it. I’m on it.

    And thank you, I do have a daughter too and worry she will inherit my eating disorder issues as well.

  14. Quix says:

    I checked out some of those pro-ana websites just because I was curious (not about becoming anorexic, just the psych degree in me being curious about what makes people tick) and man, that’s some scary stuff.

    And I am nosy as hell. If my hypothetical kid had a twitter, I would definitely check on them. :P

  15. TJ says:

    Having recently overcome bulimia myself - resulting from not being ‘disciplined’ enough to be anorexic I totally appreciate where she’s coming from.

    it’s scary, and lonely, and I can understand why people visit pro-ana websites (I personally never did) because their ‘normal’ friends or family won’t be able to understand what they’re going through as this sort of thing just *isn’t* discussed, it’s taboo, a dark dirty secret

    it really gets me down, I wish people would talk more and not feel scared to do so because they feel like they’ll be vilified for their ED which results from their having, amongst other things, poor self-image, self-esteem, self-value… the list goes on!

    Thanks for the post, it was very thoughtful

  16. workout mommy says:

    wow, I had no idea this was now happening on twitter! how very scary. Even though I know they can still be at risk for eating disorders, I am positive God gave me all boys for a good reason!

  17. Alyssa says:

    This is REALLY scary!

  18. driver85 says:

    Afghanistan itself is increasingly worried of addiction to heroin in its populations. ,

  19. Dr. J says:

    I agree that prevention is very important. I also think that improving our food supply can only be helpful. Addictions run the gamut, acknowledging that we must be vigilant of our addictive nature and being wary of our weak areas is useful.

  20. Cynthia (It All Changes) says:

    This is a great post. In today’s age of technology twitter is just another thing that can be misused. I’m glad I read this and can address it with my teens in my church.

  21. Extreme Fitness Results says:

    Prevention happens when education makes people aware, so thanks for this post!

  22. Dinneen | Eat Without Guilt says:

    As one who suffered and overcame an eating disorder, this post really touched me. I had the ED it long before the internet, this gave me insight which I new existed, but not to that extent (how much pro-ED stuff is out there on the web).

    On the flip side (glass is half full !) the internet HAS made awareness, discussion, and help more easily available to those who need it and want it (the help or assistance) for recovery.

  23. Shannon says:

    very scary to think about… says more about society, and all we can do is lead by example-right? I’m not a parent, but I should hope that raising children in supportive, loving environments would help.

  24. Melissa S. says:

    so sad and scary to hear this is going on on twitter. i’ve seen some of those pro-ana sites when i was in the throngs of my eating disorder and the thought of them now makes me cringe.

  25. Lia says:

    I have to say that I really liked the awareness that this post brings. I disagreed with one point though, rather strongly. I DON’T think parents should monitor their child’s twittering or cell phone use, or internet activity. Honestly, if the kid is going to do something/wants to, and the parent starts getting controlling, then the child will just feel more compelled (in many instances) to continue and find ways around the parents prying habits. A parent who noses into the internal business of their child without being invited is a HUGE mistake and tends to create a rift between them. I think the parent should simply apply their efforts, instead, to creating a relationship and environment in which the child will feel comfortable to share his/her thoughts, feelings, and habits, with the parent. This fosters trust and support as opposed to implied distrust and suspicion. It is the child’s life, one she will be living for the rest of her life by herself (internally I mean and with her own choices). I feel that I can say this as a 21 year old youngest daughter who is still considered the “child” at home. I am grateful to my mom for never trying to impose upon my choices, but understood that it is my life to live. Control breeds resistance and negativity, from what I’ve seen. Just love your children in a nonjudgmental way and they will come to you when THEY are ready. I talked to my mom about my disordered eating when I was ready to, and feel stronger for overcoming it by myself and getting help when I felt I needed it, not when it was forced upon me.

  26. Diana (Soap & Chocolate) says:

    Wow, I guess I’m glad to have been blissfully unaware of the tweeting ED trend…although to be fair I am (blissfully or otherwise) unaware of many Twitter trends. How scary! It does make me afraid to have a girl of my own, but thankfully there are plenty of good mommies out there (wink at MizFit) to be a good role model for future mommies of non-EDed girls (wink at Tornado).

  27. Nevaeh Green says:

    my girlfriend gas an eating disorder called bulimia, she always throws up what she eats.*~.

  28. Freya Harris says:

    i have a friend who has eating disorder, she was rehabilitated when she almost died.`*-

  29. Granulated Sugar : says:

    eating disorders when not properly treated can actually cause the death of a person:”,

  30. LCD Protector says:

    eating disorders are of course sometimes deadly because it can cause the degeneration of one’s health ~*,


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