Thinspo blogs may glorify eating disorders -


Thinspo blogs may glorify eating disorders

There is content all over the Internet and social media that is specifically designed to motivate people to be as thin as possible, even if this means supporting eating disorders. 

Critics say these websites have spawned an underground cyber-cult, where teens meet online to discourage others with anorexia and bulimia from seeking help.

Anyone can find them online. They're called "thinspo" blogs … short for "thinspiration." And while you might think their purpose is to inspire people to stay fit, some health experts are concerned these sites are actually promoting eating disorders.

Torri Singer is an anti-thinspo activist who is fighting to shut down thinspo blogs.

"Statistically, eating disorders have increased steadily since the 1950's and are now more than ever a really big issue, and I think that social media plays a giant role in that," says Singer, "These girls wear their eating disorders with pride, they don't think that their eating disorders should be shameful because they're proud of the number of ribs they can count."

Singer says thinspo bloggers often communicate in code. For instance, "Are you a friend of Ana?" is code for "Are you anorexic?" And if you're a friend of Mia, you identify as bulimic.

"I think that the biggest issue with thinspo is that it is making these tips and tricks on how to sustain an eating disorder lifestyle, readily available to an audience that may otherwise not have been exposed to it. I think it's extremely dangerous," says Singer.

Madigan Haggerty was a teenage figure skater when she got hooked on thinspo blogs.

"It really gave me the motivation to lose weight, the motivation to want to look like those girls," says Haggerty.

Instead of inspiring her to be fit and healthy, Madigan says the blogs fueled her negative self-image.

"It really seemed that the normal thing to do was to hate your body, to diet, to over-exercise. Looking at those photos, reading those things, it was a comfort. And it was something that I liked reading about. You didn't feel sick enough until you looked like those people that you saw," says Haggerty.

Keesha Broome is one of the clinical directors at the Monte Nido Treatment Center in California, which specializes in eating disorders. She says parents need to play an active role in counteracting the influence these blogs have on their impressionable kids.

"I think it's so crucial, I think for parents to be at home modeling a healthy relationship with their bodies and with food that is going to help children have a different experience than what they see out there in the media and online," says Broome.

Broome says the best ways to do that is to not complain about your own weight in front of your children, don't criticize others about theirs and maintain a healthy balanced diet that will encourage a positive relationship with food.

And if you do suspect your child has an eating disorder, seek professional help immediately. That's what Madigan Haggerty's mother did, and it led to a full recovery from her eating disorder.

Copyright 2014 America Now. All rights reserved.

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