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Pro-Eating Disorder Sites Abound on the Internet

Online 'thinspiration' is a mouse click away for vulnerable youth, study finds

THURSDAY, June 17 (HealthDay News) -- They're out there on the Web: Sites that offer tips to successful purging or water-only fasts; others that list methods of hiding rapid weight loss from parents and doctors.

If the proliferation of these pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia Web sites isn't bad enough, eating disorder experts say they now have to contend with "pro-ana" and "pro-mia" bloggers and "thinspiration" Twitter updates sent right to an interested party's mobile phone.

"They are reaching very vulnerable youth," said Dina Borzekowski, an associate professor in Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "When you have the Internet used all times of the night, kids have easy access to it. It's anonymous. They can gain support for what they're doing and information."

For their new study, Borzekowski and colleagues conducted a systematic review of 180 pro-eating disorder sites. What they found was both surprising and frightening.

About 91 percent of sites were open to the public -- though many warned that "wannabes" should stay away -- and about 79 percent had interactive features, such as calorie and body-mass index (BMI) calculators.

About 16 percent had a "creed" or "oath to Ana," such as the "Thin Commandments," or 10 rules for eating disorders, such as: "Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty," "Thou shall not eat fattening food without punishing oneself afterward," and "What the scale says is the most important thing."

About 42 percent provided a venue for posting artwork and poetry, some of it disturbing:

"some look at us and call us crazy
how little they really know
they pass us by and stare
like we're in some sickly show
don't they see?
It is not us who is at fault
They kill their bodies with fats and grease
but we give our bodies noth

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