Pro Anorexia Sites Increase 470%

Warning: The following post contains images that may be triggering.

Pro Anorexia web sites have increased 470% from 2006 to 2007, according to Optenet.

470% – that's insane.

Yet, when I ask the average parent if they have heard of  "pro ana," their eyes immediately glaze over. Why is this?

Let's see what our Ana friends have been up to, I haven't been on their case in a while, so time to surf the web….

Enter these Google search terms to find endless pages, sites, gory images, videos, and how to information – all in the name of  – "Pro Anorexia- The Lifestyle":

"Pro Ana": 8,840,000

"Pro Anorexia": 215,000

"Thinspiration": 57,900 

"Ana Mia": 513,000

"How To Be Anorexic": 1,240,000

"How To Be Bulimic": 431,000

"I am afraid of fat": 4,810,000

If those stats have not scared the crap out of you yet, let's move on to what's happening on YouTube. These represent full length videos folks, each average a few minutes in length:

Average new video per week: 100+

First Video Upload: May 13, 2006

"Ana Mia": 12,400

"Thinspo": 6,640

"Thinspiration": 3,890

"Pro Anorexia": 1,680

This insane increase may be attributed to;

  • "Look Who's FAT" headlines pelting us at every single turn in the grocery check out aisle, partnered with anorexic images of Mary Kate Olsen crossing the streets of NYC dressed like a granny, gripping a Starbucks weighing in at 90 pounds tops.

Two examples of the thousands posted on the web of "real girl" thinspiration -the bathroom generally being the most popular location of the photo shoot (note to mom and dad: she is doing more than getting rid of their dinner in there).

  • Tech-savvy teens laughing at efforts to shut down the pro ana sites quickly generating more content to royally piss off their parents.
  • Well intentioned mothers scheduling their perfectly healthy daughters breast implants and liposuction for their sweet 16 birthday. If they die under the knife…oh well, life happens.
  • Teen magazine articles preaching "eat healthy" while a turn of the page shows a bony girl smiling at the reader as if to say "You will never be me you fat ass loser."
  • Every single fashion rag in this country filling its pages with photoshopped images of already super duper skinny models in order to make us regular people feel like a pile of crap….but they wouldn't make them if WE DIDN"T BUY THEM.
  • Average size fashion model shrinking to a size 00 over the past decade (fun fact: according to the documentary America The Beautiful, this trend is "because designers need to save money on fabric.")

Rant over,

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33 Responses to Pro Anorexia Sites Increase 470%

  1. Sylvia says:

    Argh, these pictures are hella triggering :-(
    Sorry, I normally love this blog, it’s just that these seem awfully counter-intuitive to your point and there are probably others attempting recovery reading this. I could go to a pro-ana site if I wanted to see these photos :-(

  2. Araea says:

    Ok, I’m confused! First, let me say I have been a fan of this blog for a while and usually have very similar values as you. However, MamaV please help me to understand why you say you feel this need to protect Oprah and that she is just naive, but you want to make a case out of girls with serious illnesses? Or are you more concerned that parents aren’t educated enough as to what their daughters are doing online.
    I personally do not have a ProAna blog. However, I will be the first to admit that I read their blogs because I can relate. I do agree that the numbers are staggering and frightening, but it’s not something you really choose. I really do just want to better understand why you have a need to get on Ana’s case?

  3. Michelle says:

    This scares the hell out of me..
    Or in me? Yea. It puts hell into my soul being told this.
    Not in a hurtful way toward you, MamaV, but in a way that makes my heart sink.
    There just are NO WORDS to describe what I feel after I read a post of yours like this.
    I just hate myself because I was like that…
    but love myself because I got away from it soon enough.
    I just wish I could reach out to the media and tell everyone in the world that there are broken souls. There are people who need help, but can’t get it. Or, who need help but can’t see it.
    I just wish that our fashion industry would either cease to exist and we would all dress the same..
    or else someone would step up against all of this.
    Against the bone figures.
    Against the 00 waste sizes (unless it actually is healthy for someone to be that small.)
    I think I read this on your blog awhile ago, but the size 7 now was a size 14 back when!! (or something like that. I was astonished, nonetheless)
    Why do we constantly change our clothe sizes? Why can’t we just be like the guys’ sizes and size it by our waste? But that’d still give off a negative connotation…
    I’m just so sick of this world. I can’t even express my disgust.
    I hope I either am unable to have children,
    or that the world will be a little bit better for them come 15 years down the road.
    To all you mothers out there-
    I pray that your daughters won’t give into this.
    I pray that they will see that it isn’t right..
    I pray that they don’t make the same mistakes as I did.

  4. Rui says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I didn’t starve because I wanted to look like those models. I only starting subscribing to fashion magazines after I’d been starving for nearly a year, to inspire me to keep going. What I thought was too thin before, I think is normal now, and what I probably would have called normal is fat.
    For me it was probably because my mom died and my life with my boyfriend wasn’t going well (controling, emotional abuse). My mom was the only person I could count on, and the only one who would have tried to help me, so I was on my own. I could probably go on like this forever and no one would notice unless I got too thin.

  5. Melissa says:

    Those are some scary images and some super-scary facts. My disordered eating started from dieting … but I never got to the point these women are at — or even close. I am so thankful for that, and so very sad that so many people think images like that are inspiring to see. They make me want to cry.
    My husband is from a third-world country where people die from starvation all the time. Here, for so many, it’s a conscious choice (Yes, I realize it’s a mental disorder) :( Talk about sad.

  6. Nikita says:

    When i was anorexic, i went on those websites not for inspiration, but for the feeling it gave me. I wasn’t alone anymore, someone else understood me, somebody else was having the same body image issues. Looking at those pictures didn’t help me recovering of course, but it’s not only the thinness that we look at. It’s the “power”, the control that appeal us.
    People have to understand something. There are 2 kinds of pro-ana IMO. Those who really suffer, who struggle with their image, with food, with anxiety and depression. Those rarely post pictures of themselves, because they’re ashamed, they’re depressed, they don’t like what they look like. And there are those who wanna be anorexic, who like the “glamour” it gave them. I’m not sure if it’s the same disease to be honest. The results are the same, the symptoms too, but the trigger behind all this is different.
    Anorexia isn’t a choice. Anorexia is a mental illness, not a lifestyle. You can’t decide to stop eating one day when you wake up. It strikes you one day, and never let go afterward. Because your body decides to use food and weight as a way to cope with anxiety or depression.
    My opinion, i might be wrong :)

  7. Hi Sylvia: I understand this post is “triggering,” but I have always said that I don’t believe that you or anyone else can hide from triggering images….therefore start now learning how to deal with the reality of our world.
    I am not meaning to sound harsh – I mean this from my heart. There is absolutely no way to avoid these images, they are everywhere all the time, therefore, I think it is wise to start facing the reality of the world, and work your recovery plan within that context.

  8. lauren says:

    I just wanted to say that i tried entering in pro ana into google and the number of hits i came up with was about half the number that you posted:3,970,000 to be exact. Just wanted to throw that info out there.

  9. Vanessa says:

    how long ago is this from? 07 is two years ago now, mamav. what’s the current situation?
    i figure the “proana” fad will fade like any other fad, while those with real eating disorders will be mostly unaffected. but that’s just my personal opinion.
    do you have any recent information that the evil proana is still growing? or will it be like the rubix cube, a fad which fades into much less of a big deal even if it doesn’t disappear completely.

  10. anon says:


  11. nats and gabi says:

    what happened to mama v’s army?

  12. gabi and nats says:

    i think our comment dissapeared… where has the army gone?!

  13. Sylvia says:

    Hi mamaV,
    I totally agree with you that we all have to deal with the reality of our world, you’re absolutely right. For example, I have also been sexually assaulted and in my job as a journalist (and sometimes in court) I hear a lot of graphic details about sex crimes, and that is something I have had to make a conscious decision to deal with in that context. I’d like to think I do pretty well. However, what that does mean is that the rest of the time, I certainly don’t seek out say, movies or books that are heavily based on the idea of sexual assault. If a graphic crime like that is being shown on TV, I’ll usually turn it off, or change the channel. That doesn’t mean I’m any less able to sit through and report live on a three-week rape trial (in fact, I think it better enables me to do so).
    And it’s the same with triggering eating disorder images. There’s a big difference, for a start, between seeing slim, beautiful people on your favourite sitcom (which some might find mildly triggering), and the deliberately provocative pictures intending to glorify anorexia which are posted on pro-ana websites, and which you have replicated here. That is to say, the final two images, for example, are NOT at all the sort of thing we see “everywhere all the time,” as you said, and not something I expect to reasonably see while reading an anti-pro-ana blog. Second, it’s a matter of context. Of course I have to deal with triggering images in the real world, but as I do with graphic depictions of sexual assault, I can make an effort to avoid them in contexts where I might reasonably expect them to arise (and might I say, this blog wasn’t one of them). I can do this without reducing my quality of life at all – things like, not buying fashion magazines, not visiting pro-anorexia websites, excusing myself from conversations which just involve a bunch of people complaining how fat they are (because let’s face it, I’m not missing out on anything socially there!).
    However, I do think that I can, to an extent, reasonably expect an anti-pro-anorexia blog to be a relatively safe space, and to “surpise” readers, a number of whom may be in recovery, or actively suffering from an eating disorder, with photos taken directly from pro-ana sites seems, as I said above, seem counter intuitive and a little unfair. It seems to merely have been done for shock value, and I’m unsure what you wanted to achieve. Are you trying to “test” people’s recovery? Challenge them to look at photos like that and then NOT go look up a pro-ana site to find more? Challenge them not to find such photos triggering? I don’t think it undermines my anorexia recovery at all, as you seem to suggest, by my admission that I find graphically pro-anorexia photos triggering. So I’m really confused as to why you posted them. I don’t think your point (which is a fantastic one, by the way) would have been diminished at all without the use of them.
    If you do want to regularly post content from pro-ana websites here, and don’t want to post trigger warnings, have you considered asking to have your blog removed from the EdDigest RSS feed? (I know potentially you may not have chosen to have it there in the first place :-D). It’s just that some people on the feed go to quite a bit of trouble to label things likely to be triggering with warnings, so that the feed can be reasonably expected to be a relatively “safe” place for people in recovery. On my Google Reader, your posts only display the first sentence, so if I want to see what they’re actually about, I have to click to come to your blog, and thus be assaulted with whatever image happens to be on it. If you were removed from the EdDigest feed, people could always sign up for your blog individually if they don’t mind your use of images (and I’m sure heaps of people would)? I know the alternative is for me not to click on your entries when they show up in Google Reader, just in case they contain triggering images, and I guess that’s what I will do in the future (because I know that being pro-active about such things is my job, not yours). It does seem like a shame, but I also feel like these images have been posted for little other reason than because you can, and I think that’s a shame as well.
    No disrespect meant, because I have enjoyed your blog very much in the past, and I think you make some very valid points.
    P.S. Sorry this is so long… I probably should have just emailed! I would have said all this the first time, but I just wanted to comment quickly then in case you hadn’t realised the pictures were insanely triggering and wanted to do something about it before too many people saw them…

  14. Val says:

    Ok, so I’m a new commenter, but I’ve lurked a bit and I love this site.
    I’m well into recover from anorexia, and even though they weren’t the “reason” for my disorder, pro-ana sites single-handedly enabled it. I remember being disgusted like any healthy person when I first saw them, but then, as I read them more and more faithfully, it was like something switched over in my brain. I started obsessively learning the “tips and tricks,” staring at “thinspo” as ideals of discipline, if not beauty, and after a while, the thought processes expressed on these sites became my norm.
    While I understand some of the comments about the pictures here being triggering for those in recovery, I find it helpful to see them in their true light. I know I’m really healing now that I can look at them here and just feel sad – for those girls,for the girl I used to be, and for the girls who will become that.

  15. Newt says:

    I use to belong to what would be considered a pro ana site and actually physically met a few people on the site who I now consider friends. I suspect a lot of people who belong to these sites never meet the person behind the username in the flesh. My reasoning for joining (it has been over a year and a half since I visited the site) wasn’t to get tips or pics it was to get advice where the best place to go for recovery. The concept of pro ana is revolting but in reality most that visit the site (I said most and not all) are just girls, women who are lonely and just need to talk to someone and unfortunately chose these sites.

  16. Smudgeruk says:

    I think it’s important that we distinguish between different types of people who use pro-ana sites. There are those who are already anorexic looking for some sort of support, understanding, friendship. And then there are those toying with eating disorders and actively trying to get one, looking for tips and so on. I don’t believe anybody is condemning the former, but we must recognise that for the latter, these sites are poison.

  17. For the Love of Peanut Butter says:

    I have to disagree with Sylvania here. Statistics say that most of the “pro-ana” girls are not even anorexic-like Mama V clearly stated–PRO ANA is a lifestyle. Someone with anorexia does not choose it-and we choose our own lifestyles. I am very passionate on this matter, and girls who post pics of themselves skinny and hastily do not understand the long term effects of what anorexia can do. IT IS A DISEASE NOT TO PLAYED WITH. I think the ‘net just makes it easier for girls to share their obsessions. and feed the “ED”, if it even is one and not just some way of trying to look cool and skinny.

  18. Hi Sylvia: Point taken! Thanks for your expressive commentary.
    New Rule: I will post a warning on the top of pro ana posts…including this one which I am adding now.
    Good deal?

  19. Hi Lauren: Thanks for pointing this out, I went back and tried a google search myself and I received lower results.
    Then I noticed a new feature on google called custom results which is automatically applied. Custom results trims down your search results based upon prior searches you have done.
    For example, since you and I have likely typed in pro ana, ed related terms – our list would shrink because google is storing the search results.
    Does that make sense?

  20. Hi Aarea: I wanted to answer your question above;
    Per your comment: “Please help me to understand why you say you feel this need to protect Oprah and that she is just naive, but you want to make a case out of girls with serious illnesses?”
    Pro Anas are composed of two groups:
    Social: Vanity driven, choosing starvation as a lifestyle. Not mentally ill. Influenced by media/fashion.
    Traditional: Mental illness, genetically based, driven by control/perfection issues, sometimes with history of abuse.
    Social Anorexics can surely cross that line of no return at some point if for example they are genetically susceptible and/or life circumstances encourage the continuation of purposeful self starvation for vanity purposes…but at its core they enter into this lifestyle by choice.
    However, I understand all of these young women are all intermingled in the proana sites (ie some visiting the site for support/efforts towards recovery and others visiting the site for tricks/tips).
    Does this make sense to you?

  21. Hi Vanessa: These stats were released at the end of 2008, so yes they are a year behind.
    Also, I wondered how they defined a site as “pro ana” since, for example, this site could fall into that category since mamaV shows up in searches because I talk about the topic.
    On the flip side, I spoke with the moderator of LJ, deemed the largest proana site – they have steadily grown up to 30K members, too fast to keep up with, they also just hit a new milestone of 2M posts.
    I also think the rapid pace of YouTube video additions is proof of growth- 100+ added weekly?! Now of course that is a very rough figure…but even its 10-50…I think that is too much don’t you? That doesn’t even take into account all the traffic on the existing videos.
    I think the “fad” will fade when 1) fashion trends go back to livable healthy weights 2) Hollywood goes back to the Marilyn Monroe look. 3) obesity epidemic is reduced.

  22. Sylvia says:

    Sounds good, thanks.

  23. Bree says:

    Is going back to the “Marilyn Monroe” look really a good look? Plastered-on make-up, fake boobs, plastic surgery, etc.? She crash dieted quite a lot too. How is that healthy?

  24. Anonymous says:

    Smudgeruk well put! I agree 100% the places are poison. Behind a screen name is a real person and regardless of what category they fall in. The fact that they actively seek those sites is a cry for help and should be heard. I am not a member of any of these type of sites. Life is too short to conform to the un-realistic.

  25. aileb says:

    Those figures don’t surprise me. Like someone else mentioned, we hit 2 million posts on LJ’s worlds largest pro anorexia site.
    The average is about 1 million posts per year!
    The increase be due to fact that most of the truely and biggest pro-ana sites have been shut down.
    Now, the new sites our just watered down versions of the past. There are so many rules about triggering other members because as you know Eating disorders “have one of the highest mortality rates of all mental disorders.”
    The mortality rates are scary!

  26. j says:

    if i may latch on the discussion already in progress, whether the data were released in late 2008 or not, 2007 is now two years ago — relatively dead and buried — your facts don’t seem at all pertinent to today.
    i just don’t understand why you’re so driven on this notion that eating disorders are largely the fault of media. perhaps i’m just perturbed that anyone would suggest that parading around “average” sized people on runways and slapping them on magazine covers would begin to fix a problem that is rooted foremost in very deeply seeded emotional issues.
    (wasn’t fashion and the world of celebrity — photography, film, etc — always supposed to be, to whatever degree, about something unattainable and unreal? about indulging momentarily in fantasy?)
    i don’t doubt that you that you have an understanding of the true pathology of these problems, however i find it hard to accept the theory that the proliferation of “pro-ana” or the increasing rise in cases of eating disorders has more to do with extreme body shape trends in fashion and media than with other factors such as the recent social change that has made it MUCH less taboo to seek help for or to talk about mental illness and the rise in commonplace understanding and awareness of eating disorders.

  27. M. says:

    I’ve been a long-time reader, after first finding you through YouTube more than a year and a half ago. I took your challenge to avoid Pro-Ana sites, thinspiration, and all that stuff (in the fall of 07 I avoided this stuff for a lot longer than you challenged) and of course, it made no difference.
    I’m anorexic. It doesn’t matter if I go to those sites or not. And to be honest, there is a Pro-Ana site that I’m very active at. I have pulled away from the community a few times… WHY? This will surprise you, I think.
    I pulled away because my Pro-Ana friends were applying way too much pressure to try to make me recover!
    I’m thoroughly proud to tell you that I am thinner than any of the girls in your post, but at the same time, I have only posted full body pictures ONCE because I hate how fat I look. I have a body fat percentage between 9 and 11 (it fluctuates sometimes). My thighs are 14 inches. You can see most of my bones. BUT I’M STILL FAT! I tried counseling and my counselor betrayed me. Forget that crap. My doctor has never seen me without my jacket and yet she phoned me at home to inquire about my eating habits. She said “you’re really very skinny” but she doesn’t know what she’s talking about because she’s never seen. And it’s only her opinion. I’M STILL FAT. My husband recently cried when he saw me naked. BUT I’M STILL FAT.
    Do you hear what I am saying? Pro-Ana sites are not even a refuge for me, but that is why I seek those sites. I seek people who might love me for who I am. I have a lot of wonderful friends I found through that site. Some are recovering and I support them every step of the way. The Pro-Ana communities aren’t just about accepting you in your disordered state, but accepting you in any state. There’s a whole crew of “recovery girls” within all of the sites I visit. You might say they are a voice of reason in the crowd. But I personally feel like they will not love me if I don’t recover like they did/are doing. There is a limit to the support or encouragement (with regards to your eating disorder and its effects) anyone can find on these sites.
    I’ll stop when I’m not fat anymore. And it doesn’t matter if there are any Pro-Ana sites on the web or not. I personally feel these sites support your views as much as my own because that has been my experience.

  28. Cecelia says:

    This is very sad and these images are horrific! I never stepped foot in a pro-ana site and would never as these images are enough for someone who has been recovered from my eating disorder for a year and a half. If parents, friends or other family members petitioned against these sites I am sure you could shut these toxic websites down.

  29. suzanne says:

    what makes u want to b so thin and starve urself after lookin a these pictures there so sad and sicking would this not make u want to have curves and eat a bit more each day think about it

  30. smudgeruk says:

    One for UK TV viewers:
    “Thursday, 9th April.
    The Truth About Online Anorexia.
    21:00 – 22:00
    Presenter and DJ Fearne Cotton investigates the shocking world of pro-anorexia websites, where young girls can meet to share diet tips and encourage each other in their quest to be super skinny. Fearne puts her normal healthy eating on hold to expose the dangers of extreme dieting, trying two crash diets.”
    Should be interesting, how they deal with it. It’s going out on ITV1, for those outside the UK, you might be able to catch it for 30 days afterwards at

  31. Sian says:

    i just suck on mints all day that seems to work fine .

  32. bla says:

    you said there was a graph

  33. aileb says:

    The graph is on page 3 of 13 of the report click on the Optnet link.

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