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What You Should Know About Those ‘Thinspiration’ Photos

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In a society fueled by technology, with just about every event, (regardless of how important) surfacing on the internet, it is no surprise the World Wide Web has become part of the gasoline to the fire that is anorexia. Websites, which are often referred to as “pro-anorexia,” talk up the rules of the disease, and try to provide “thinspirations” and tips to lose weight even faster.

These websites can seemingly act as manuals to drop pounds by encouraging low calorie intake, water-loading and suggesting ultimate goal weights for your cyber “Ana buddy.” Scrolling through a site, I passed threads that began with questions like, “How to fight hunger pains? What do you guys eat on 500/600 restriction days? How do you fake recovery?”

This is a message from a girl who, in the deepest part of her disorder, could have passed for a “thinspiration” photo, and why I will always be against “pro-ana”: Imagine yourself sitting outside in the middle of winter. It’s just above freezing, and you’re wearing clothes designed for the summer. You put your arms around your body, trying to stay warm, but all you can feel are your bones knocking together. Your teeth are chattering, and suddenly, you notice fog.

“That’s weird,” you think, as fog was not in the forecast for today. What you don’t realize is that it is part of the haze you have entered. After spending time outside, you decide to stand up to take a little walk. Standing, your vision becomes as black as the circles under your eyes you noticed following your third weigh-in of the morning. You become dizzy, and fall to the ground.

This is a snapshot of what it feels like to have anorexia. The year I turned 17 was dictated by the fire that was anorexia. Ironically enough, it was a fire that could never manage to keep me warm. It stripped me of all of my reserves, leaving me constantly feeling like I was caught in the winter in a summer dress.

I don’t believe in sharing numbers, but it is enough for me to say that at multiple points during that year, I could’ve passed for a “thinspiration” photo. Those photos are often pinned to Pinterest boards, shared on Facebook and retweeted with a reference to the girl’s body being perfect.

To say I could’ve passed for one of those photos is what would probably be referred to as a dream by someone with this disease, since we rely on them so heavily to inspire us to lose weight. The truth is, I can’t remember a time I was more miserable. It was never much about numbers in the thick of my battle, but it was always about losing weight to looking thinner and more “beautiful” than ever.

Here is the worst part: Yes, I was very thin, but no, I did not feel beautiful. I wasn’t pretty for hurting my own body. I wasn’t gorgeous. I was falling into a slow suicide. I was falling into a slow suicide.

The photos and websites that flood my search engine when looking up “pro-ana” are simply indescribable. I can scroll through Tumblr for hours, looking at girls who want to be like the women in those photos, but it’s just too hard to tell each and every one of them the happiness promised by those photos truly does not exist.

This is for those who are still utilizing “pro-ana” and “thinspiration” photos to “succeed” at your disorder: I cannot, and will not support it. I have been on both sides, and being behind the photo is just as heartbreaking as being in front of it. It is painful. It is cold. It is a gateway to death.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

Originally published: July 28, 2016
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