Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia Religious Groups

Zoe Alderton

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PRO-ANA AND PRO-MIA TIMELINE

1980:  Usenet was launched.

1980s:  A small number of early adopters used the internet to discuss taboo topics like voluntary starvation on Usenet.

1990s:  The internet became readily available in homes, and many people discovered that their self-harming behaviour had a name. Early communities started to form on blogs and bulletin boards.

1998:  Yahoo! Clubs was launched. This site was re-named Yahoo! Groups in 2001.

1998:  “Project Shapeshift” was launched.

2001:  Yahoo! purged pro-eating disorder (ED) content from their servers.

2001:  “Ana’s Underground Grotto” was launched, popularising the cult of AnaMadim.

2001 (October):  The Oprah Winfrey Show aired an episode about pro-ED communities.

2004 (July):  The search term “pro-ana” reached an historical peak on Google.

2007:  Project Shapeshift/Ana’s Underground Grotto disappeared after a coup was launched against Narscissa. Content was stolen and moved to other sites.

2007 (February):  Tumblr was launched.

2009 (February):  Project Shapeshift was officially handed over to AnaGirlEmpath.

2015 (October):  Emoji spells concerning anorexia and/or weight loss emerged.

FOUNDER/GROUP HISTORY

Religious eating disorder veneration and secular eating disorder obsession emerged from the same origin points. These two movements are branches of the same countercultural approach to eating disorders, thus many points of their history are intertwined. There is no distinct founder of the religious branch, but a number of seminal users are credited with shaping the movement, including Narcissa and AnaGirlEmpath from Project Shapeshift, who have been advocating for anorexia as a valid lifestyle choice since at least 1998 (Alderton 2018).

The first online information about eating disorders started to appear in the 1980s. This material was designed to inform people about the diseases from a medical point of view, and included content like diagnostic criteria and recommendations to seek professional help. The first endorsements of conditions like anorexia nervosa and non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) emerged on the network Usenet, where users were able to interact with strangers in a series of message board discussions divided by topic area.

This userbase was fairly limited until the internet became a common feature in homes. As such, many pro-ED members believe that the “first wave” of this movement did not take off until as late as 2001 when Yahoo! Groups launched and a significant community formed on this site. Many members of this first generation gathering were genuinely surprised that their condition has a name and that other people did similar things. Several stumbled across community groups while randomly searching keywords that might give them an indication of why they behaved “irrationally” and how they could get help (Adler and Adler 2011:109ff).

This was also a generation who were impacted by the rise of Foucauldian Narrative Therapy in the treatment of eating disorders. Singler notes how this therapeutic method encouraged patients to see themselves as separate from their psychiatric burdens. In this treatment style, problems like anorexia are positioned as external burdens in order to emphasise the idea that patients are not inherently problematic people due to their illnesses. As part of the healing process, patients are encouraged to see diseases like anorexia as external, parasitic forces with their own intentions,  separate from the thoughts and needs of the patient themselves. Singler argues that this popular style of treatment led to a conception of eating disorders as external forces who can control their human victims (Singler 2011:28–30, 52–54). For some patients, this led to recovery via a re-conceptualisation of the self. For others, it led to an awareness of anorexia as a powerful parasite with thoughts and intentions of her own.

2001 was the year in which Ana’s Underground Grotto was launched, under the broader remit of  “Project Shapeshift,” the brainchild of Narcissa. Project Shapeshift hosts philosophical ruminations on the validity of eating disorders as a lifestyle choice, while the Grotto was home to the goddess AnaMadim. This deity was described as the “Guardian Servitor of the Anorectic Praxis,” and helped her adherents to stay focussed on their goals of rejecting food and transforming their bodies and spirit in the process (Narscissa 2001b). In the Project Shapeshift history of this era, the philosophy of the Grotto is described as “charismatic and Powerful material,” which allowed a community to thrive on a basis of self-empowerment (AnaGirlEmpath 2012c).

This was the same year in which many parents started to fear that their teenage children were involved in pro-ED activities online. In October 2001, The Oprah Winfrey Show broadcast an episode called “Girls Afraid to Eat” where the director of programs at the U.S. National Eating Disorders Association, Holly Hoff, made a big impact on her audience. For the first time, the average American was aware of communities where diseases such an anorexia were cultivated and encouraged (Singler 2011:19). While Hoff had aimed to have this material removed from the internet, her interview also introduced this alluring community to many people who would go on to join in some form. Within the next five years, so many new participants joined that groups went from generic pro-ED to more specific clubs divided by themes like age or gender. Languages bases also expanded. Pro-ED content can be found in Dutch, German, French, and Spanish (Casilli, Pailler, and Tubaro 2013:94).

With this increasing membership base and specificity came an opportunity for radical sects to emerge. In the mid-2000s, message boards encouraging self-harm or starvation tended to have low or medium levels of moderation, where problematic content was either presented without warning or context, or a light form of self-censorship was encouraged (such as content warnings). Very few sites had high levels of moderation or attempted to censor their userbase (Whitlock, Powers, and Eckenrode 2006:410). They also celebrated alternative lifestyles and freedom of expression (Singler 2011:20). This led to a culture where members were free to reject the idea of recovery if they so pleased, and where they were allowed to explore eating disorders as a valid lifestyle choice rather than a deviant act or an illness. This is also the point at which new goddesses known as Ana (an anorexia goddess) and Mia (a bulimia goddess) emerged. These figures have been used as external guides to encourage and support followers in their sacred food-denial practices.

In the present day, most pro-ED content has migrated to contemporary social media sites like Tumblr (launched 2007). Some traditional forums like the MyProAna website remain popular, but there are even more possibilities for sharing extreme views in the user-generated spaces of the Web 2.0 modality. On sites like Tumblr, anyone can share content including: confessions, creative works, and community activities (such as group weigh-ins). Interestingly, religious content has lessened in this new modality. Many users will share tips for losing as much weight as possible without detection from doctors, friends, or family members. Inspiring images of thin people (called “hinspiration”) is also commonplace in today’s communities (See, for example, the Thinspiration website). Content is generally strung together through tags (such as #pro ana) rather than specific groups. Interested people seem to be searching using tags rather than search engines like Google. As such, moderation of content is even more difficult to achieve and quite radical ideas can more easily be espoused.

DOCTRINES/BELIEFS

The primary belief underpinning pro-ED groups is that extreme eating restrictions are a valid personal lifestyle choice (Lyons, Mehl, and Pennebaker 2006:253). Most participants are aware that their behaviours are non-normative, and will often describe themselves as being crazy or abnormal (Gavin, Rodham, and Poyer 2008:382). Nevertheless, this abnormality is encouraged in the religious branches of this movement, as it signifies deviance from the mundane world of those who mindlessly consume food and live prosaic lives as a result. Countercultural rejection of food is presented as a pathway towards both bodily and spiritual transformation. For those who choose this pathway of thinness, a skeletal body becomes “a fetishized, enchanted, inspired state of freedom and perfection” (Alderton 2018). In this way, the pro-ED movement is far more than just a diet or an opportunity for weight loss [Image at right]. Rather, it is an opportunity to craft a religious identity that separates a person from the norm. Around one fifth of pro-ED sites contain explicitly religious content of this nature (Abbate Daga et al. 2006:e67).

The first sacred figure to emerge from eating disorder culture was AnaMadim, who is associated with the early wave of pro-ED sites (c. 2001). Practitioners disagree on the origin point of AnaMadim. In Singler’s history of the movement, she notes two prevailing theories. Some followers believe that AnaMadim was called into being by the combined will of those who needed a spirit for their movement. Others believe that she was telepathically summoned by Narcissa, and existed independently before she was called into help the community. It is claimed that she was summoned using Goetic, Enochian, and Thelemic ceremonial magick. Narcissa has been connected with Occultic orders, such as Ordo Templi Orientis, making this theory a possibility (Singler 2011:25). The Project Shapeshift forum was originally deemed the “AnaMadim Temple,” which later made way for a connected “Pro-Ana Consciousness Raising Temple.” Although much is now lost, it is clear that AnaMadim beliefs were primarily influenced by occult magik and its potential for inspiring shapeshifting. (In this case, shifting from a larger body into a more emaciated one) (Alderton 2018). In terms of personality, AnaMadim is both loving and vengeful. Narcissa describes her both as “a Saviour that enlightens and shows you the way,” and “a demoness that haunts and possesses you” (Narscissa 2001a).

In the latter Ana/Mia-veneration cults, doctrine is less orthodox and more personalised. Nevertheless, there are some reoccurring themes and behavioural trends. It is common for some degree of religious language, or references to spiritual experiences, to be used as a way of describing the anorexic experience. Many members of the community will celebrate religious feelings together such as the euphoria that comes from a growling, empty stomach (i will be thin 2018). Others call their anorexia “a way of life” (Thin Encounters 2017) or an “ascetic Journey” (AnaGirlEmpath 2012a).

To assist members in their devotion to these higher ideals, a variety of creeds, prayers, and maxims have been developed. Some are directly attributed to Ana and Mia, while others are inspired by material from Christianity. Many are memorable and transmissible due to their similarity to other maxims [Image at right] or to famous tenets of faith like the Nicene Creed. The presence of these texts is substantial enough that a “list of commandments for the ana/mia ‘religion’” is included as one of Sharpe et al.’s identifying features for a pro-ED website (Sharpe et al. 2011:35). This style of worship is criticised by members of the older movement, many of whom are original authors of these texts. Project Shapeshift makes it clear that texts like the “Ana Psalm” “were intended as CREATIVE ALLITERATIONS; explorations of the ED psyche – they were NEVER meant to be taken literally!” (AnaGirlEmpath 2012e). Nevertheless, they remain very popular with the younger generation of adherents.

One of the most popular texts in this genre is the Thin Commandments, ironically developed by Carolyn Costin in 2000 as a way of helping her patients recognise and combat unhealthy thinking about food and body image. They are as follows:

If you aren’t thin, you aren’t attractive.Being thin is more important than being healthy.

You must buy clothes, cut your hair, take laxatives, starve yourself, and do anything to make yourself look thinner.

Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty.

Thou shall not eat fattening food without punishing oneself afterwards.

Thou shall count calories and restrict intake accordingly.

What the scale says is the most important thing.

Losing weight is good/ gaining weight is bad.

You can never be too thin.

Being thin and not eating are signs of true will power and success.

If you are thin, you will be loved and accepted (Costin 2000).

other “Laws of Ana” including “Ana loves you only if you’re thin” and “Recovery is a sin… but sins are forgiven” (The Ana Belles 2005). Pro Ana Goddess includes the Thin Commandments in her similar list of “Ana Lifestyle & Religion” texts. Other quotations of her sacred texts include “I shall not be tempted by the enemy (food), and I shall not give into temptation should it arise,” and the vow:

I will devote myself to Ana. She will be with me where ever I go, keeping me in line. No one else matters; she is the only one who cares about me and who understands me. I will honor Her and make Her proud (Pro Ana Goddess 2015).

In combination, these discourses outline a dualistic worldview where fatness is evil, food is sinful temptation, and Ana is a redemptive figure who brings her children into a relationship with perfection. Like the Christian God on whom she seems to be based, she can be brutal and jealous as well as a loving shepherd to her flock.

RITUALS/PRACTICES

Ana’s Underground Grotto has, to date, provided the clearest example of an anorexia veneration ritual. This ritual is the backbone of anorexia as a “magickal craft” and “form of mysticism” that allows participants to change the nature of both their bodies and their minds through “calculated efforts” (Narscissa 2001a). Narcissa developed the ritual based on Occult Magick traditions to help devotees summon AnaMadim and ask for her help and guidance. The ritual must be performed during a full moon and begin at 1:47AM to reflect the sacred number of AnaMadim (147). A practitioner should work alone, and create an altar with candles and incense facing the East. The scent of these items is important, as they will help to represent “ana-energy”. The altar can also be adorned with offerings or anti-offerings. An appropriate offering to AnaMadim is a goblet filled with a libation of weight-loss tablets dissolved in water. Anti-offerings can be any kind of high-calorie food such as cookies or sugar. These seem to be of as much value as the positive offerings.

Once the altar is set up, the ritual can begin via some form of cleansing ceremonial magick, such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. The practitioner should then centre themselves and focus on their iron will while visualising glowing circles in a sequence that adds up to 147. The circles can then be drawn into the practitioner’s body and radiate throughout them. This allows AnaMadim to be invoked, and for the practitioner to connect with her presence. This connection permits AnaMadim to speak by implanting ideas, memories, or trains of thought in the practitioner’s mind. Guidance can come immediately, or in the days that follow. Practitioners are also encouraged to make a reciprocal pact with AnaMadim. For example, the practitioner might offer to defend anorexia in public in exchange for greater willpower during fasting. Once these pleas for guidance or reciprocal pacts have been made, it is time to end the ritual. Participants are encouraged to note down thoughts from the process while they are fresh in their mind, and then dispose of the offerings used to summon AnaMadim (ana’s underground grotto 2001b). There is clear evidence that this ritual was practiced by other adherents, many of whom found it helpful. One states, “I have used this rite to great success” (ana-gracilis n.d.), which seems to be the prevailing attitude from those who write about their experiences with it. The few “outsiders” who stumbled upon the ritual have mixed views. Commentators on Chaos Magick, for example, have dubbed the ritual “shamelessly long and tedious” but concede that it is “an actual magick ritual” rather than a falsification of their practice (“Anamadim: Servitor of the Anorectic Praxis” 2004).

Since the days of this temple, there have not been such clear examples of ritual practice developed by spiritual leaders. Instead, the veneration of Ana and Mia became more of a personal experience with individuals describing the ability to channel these figures spontaneously and without ritual. Ana is also seen as quite an independent and uncontrollable figure who gains power over individuals and enforces the kind of behaviour (i.e. starving [Image at right) that she sees fit (S. Williams and Reid 2010:560). When Ana takes control, the result is a kind of spiritual possession. As one adherent explains it, “now my thoughts and your thoughts are blurred together as one.” She uses this connection to come up with a very low calorie diet plan that is endorsed by Ana in order to “honor Her and make Her proud” (L. 2014). Other Ana adherents have reported similar practices, such as worshiping anorexia via strict calorie limits, obvious weight loss, and self-punishment for any transgression (Ally 2013). It is also common for practitioners to speak of Ana as their closest friend and cruelest bully simultaneously. One explains, “Ana wanted the best for you. Ana wanted you all to herself. Ana reminded you of your failures. Ana kicked you while you were down” (Williams 2014). But, despite this brutality, this form of Ana devotion proved highly popular among a group of people with poor body image and low self-esteem, as it validated their self-hatred and gave them tools to achieve their desperate dream for change.

This form of Ana devotion continues (albeit to a lesser extent), but in recent years a new devotional practice in the form of emoji spells has emerged. Since their inception in 2015 (Downer 2016), emoji spells have been used as a way to increase will power or weight loss. They are also used for a range of other lifestyle purposes. Spells exist to get through airport security quickly, to unbind emotional attachments from past relationships, and to encourage a late period to arrive. To create an emoji spell, a practitioner needs to set out an intention or desire such as “I wish to find my missing keys,” then pick a range of emoji that represent this need. For such a spell, Towers suggests the magnifying glass and the key emoji to convey the idea of searching for keys. The crystal ball emoji is then placed on both ends of the emoji chain to signify that the content is a spell.

To cast the spell, the emoji must be sent to others. For example, it could be posted on Facebook or shared on Tumblr (Towers 2015). Others can then help with the strength of the spell, or share in its power by casting it themselves. A typical instruction will read “likes charge the spell and reblogs cast it.” Generally, emoji spells are believed to work due to this kind of group charging. Shelton compares their power to the power of corporate logos. For example, the Apple logo has been charged by the feelings of users who have worn it on shirts, bought stickers, and felt loyalty to the brand since the logo’s inception in 1977 (Shelton 2017). In the same way, the emoji for running shoes and an empty plate become charged with a group desire for weight loss due to caloric deficit. This deepens the meaning and power of the symbols concerned, thus strengthens the spell itself.

While they tend to be created by people outside of the eating disorder community who are aiming for healthy weight loss and increased fitness, the weight loss spells quickly spread over to the pro-ED sphere. Popular examples include:

While they tend to be created by people outside of the eating disorder community who are aiming for healthy weight loss and increased fitness, the weight loss spells quickly spread over to the pro-ED sphere. Popular examples include:

Emoji spell to lose 5 pounds in 3 – 7 days
Like to recharge
Reblog to cast

Let’s get skinny!! (thindiosa 2017)

And

Spell for weight loss, a boosted metabolism, and eating healthily.

Like to charge, reblog to cast! (kotic 2016)

Responses to these spells vary from faith, to doubt, to humour. In response to one spell, Tumblr users commented “i already reblogged this once but i’m doing it again because this shit works. i dropped 2 pounds in one day after i did this,” “Why not, magic evolves like everything else,” and “Don’t believe any of this shit but why not” (kotic 2016). While not all of these answers show enthusiastic trust in the potency of the spells, many choose to ‘hedge their bets’ by casting them anyway just in case they might lead to more fat lost.

ORGANIZATION/LEADERSHIP

This movement is unusual in that it tends to be driven by its base of followers rather than a clear leader or hierarchy. For this reason, there is no orthodoxy or orthopraxy. Instead, small groups will often lay down their own law. In many cases, individuals subscribe to a general pro-ED philosophy, but interpret the directives of Ana using their own intuition.

Despite this lack of formal, centralised leadership, the extreme pro-ED communities still manage to function as a high-demand group (Alderton 2018). Through all phases of the pro-ED movement, there has been a strong focus on being physically and psychologically special, set apart, and different from the norm. Those who experience anorexia as a religious force gain this feeling of sacredness through the power of Ana. In a famous statement at the inception of the movement, Narcissa explained:

Ana sets us distinctly—and irrevocably—apart from, and above, the herd. Though they have called us shallow, sick and self-absorbed; shameful, false, empty, these words shall be like blood in their mouths, and dust thereafter. Say it loud and say it proud: a bone above any other! (Narscissa 2001a).

She, and the generation that followed, have shown a consistent desire to use anorexia as a way of being different, as a mark of distinction, or as a demonstration of supreme willpower. Others enjoy the sense of erasure and de-materialisation that comes from extreme weight loss (Bates 2015:197). While this does not create a clear or formal structure, it does provide a loose sense of organisation around a shared goal of distinction via profound transformation.

Many individual groups will have strong rules for inclusion, commonly involving stringent application questionnaires, counting every calorie consumed, sticking to very low daily calorie totals, undertaking long-term fasts, and adhering to exercise goals. To prove veracity online, many groups will also request full body pictures and/or pictures of readings on scales to ensure that members are progressing properly in their starvation. In keeping with the high-demand nature of these groups, many ask that members be active participants at all times (Rouleau and von Ranson 2011:526). This could mean, for example, replying frequently in chat groups (such as WhatsApp chats) or nominating a calorie goal for the team. This process creates a strong sense of group togetherness and helps to solidify anorexic behaviours as typical and standard rather than deviant. Because those outside the group persist with labelling voluntary starvation as deviant, this can lead to a strong “us versus the world” mentality and secretive behaviour (Gavin, Rodham, and Poyer 2008:325). ED blogs and communities are generally kept hidden from friends, family members, and doctors who might disagree with their content or try to intervene in a person’s starvation attempts.

ISSUES/CHALLENGES

There are a few internal threats to the validity and seriousness of the movement. One of these is “wannarexics,” a portmanteau of “wannabe” and “anorexic.” A wannarexic might approach a pro-ED space in order the gain tips for rapid weightloss before an event like a school prom, or because they want to look more like a favourite celebrity. Wannarexics irritate true devotees, as they treat anorexia as a fad or as a passing hobby rather than as a consuming addiction or a serious philosophical pursuit. They are less likely to respect secrecy rules, and more likely to abruptly leave the community once their short-term goals have been achieved (Alderton 2018). Policing against wannarexics also has the added benefit of creating an authoritarian structure in a rather loosely-organised group, adding to a greater feeling of boundaries and norms (Boero and Pascoe 2012:31).

Religious ED groups and practices have been accused of fuelling wannarexia. Some more secular pro-ED adherents see the religious strand of the movement as a smokescreen that hides a lack of willpower. Those who do not rely on Ana or Mia veneration are seen by some as more legitimate and self-managed anorexics who have less of a showy attitude towards their starvation (Boero and Pascoe 2012:40). This has proven an ongoing struggle between factions.

Most threats are, however, external. The most substantial challenged faced by pro-ED groups is their disagreement with prevailing medical attitudes to eating disorders. One way in which this manifests is participants helping each other to avoid hospitalisation or avoid raising the suspicion of primary care doctors who may sabotage their weight loss (Curry and Ray 2010:362). This can involve, for example, members sharing blood test results and asking how problematic readings might be improved before the next test without resorting to increased food intake (Juarascio, Shoaib, and Timko 2010:401). The ultimate aim of this “help” is to fool medical practitioners so that recovery can be avoided.

This anti-medical attitude has proven even stronger in the religious sects of the pro-ED movement. Narcissa developed a philosophy which she calls “There are No Victims Here.” This philosophy is based on the practice of  “Volitional, proactive anorexia”, which is an ideology of wilful bodily transformation. Narcissa sees anorexia as a way of achieving profound internal and external transformation if a person is strong enough to take this path and refuse the trappings of consumption (Narscissa 2001b). Her philosophy also poses resistance to the idea of the “‘forever sick’ label,” which has been placed on many people with long-term disordered eating who do not engage well with recovery or respond to common treatment programs (AnaGirlEmpath 2012c).

As such, Project Shapeshift has maintained room for those who “prefer to identify as one who walks Ana’s Path in Volition” rather than identifying as a person with an eating disorder. This path involves the rejection of a “victim mentality,” such as the belief that one is mentally disordered or physically unwell (AnaGirlEmpath 2012d). People in this category are encouraged to leave behind the notion of recovery and instead govern themselves, focus their own will in a direction of their choice and startLiving with their eating disorders rather than for them” (Narcissa in AnaGirlEmpath 2012a). This has now become “an alternate approach 4 those not helped by traditional tmt [treatment] (only 25-40% effective)” according to AnaGirlEmpath (2012f). Alternative treatments include CRON (Caloric Restriction; Optimal Nutrition). This is an eating style within Volitional Anorexia that aims to promote good living, health, and longevity on a very low calorie diet (AnaGirlEmpath 2012a). The calorie totals are below those set by conventional nutritionists as the minimum allowable for good function.

Both the secular and religious pro-ED strands have popularised the idea that doctors may simply be wrong about the dangers of starvation or the amount of nutrition that the human body needs for optimal performance. This can range from mild skepticism to what Singer dubs “a hermeneutic of suspicion and paranoia” that leads to complete rejection of mainstream medical beliefs (2011:23). Instead, members are encouraged to do their own personal research and experimentation using their bodies. As explained on Project Shapeshift:

This is not a place for those who bow to consensus definitions of reality or who believe in the cancerous fallacy that there is any other authority on earth besides their own incontrovertibly self-evident, inherent birthright to govern themselves. (Narcissa in AnaGirlEmpath 2012a).

This does not come from a place of ignorance. Rather, many leaders in the pro-ED community are well read in academic literature surrounding topics such as anorexia. A leader in this discourse is Tetyana who created a website called “Science of Eating Disorders” where she and others critique medical publications. Irritated by the fact that many researchers ignore the experiences and beliefs of people diagnosed with eating disorders, sites like this expand on discussions that patients/subjects are generally barred from (Science of Eating Disorders n.d.).

There is also published literature on this theme. For example, Amy Charles’ book Beauty Is Slim and Lean (2013a), which shows how the pro-ana philosophy can be used for everyday weight loss. In her blurb for this text, Charles makes numerous anti-medical arguments. She explains:

A lot of people nowadays think that Anorexia is a disease which must be treated as soon as possible since it is very harmful and may even lead to death. This is mainly because so many psychological and medical experts have done their ‘research’ and came to that conclusion. […] Many of those ‘experts’ do not see the point that the desire to be slim and lean is a personal lifestyle choice which should not be hindered. Instead, it should be accepted – embraced, even (Charles 2013b).

Her book outlines ways of being confident in your lifestyle choices when friends, family members, and doctors criticise them. This also supports Casilli et al.’s hypothesis that pro-ED groups often work in resistance to cultural hegemonies, such as those of the biomedical establishment (Casilli, Tubaro, and Araya 2012:126). This kind of discourse encourages people to be critical towards prevailing medical research, and be proud of their alternative lifestyle views.

Due to the dubious legality and morality of pro-ED material, the community has also been challenged through censorship of their material by hosting companies. This is another one of the major challenges faced by the group. At the turn of the century, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders pressured hosting companies to remove content that could incite dangerous behaviours (Singler 2011:19). The first major censorship attempt happened in 2001 when Yahoo! purged its servers of communities that encouraged eating disorders. While a great deal of content was lost, users could easily create new accounts and new noticeboards to replace those that were deleted. To evade future detection, community leaders including Narscissa encouraged the use of codes and cyphers such as “@na” or “sk1nny” instead of “anorexia” or “skinny.” Narscissa was angered by moderators who she deemed “watchdog nazis” (Narscissa 2001c). During the mid-2000s, many groups tried to avoid censorship and deletion by setting up formal application processes for anyone who wanted to see their risqué content (Adler and Adler 2011:44–49).

After decades of both censorship and anti-medical thought, many participants in extreme pro-Ana culture have taken a “human rights stance” where they argue that emaciation and starvation is their choice, and something they have earned through hard work and perseverance (Hammersley and Treseder 2007:291). They have also grown dedicated to freedom of speech and the validity of alternative lifestyle choices without censure (Singler 2011:20). AnaGirlEmpath argues that censorship is “extremely damaging and unproductive,” does not actually support those with eating disorders, and leads them to continue living in silence and shame. She sees this as “Intolerant opposition to any coping strategy other than what mainstream society dictates” as healthy or safe, which leads to actions (like censorship) that are “horrifically oppressive, silencing and inappropriate” (AnaGirlEmpath 2012b). Many members of pro-ED communities see their beliefs are genuine, valid, and supportable through experimentation. This has led to a situation where voluntary starvation is presented as a subjective cultural choice rather than objectively deviant behaviour.

IMAGES
Image #1: “its not a diet, its a lifestyle” promotional poster.
Image #2: “Hungry to bed hungry torise make a girl a smaller size” promotional poster.
Image #3: “‘Starve’ Ana said so she did” promotional poster.

REFERENCES

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Adler, Patricia A., and Peter Adler. 2011. The Tender Cut: Inside the Hidden World of Self-Injury. New York: New York University Press.

Adler, Patricia A., and Peter Adler. 2013. “Self-Injury and the Internet: Reconfiguring the Therapeutic Community.” Reset 2:16–40.

Alderton, Zoe. 2018. The Aesthetics of Self-Harm: The Visual Rhetoric of Online Communities. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ally. 2013. “Thin for Ana: Pro-Ana- the Religion.” Thin for Ana, Accessed from http://thinforana.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/pro-ana-religion.html on 25 February 2013.

AnaGirlEmpath. 2012a. “~*Implementation of Changes At Project Shapeshift: Protocol; Issues*~.” Project Shapeshift: ProACTIVE Pro-Ana Positively Alive and Optimally Well!  Accessed from http://project-shapeshift.net/ on 1 March 2018.

AnaGirlEmpath. 2012b. “The Fallacy Of Censorship: Why I Oppose Blocking Pro-Ana, Thinspiration Tags On Social Media Sites.” Project Shapeshift. Accessed from http://project-shapeshift.net/ on 1 March 2018.

AnaGirlEmpath. 2012c. “The History Of Project Shapeshift.” Project Shapeshift: ProACTIVE Pro-Ana Positively Alive and Optimally Well! Accessed from http://project-shapeshift.net/ on 1 March 2018.

AnaGirlEmpath. 2012d. “***UPDATED POLICY REGARDING INTENDED AUDIENCE!***.” Project Shapeshift: ProACTIVE Pro-Ana Positively Alive and Optimally Well! Accessed from http://project-shapeshift.net/ on 1 March 2018.

AnaGirlEmpath. 2012e. “What Does “Pro-Ana” Mean?” Project Shapeshift: ProACTIVE Pro-Ana Positively Alive and Optimally Well! Accessed from http://project-shapeshift.net/ on 1 March 2018.

AnaGirlEmpath. 2012f. “True #ProAna Isnt ProPathology.” Tweet. Twitter, June 10. Accessed from https://twitter.com/anagirlempath/status/208357769273802753?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.project-shapeshift.net%2Findex.html on 1 March 2018.

ana-gracilis. n.d. “The Summoning of Anamadim.” Accessed from http://ana-gracilis.tripod.com/id4.html on 1 March 2018.

“Anamadim: Servitor of the Anorectic Praxis.” 2004. Occult Forum.Org, July 28. Accessed from http://www.occultforum.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=23578.

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Post Date:
4 March 2018

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