In the U.S., as many as 10 million females and one million males struggle with the devastating effects of anorexia and bulimia. Another 25 million suffer from binge eating disorder. According to The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, the incidence of eating disorders has doubled since the 1960s and is increasing in younger age groups—occurring in children as young as seven. Eating disorders often begin in adolescence and are associated with substantial psychological problems, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide.
A few days ago, I reached out to MizFit to discuss this very issue with her.
The topic is fresh on my mind because not only did I begin suffering with bulimia and anorexia at the age of 15, but I have also been doing some research in this area for my website. The conclusion I’ve reached: I am terrified by the number of young people (as well as adults) who are suffering from this spectrum of disorders. I may have been viewing the universe through rose-colored glasses after my own recovery two years ago, but it seems like the epidemic has only become worse.
In the early to mid-2000’s, there was much talk about “pro-ana” websites. I must admit that those are the very websites that helped me become a better Disordered Eater. I learned how to further sharpen my starving, binging, purging, and obsessive exercising skills. I learned about ketosis, and the 2,4,6,8 diet. I learned things that probably helped land me in treatment faster, because it was at that point that I became a “better” Disordered Eater. I also became a sicker person, mentally and physically.
Parents soon found out about these websites that promoted and taught the principles of eating disorders, and the internet police started cracking down on them. There are still a slew of “pro-ana” websites out there, but individuals need to be invited in. At that point, they can enter the site for endless “thinspiration”. So, the websites still exist, but they screen out the wanna-be anorexics, so you just have to be a “better” anorexic or bulimic to join.
The latest trend in Eating Disorder growth seems to be on Twitter.
Do you know what your child is Tweeting about? Do the people your children follow encourage low self-esteem and poor body image? Do you child’s Twitter friends talk about ‘GW’ (goal weight), ‘HW’ (high weigh), and state their measurements on their Twitter bio? This is a problem.
Your child could very well be Tweeting for support with their starvation diet, or asking for tips on where to begin their journey through Eating Disorder Hell. Young people latch onto more experienced “professionals”, and they learn the tricks of the trade.
Developing a positive body image and self-esteem as a child is often a difficult job (we all remember those days). With a very “thin is in” media presence, young girls in particular are often infused with the knowledge that losing weight and being thin will fix all of the problems in their universe. They are prime candidates for an eating disorder. When they are introduced to information praising the benefits of anorexia and bulimia, and the information is so readily available, it seems like the perfect fix in their developing minds.
By the time that parents realize what is happening, the child is already caught in their ED cycle.
I am not yet a mother, but if I were, I would be terrified at the thought of my child having access to information of this sort. I feel that parents should be aware that these pro-eating disorder websites still exist, and that the risk is even higher now with the added complexity of Twitter. Parents should monitor their children’s computers and cell phone activity for access to websites and Tweeting of this sort.
As with any other disease, prevention is key with eating disorders, but early detection is the next best thing.
Elisabeth is an eating disorder survivor and owner of two rescued dogs and a crazy parrot.
She has a passion for good food, jogging, and spreading the word about eating disorder awareness. When she is not eating or jogging, you can find her blogging or working on her latest website devoted to body image.