May 2002
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Pressure to be ‘thin'
By Leigh-Anne Layman, Level three student, Holy Heart of Mary School, St. John's, NF

Can you imagine a world where family members and doctors formed a support group recommending to their patients that they not undergo treatment so that they could further progress their disease? How about a doctor tells his AIDS patient to sleep with numerous people to spread the disease? Sounds horrible, but there are groups of people out there, lurking in chat rooms and message boards, hoarding together to promote diseases like anorexia and bulimia; Helping people kill themselves by losing pound after pound what many of us would consider assisted suicide is completely acceptable by these people suffering from anorexia but choosing not to cure themselves.

It's 10:41 pm in Amanda's house on a Friday night. She is sitting in her room studying. Sounds like a harmless practice. What parent wouldn't love to hear this? If only her parents knew what she was studying. Amanda sits in her room, in her pyjamas and slippers learning how to make herself 'melt' more weight off of her 5'4, 98-pound frame.

On these web pages, it tells her how to take laxatives more efficiently (Commonly called Laxies in the pro ANA world), easier ways to make yourself throw up, ways to hide your Anorexia from your family members and sample eating plans in which you may eat as many "Negative Calories" as you may please. Negative calories are certain foods that are low in calories and when eaten use up more calories than the total number of calories during digestion.

The pages offer support groups that encourage that certain 5'4 person to be their goal weight of 77 pounds. Web chats to log onto when you feel like eating and lists of things to do when you feel hungry. Many of these lists tell you to get a part time job so that you have time to occupy your mind and not your mouth. Preferably you should work in a food service job so that you can tell your inquiring family members that you ate at work and continue starving yourself.

These pages and support groups feature calculated moves, lies and escape plans so that you can do anything to reach your goal weight.

As a non-anorexic looking at these pages I am disgusted at what I read. I am scared for these people suffering, mainly young women between the ages of 15 to 24 but some as young as 13. I am dumbfounded at the abundance of support out there for anorexia and bulimia. Weekly weigh in charts to encourage each other to lose more weight is scary. In essence these people are not only playing with their own health but also helping others become just as sick or sicker as themselves.

These girls know that they are sick but cannot control their urge to be "perfect." Perfect can be anything from 5'6, 120 lbs to 5'11 and 99 pounds. And there ARE people on these pages who are that slim. Many make blatant statements saying that they are sick, they know it but they like it. One webmaster says about a picture "do you think that this is too thin? What is too thin? This girl is in pain and I am jealous of her. Jealous of HER. She is thinner than me, and therefore more beautiful." Some of these people feel that they cannot control any other areas of their lives so they will control their weight to extremes.

That said, some of the pressure to be thin does come from the media. We are bombarded with commercials preaching the benefits of the latest exercise equipment so that we can have those wash board abs. Miracle diets to make us drop those few "No-no" pounds. Television shows feature rail thin women, all of whom were thin to begin with but lost another thirty pounds and now look "fabulous" With that kind of mantra it's not hard for some people to feel that perfection is 5'8, 110 pounds.

In the 1980's models averaged a size 8. Today a model wears a size 0 - 2. They are seventeen percent smaller today than in the 80's. If a model "models" the clothes that a lot of us are wearing it's ironic, seeing that the average women is a size 12. Many of the "thinspirational" pictures on these Pro-Anorexia web sites are of models from the "heroin chic" stage like Kate Moss and Amber Valetta. Some pages even go as far as showing what you might look like if you ate too much and became "fat" which, to us is a normal size.

Technology lets us make many advancements in the areas of medicine, engineering and communication but also lends itself to horrific things like support groups for the advancement of disease or furthering of a terrorist cell. There is a downside to everything, if these spans of communication didn't exist it would be virtually impossible to reach this many people and share this terrible advice. It certainly wouldn't be done by chain letter.

A lot of attention has been brought to this issue in recent months and it certainly deserves a lot of attention. Support groups are good, they help people overcome their disease but what these sites are passing off as support is really a death sentence. They are helping young men and women endanger their lives without giving it a second thought - being thin is better than being fat and being dead is better than being "fat".

As a teenager who is growing up in the midst of this, I feel the pressure to be thin, and toned and the cookie cutter version of "perfect" and sometimes I can see just where these people are coming from but I choose NOT to be a victim of media and not to turn a blind eye to the growing problem that we have on our hands.

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