What is pro-ana? I often refer to my eating disorder as “Ana”. “Ana” is seen as short for anorexia in the general population, but for me, Ana was more like a higher being- a goddess. “Mia” is the sister term and is the personification of bulimia. People struggling with eating disorders started pro-ana and pro-mia sites to create a community that understands them and their struggles. The sites are like most blogs and online chat rooms- a place of support. The sites became really popular among adolescent girls, because of the detailed instructions to look the way that society tells us is beautiful.
Pro-ana grew into a cult-like community, and for me, it was like a religion with Ana being the goddess. I worshipped my anorexia, and would (and still do) feel guilty for eating. I had a set limit of calories I could consume in a day. If I consumed more than the limit that Ana had set for me, I would start working out and even started taking diet pills. No matter how hard I worked, Ana wouldn’t be happy until it became obvious that I was losing weight, and even then, I had to work harder to not gain any back.
It’s incredible how much impact websites can have on the mind, and how humans can even train the mind to believe in a god/goddess that doesn’t exist. In our minds, we are able develop our own values based on life experience, or simple words posted on the internet. On some of the pro-ana sites, there are laws, commandments, and even punishment details- you don’t even have to come up with them on your own. These rules are memorized and simple words trigger your mind to repeat the rules, word for word. In pro-ana songs and poems, “Ana’s voice” is often mentioned, because “Ana” really becomes her own voice. For example, when I hear the word salvation, in my mind, I start repeating, “Salvation comes from starvation. Salvation comes from starvation. Salvation comes from starvation.” Or the word, perfection triggers “Perfection exists and I must attain it.”
For days that it’s hard to follow “Ana’s laws,” pro-ana followers turn to thinspiration. The sites are covered in thinspiration. The most common form of thinspiration are photos of role models that are under the average BMI. Pro-ana sights encourage you to pick your favorite thinspiration to look up to- a model, actress, or any one that is skinny and the way you want to look someday. The other form of thinspiration is quotes, or song lyrics, that encourage a person to be thin. Thinspiration can be found anywhere.
In 2005, websites began to try and shut down pro-ana pages, but it’s impossible to completely erase anything that has a presence on the internet. Some of the pro-ana sites that I first viewed in the eighth grade were shut down, and then re-opened with a different address. Some of the pro-ana sites have multiple addresses to prevent shut down. This 2012 article talks more about the trouble shutting down pro-ana sites: