Don't blame celebrities or pro-ana websites for the rise in eating disorders

More has to be done to work on prevention and early intervention of eating disorders – and that isn’t simply about banning websites

Share
Related Topics

I am not ‘pro-ana’, far from it; but when it's blamed for the massive rise in the total number of people being treated for eating disorders, I will defend it.

‘Pro-anorexia’ websites are sickening; the result of a minority of people affected by eating disorders piling their obsession with food and weight loss onto vulnerable individuals. They share ‘tips and tricks’ of the depressing trade and serve to encourage the existing element of fierce competition. Then there are the pictures, or ‘thinspiration’. We’re aware of what these look like –  images of dead-eyed catwalk models, a stack of ribs in spotlights, or emaciated young women contorted and stretched to show off their spines like prize xylophones.

We've seen these images, but we certainly haven’t all developed a fascination with them through ‘pro-ana’ websites.

More than 6,500 children and teenagers were treated in hospital in 2010/11 – 150 of those aged nine or under - for conditions such as anorexia, compared with 1,718, in 2007/8.  These figures have been revealed amidst growing worries that there is not enough treatment for those with eating disorders and, for those who are lucky enough to access treatment, the waiting times are often so long that conditions deteriorate rapidly, resulting in longer, more costly hospital stays. Many are turned away, told that their BMI isn’t low enough – with a mental illness which instils the belief that you're never thin enough, you're worthless, this kind of ‘treatment’ only serves to feed into that belief, worsening the illness both mentally and physically.

More has to be done to work on prevention and early intervention of eating disorders – and that isn’t simply about banning websites.

Some reports on these figures blame ‘pro-ana’ websites and celebrity culture, but those publications are the ones that re-post these dangerous images, that include graphic detail of how their case studies got to their lowest weight, that obsess over the most extreme cases of anorexia, all of which read like a how-to guide, and they incessantly analyse images of bikini-clad celebrities. Too thin, too fat, pouring curves, containing curves… We're bombarded much more intensely, on a much more regular basis not by 'pro-ana', but by publications that hypocritically blame eating disorders on anything but themselves.

My anorexia began at seven, and I continued to find new, inventive ways to dispose of my food without people noticing. It’s clear through my 20 years of eating disorders, that my illness had nothing to do with celebrity culture or the internet. In hospital, the majority of patients disagreed that the media and fashion worlds played a part in their eating disorders.

During my illness, I was far too wrapped up in my own world of starvation to notice what was going on around me, but through recovery, I became aware that ‘normal’ people seemed increasingly worried about what they were allowing to pass their lips. Impressionable children and teens were being taught what's 'good', 'bad' and 'naughty'. People were being judged on food choices. Calories were inescapable; on packaging and scrawled across restaurant menus, taking any element of fun or enjoyment out of eating out. There's constant analysis and judgement of everything we eat and that is more catching than we might think. Good health and nutrition is important – but that shouldn’t ever induce feelings of guilt for daring to indulge in pudding.

Young people absorb and echo the beliefs and behaviours that exist around them, but rather than blaming the Rihannas and Delevignes, we should look closer to home. It’s the way that families and friends talk about food and weight which will have the biggest impact on shaping the way they think and act around food. 'Good' and 'bad' need to be replaced with 'balance' and 'enjoyment'.

Eating disorders develop through complex combinations of factors and pressures which differ from person to person. The fact that so many young people are now requiring hospital treatment proves that not enough is being done to pick up on these illnesses early enough; even more education, awareness and understanding is needed at every level.

We need to stop scapegoating and start taking responsibility. There are no easy solutions to the seemingly unstoppable rise in cases of eating disorders, but if one thing is true, we need to look closer to home than Hollywood to find the answers.  

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Injury Fee Earners

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist personal injury...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Executive / Business Development

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...

Recruitment Genius: Tennant Liaison Officer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An experienced TLO is required to manage, deli...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

A promised 'women's museum' opens as a Jack the Ripper exhibit tonight, and I won't take it lying down

Becky Warnock
A protester wears a golden mask and Romanian flag during a demonstration in Bucharest against Gabriel Resources Rosia Montana gold and silver project  

Corporate vampires have tried to suck $4 billion out of Romania, and with TTIP the UK could be next

Kevin Smith
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen