Pro-ana bracelets reveal dark side of online community support

By Isabelle Cavazos, COLUMNIST
On April 1, 2014

 

Not all options for seeking help for eating disorders are necessarily healthy, as seen in recent years with the rise of pro-anorexia, or “pro-ana,” communities on message boards and “thinspiration” images on Tumblr that promote unhealthy weight loss.

A new piece of jewelry called the “Pro-Ana Red Weave Bracelet” attempts to instill a sense of community for those dealing with anorexia by allowing those who wear it to subtly relate to others with the same bracelet. However, the bracelet is promoted by a pro-ana website and was initially advertised as a reminder to stick to an anorexic “diet.”

While pro-ana sites are not new, it is still vile to further the danger of eating disorders by promoting it as a “diet” and preying on those with the disease to earn a profit.

Eating disorders are nothing to toy around with, especially considering that approximately 24 million people of all ages and genders have an eating disorder in the U.S., according to the Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders.

Likely due to recent backlash, the pro-ana website, myproana.com, that sells the $14 bracelets changed the description of the bracelet from saying it is a reminder for people to “stay true” to their “diet” to instead a reminder of the “daily struggles” of those with an eating disorder.

Aside from this cheap save coming from a website that offers downloadable “thinspiration” and promotes the seriousness of anorexia as an attainable diet, it makes the concept of community among those with eating disorders toxic.

As the bracelet was initially marketed, its purpose was to maintain the habits associated with anorexia rather than advocate that those dealing with it should seek help. By implication, a product that is meant to create a distinct connection with others who are anorexic would then serve for them to hold each other accountable in what the website considers a “diet.”

While seeking help is always the best option when dealing with an eating disorder or other medical problems, the least any kind of product created for people suffering from them can do is create a sense of community with a foundation of healing and positivity.

One alarming aspect of the bracelet that has many people concerned is that they are now sold out.

The main goal of these bracelets is seemingly to take advantage of people with eating disorders and turn the harm of anorexia into an item that can be bought and sold.

However, a deadly disorder should never be addressed so trivially. For women, the mortality rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than the death rates related to all causes of death between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The bottom line is that anorexia is not a “diet” that can be marketed the way Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers are, and should never be reduced to a mere accessory.

Isabelle Cavazos is a
sophomore majoring in English.

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