Surfers warned about pro-anorexia sites

Starving online

A British eating disorder organisation was today warning women about the dangers of visiting pro-anorexia Websites and chatrooms.

These corners of cyberspace are filled with people who are aware that they have eating disorders, but see it as a positive way to live their lives.

Many refer to themselves as "pro-Anna", and swap tips on how to starve themselves and how to hide the obsession from others.

The sites and chatrooms are often littered with pictures of terrifyingly skinny women.

They also include photos of celebs such as Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart and model Kate Moss.

There are also weight loss tips. For example, on the BonesofBeauty site, pro-Annas are advised to "wear a rubberband around you wrist and flick yourself with it everytime you think about eating."

Other tips include chewing gum (this burns 11 calories per hour), eating on smaller plates to make food portions look bigger, and "before eating ask yourself: 'Do I really want that food more than I want to be skinny?'"

One surfer asks: "I heard about toilet paper, but, is that safe? Does it need salt?"

Sites, such as Jai's Place, Empress's World, and many online clubs, view Anorexia as a positive thing.

One of them states: "We don't want to eat, we don't want to gain, and we don't care what others say. This is a place where we can share tips, give support, and just help each other out when everyone else seems to be against us."

The Eating Disorders Association (EDA) believes at least 400 pro-Anna sites and chatrooms currently exist on the Web. Around 1.1 million people in the UK are known to have eating disorders (ten per cent of these are male).

"Visitors to these sites only see one side of the situation, and don't get the whole story," said EDA representative Steve Bloomfield, who adds that many people posting on the sites are in the "starvation high" stage of the disorder, before they get ill.

"This can mislead vulnerable youngsters into thinking there are positive aspects of the eating disorder," said Bloomfield.

Around twenty per cent of people who develop anorexia will die prematurely, according to the EDA. A large proportion of these die by committing suicide. ®

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