Anorexia Online and Bulimia on Blogs


#Fitspiration is a hashtag that can be found accompanying pictures of thin, tanned and gorgeous workout girls on Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Fitness and lifestyle bloggers use this hashtag as a way to self identify and create an online community of supporters. For reference, Michelle Lewin, a #fitspo blogger known online as @michelle_lewin_ has as Instagram following of over 12.7 million.

As positively empowering as these #fitspiration blogs can be, there also exists an equally influential, but overwhelmingly negative online blogging counterpart: #thinspiration.

Thinspiration is a movement that fosters a community of eating disorder enablement through online interpersonal communication. Thinspiration advocates usually identify themselves as pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia. Nicknaming themselves pro-ana and pro-mia, the bloggers of the thinspiration movement share with each other tips on dieting, purging meals, over-exercising and concealing their eating disorders from their loved ones.

It’s easy to see how participation in these pro-eating disorder blogs is hurtful to the physical, mental and emotional health of their users. Users of these blogs encourage each other to engage in prolonged disordered eating which has a plethora of negative effects on the body.

Physically, eating disorders can result in hair loss and tooth decay, extreme fatigue, menstrual and reproductive issues, difficulty in regulating body temperature and malfunction of major organs.

Similarly, eating disorders can cause mental consequences such as poor memory and emotional problems such alienation and worsened depression and anxiety.

The secrecy of eating disorder blogs encourages users to mask their underlying reasons of causation and continue to engage in disordered eating while hiding their illness from people who can offer them more effective help and support.

Despite having significantly dangerous side-effects, thinspiration blogs still successfully fulfill the needs of their users.

Disclosure of information lends itself to be a huge component for the existence of these blogs.

Pro-eating disorder blogs offer writers and readers a sense of anonymity. Thinspiration blogs commonly operate under pseudonyms, giving their users a protective shield for disclosing information without fear of the consequences that could ensue if their actual name was attached to their pro-eating disorder activities.

Eating disordered individuals often don’t want to disclose their illness to those around them out of fear of burdening their loved ones. Blogs allow users to experience the emotional relief of disclosing their illness, without the guilt that accompanies their perception that they are a burden.

In addition, the societal taboo surrounding eating disorders also causes sufferers hesitancy in disclosing their illness, which hinders them in forming emotionally intimate relationships, according to Andrea M. Weare, a professor of mass communication and media studies at University of Iowa.

Weare conducted an in-depth study that researched and analyzed the motivation behind the use of pro-eating disorder thinspiration blogs.

Based on her research, Weare concluded that these blogs are birthed because “taboo encouraging silence leads to isolation encouraging community seeking.”

In other words, the negative social stigma associated with eating disorders silences users from asking for help, which results in the pursuing of communities through online platforms. These online communities provide the support of a parent, close friend, sibling or significant other that disordered individuals, for whatever reason, perceive they aren’t receiving in real life.

Other functions that pro-eating disorder blogs successfully achieve for their users are those of consistency, expression and validation.

During the turbulent moods that sometimes accompany mental illness, the online thinspiration movement community’s unwavering existence offers familiarity and consistency to its supporters, which not only provides them with comfort, but also with a feeling of unconditional acceptance.

It is typical for eating disordered individuals to feel lost, self-doubtful and question where they fit in socially. Thinspiration blogs allow for users to solidify and make consistent the identity that they have cultivated for themselves in their time of sickness. It is a place in which users can feel relatable and normal because they share a similar identity as their online peers.

Thinspiration blogs serve as a platform where users can have a voice and be genuinely heard. They act as a safe place where disordered individuals can come together in raw self-expression and still receive validation without fear of rejection or stigmatization since other bloggers can sympathize with their issues, according to Daphna Yeshua-Katz and Nicole Martuns, both scholars in the field of relational communication.

In a study that sought to understand the perceived benefits of pro-anorexia blogging, Yeshua-Katz and Martuns uncovered that the primary perceived benefits of pro-ana blogging are social support and liberation, which correlate with the study conducted by Weare.

Weare noted that the motivation behind participation in thinspiration blogs is a community of support, and Yeshua-Katz and Martuns reinforced that claim by reporting that social support is a highly ranked perceived benefit of thinspiration blogging.

Therefore, users of pro-eating disorder blogs are receiving what they are coming for, meaning that the blogs, although unskillful, are functional.                                                            

The use of pro-ana and pro-mia thinspiration blogs is an alarming movement that is becoming increasingly popular among eating disordered individuals. While laced with numerous threats to physical, mental and emotional health, it is easy to see why such blogs exist and why they are thriving within the eating disorder community despite their consequences.

Thinspiration blogs are the refuge that many individuals suffering from eating disorders are searching for. They encompass a community of like-minded individuals that exists outside of traditional interpersonal relationships. Through computer-mediated platforms, the bonds and relationships created through thinspiration blogs fill the gaps that in-person interpersonal relationships sometimes have limited access in filling.

Although it may not be the most ideal coping mechanism for dealing with an eating disorder, the use of pro-ana and pro-mia thinspiration blogs is an actively functioning method for disordered individuals to interpersonally communicate and cope with their illnesses.


Are you, or is someone you know, struggling with an eating disorder? Call the confidential helpline of the National Eating Disorder Association at 1-800-931-2237.

To find an eating disorder support group near you visit