How the Internet Is Encouraging Eating Disorders

Could anorexics turn to the Internet to learn how to become a better anorexic?  A recent study looked into Online Negative Enabling Support Groups (ONESGs) that promote eating disorders. These blogs and forums actually encourage eating disorders as a lifestyle choice rather than a disease. Studies have shown that anorexics find more support from the online community where they can interact anonymously, rather than with their offline friends. The study revealed that a bond existed among members of these online groups through a common feeling of self-loathing. Members also encouraged each other to continue to lose weight and maintain their unhealthy eating disorder habits.

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are two of the most common eating disorders, both characterized by an intense fear of being fat or gaining weight, even if the person is underweight. Those with anorexia eat tiny amounts of food, less than what is minimally required to maintain a healthy body weight. Those with bulimia restrict their intake, but will also binge uncontrollably on large portions of food, and then induce vomiting, use laxatives, or exercise excessively to “counteract” the calories consumed.

While it’s okay to be on the thin side, a BMI of 18.5 (115 pounds for a 5’6” person) is considered the minimum. When a person weighs less than this, there is an increase of health risks such as nutritional deficiencies, cessation of menstrual cycles, tooth and esophagus erosion (from vomiting) and osteoporosis.

If you suffer from a distorted body image, above and beyond anything else — avoid those negative support groups, which only further destroy your health.

To cope:

  • Fight back. Refuse to engage in “fat talk.” Avoid questions like, “Do I look fat in this?” or saying things like, “I feel so fat today.”
  • See a therapist. We all have things we need to talk about, and sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who is separate from our day-to-day life.
  • See a Registered Dietitian (RD). If you want to be reasonably thin, no problem. Just do it in a healthy way so that you’re sure to give your body the nutrients it needs. An RD can help you achieve this.
  • Beware of going overboard on a healthy diet. Orthorexia, the obsession to consume a perfect diet, is also an extreme, and a slippery slope that can easily lead to anorexia or bulimia.

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