Kik hosts dozen of pro-anorexia group chats that are open to the public. Fears over a popular app have surfaced amid claims "anorexia coaches" are preying on people with eating disorders. Kik hosts dozen of pro-anorexia group chats that are open to the public, according to the Guardiansparking fears thousands could be vulnerable.
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I got diagnosed with my eating disorder at the age of nine. I remember playing tag in the schoolyard with my friends and running around because I wanted to lose weight. I remember throwing out food in class. By the age of 10, I had already invented lies about food allergies.
The disgust I felt towards my body developed during a period of abuse. I was sexually abused by a family member from the age of five. It lasted until I was 12 and it has made me hate my body. I find it impossible to live with my body, so I have always tried to separate myself from it. Starving myself is a way to make it disappear, to vanish, to clean, purify and punish it. I am very open about my anorexia.
I know that I am insanely skinny. I gave up hiding it when I was Before that, I did crazy things. I purged my food, I hid it in my sleeves. I put breadcrumbs on my plate to make it look like I had eaten.
And people around me, they accept it. They have to. Jade is 24 and lives in the North East. Instead, Jade runs a website. She set it up when she was 14 and has thousands of followers around the world. Her attitude is chilling.
Instead of urging her readers to stop starving themselves, to seek help and recover, Jade helps - and often encourages - them to embrace their eating disorder, like she does. You can do it too, but it will take discipline and hard work. The replies - many of them anonymous, all from strangers - are equally unsettling. Yet Jade is defensive about what she does. The moment anorexia does not work for them, I support each and every one to their own personal path of recovery. Of the 1.
What is anorexia?
This weekend, experts also warned of a "silent epidemic" of anorexia that is sweeping through Britain's top independent schools, affecting thousands of teenage girls. Today marks the start of Eating Disorders Awareness Week - and charities are focusing on the sites that promote this behaviour, demanding that something is done to control them.
Writing about the rise of pro-ana and pro-mia, however, is double-edged. There is a danger that any attempt to understand the appeal of the websites will draw them to the attention of new users, perhaps those on the verge pro ana chats a disorder. Dr John Morgan, a consultant psychiatrist who chairs the Royal College of Psychiatrists's eating disorder section, says raising awareness does carry risks, but remains imperative. We want healthcare professionals to be aware of the negative sites, but discourage sufferers from searching for them. Doing anything is made more difficult by the fact that this material is online - and the internet is impossible to police.
These are the same pictures frequently used on pro-ana and pro-mia websites.
Any attempt to ban or regulate their existence would only send their users elsewhere. Instead, experts say the only way to stop these sites is to understand them; to get inside the minds of sufferers and uncover the appeal of the online communities they inhabit. Only by recognising what turns vulnerable, damaged people like Jade into sinister role models for vulnerable individuals will we be able to lure them off the internet - and into real-life recovery.
We also know that individuals likely to seek them out are particularly vulnerable. Eating disorders can be extremely isolating conditions, and so finding a community of other people who think like you can be a powerful draw. This introduces glamour; people feel they are being initiated into a group.
Group therapy in anorexia is a powerful tool but these websites can bring out the worst in people, rather than the best. Detachment from reality characterises the attitudes of most users of these blogs and forums: many of them write anonymously or under infantile nicknames, and use avatars of skinny models or cartoons. When they refer to pro ana chats illness, it is with affection - almost pride - not pain. Lynn Crilly, a Surrey-based counsellor and author of Hope with Eating Disorders, came across these communities when her daughter was recovering from anorexia. They have ways to measure it: the thigh gap, the bikini bridge, and there was one game I found where you pro ana chats to lie on your back and if you were higher than the length of a biro, it meant you were fat.
She was 25 when she was diagnosed with anorexia, and spent years recovering in outpatient treatment in Staffordshire. In the throes of her illness, Sarah, now 28, registered on a pro-ana forum and began writing an online diary about what she was eating; her frustrations; parts of her body that she hated. Nobody stopped me. Though many people actively search for pro-ana and pro-mia websites, others - like Sarah - stumble across them.
Young people are spending more time online than ever, on mobiles and tablets all hours of the day and night. Pictures of celebrities and supermodels take up a disproportionate amount of this virtual space, parading their bikini bodies and boasting about extreme diets most recently, tissues and cotton wool.
It becomes their lives. Though the highest incidence of anorexia is among females in the age bracketmany sufferers are much older - and around 11 per cent are male.
Kik app ‘anorexia coaches’ are telling girls with eating disorders to send nudes as punishment
David, from north London, is in his forties and has suffered from anorexia and bulimia for 30 years. There is a little-known but disturbing link between pro-ana websites and online pornography, which makes their existence even more alarming. These individuals pose as young girls [in chat rooms and forums] and encourage others to post pictures of themselves. When you visit these sites, you get even more inundated with pornography than on other websites.
They are linked.
Though she visited pro-ana sites, she says she hated what they stood for. Online, she explains, she found a source of weightloss tips and methods for deceiving doctors and parents. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with 20 per cent of sufferers dying prematurely from the disease and associated medical complications. Websites that promote anorexia and bulimia as a lifestyle choice are feeding a mindset that can, ultimately, be fatal. Rosalind Ponomarenko-Jones knows this statistic well.
In Decembershe lost her daughter Sophie Mazurek, a year-old student, who had suffered from anorexia for two years.
Sophie, who by then weighed just four stone, died of heart failure. She became withdrawn, moody and secretive. It was like being with a different person.
Rosalind thinks Sophie may have visited pro-ana sites when she was discharged from a mental health unit in Stoke three months before she died. What is clear, however, is that they can have a destructive influence on unstable minds - and something must be done to control their spread. In40 cross-party MPs brought an early day motion urging the Government to act against online eating disorder communities. To date, however, little has changed. Some internet service providers are already proactive, removing the more harmful sites, such as those linked with self-harm or suicide, as soon as they appear.
Yet there is a grey area into which most pro-ana and pro-mia sites fall, making them almost impossible to regulate from the outside.
Inshe found that there were around such websites in the UK - but in the two years since, that has multiplied to the hundreds of thousands. Research in Holland in found that click-through warnings did deter first-time users from accessing the sites. Experts do agree that young people need to be made aware of these websites, so they can understand the risks behind their appeal.
Natasha Devon runs the Body Gossip programme, which has taught self-esteem to 30, teenagers in schools around the UK. And this is the heart of the problem. The influence of the internet - and the huge role it plays in our world - is only set to grow. If pro-ana and pro-mia sites are common now, there will be more in years to come.
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Not all sites dedicated to eating disorders are nasty; some are welcoming and constructive. I exercised secretly in my room. Words on a screen are not the same as a hug, as a cuppa or a chat. Instead, there are sections explaining binge eating, myths and treatments. Her writing is stark and matter-of-fact; her tales of things she has done to her body shaming and unpleasant. Ruby has followers and has won blogging awards from health organisations for her honest of her disorder.
Most importantly, she urges her followers to seek help. Recovery or eating disorder. Life or death. Fight or give up.
Recovering from anorexia
But it shows the positive potential of eating disorder blogs - and the type of content that Beat and other charities suggest should be promoted as an alternative to pro-ana. There are s, too, that writing her blog, and diarising the darkest moments of her anorexia, have spurred Ruby on towards recovery. One post, written a few months ago, is particularly revealing.
It makes me so sad to think of all the girls here killing themselves trying to lose weight. I have to keep reminding myself that I am one of those girls.