Junkfood Science: Role models of positive body images for young women?

November 27, 2007

Role models of positive body images for young women?

Two articles this week have alerted readers to risks associated with pro-anorexia websites. One investigative report by People UK revealed to parents the alarming extremes of starvation encouraged by troubled young women on these unmoderated sites, the “thinspiration” photos they post of themselves and celebrities they are emulating, and life-threatening weight loss ideas they share. Included in the undercover dossier was one girl who slashed her wrists on a livejournal pro-ana chatroom and no one tried to get help for her as she bled to unconsciousness. People UK contacted livejournal.com and gave them detailed documentation of what was going on and urging them to discontinue the pro-anorexia forums. There was no response. The livejournal mission statement, according to the report, says it believes “in letting users create their own content with complete freedom of expression.” This is not to advocate to censorship, but to serve as an added warning to family and young people about things on the internet that can be harmful.

The second article by Mama Vision warned girls of the dangers of posting their photos online at pro-ana sites, jeopardizing their futures in ways they might never have imagined.

Both articles and the accompanying photos [click on headlines to read full articles] are disturbing, and so are popular syndicated television shows airing this month as part of “Body Image” campaigns — depicting extreme weight loss, idolizing gaunt celebrities, and suggesting dangerous and unsound diet techniques....

Generation Anorexia Revealed

An anorexic schoolgirl cut her wrists while logged on to a live internet chatroom, we can reveal today. The shocking suicide drama was exposed by an alarming People investigation which will horrify parents everywhere. We infiltrated a well-meaning self-help website which has been hijacked by pro-anorexia extremists and found youngsters:

Bragging about eating nothing for days at a time... Swapping starvation tips on how to survive on just 150 calories a day... Boasting how to hide their killer condition from desperate families and doctors...Daubing the internet site with “thinspirational" photos of stick-thin celebs ...Yet the site claims it is there to HELP youngsters....

“I don't think I have even eaten 800 cals the whole week put together but get the feeling I have put on weight." She added: “If I have put on, I will just feel fat. Help me!" ...The forum - which regularly gets hundreds of messages a day - is linked to information on support groups for victims. But concerned experts claim the tie-ins are just a cover for the real purpose of the website - to encourage anorexia....

Pro Ana Privacy, part 2

...A talented young woman recently applied for a job just after she graduated from college. A dream job really, everything she ever wanted. Mom and Dad were so proud. Little did she know that some pictures that she uploaded to the web many years prior would come back to haunt her....

No job. Worst of all? No way to remove them - ever. This thing is permanent girls. It’s called the world wide web and once you CHOOSE to serve yourself up for the taking, you are gone, your privacy is gone, and your future opportunities are at stake....

Access Hollywood, the NBC syndicated celebrity gossip newsmagazine, has been airing special features as part of its “Body Image Month.” The focus isn’t on helping women develop positive, healthy body images, but mostly about achieving the thin body of celebrities. Viewers are treated to tips on how supermodels stay so thin, “healthy” ideas from a “Biggest Loser,” Star Jones talking about slimming with bariatric surgery, and tips from celebrity trainers on slimming down and foods you should never eat. Viewers can work out with Jennifer Aniston’s Yoga Instructor to get fit, with a video depicting underweight women.

The article, “Marlee’s Get Fit Challenge: Junk food intervention,” says that the already slim Marlee Matlin is unfit at 129 pounds because she weighs 30 pounds more than she did as a teenager — at 99 pounds! So, she is put on a “junk food intervention” and intense exercise regimen by a celebrity trainer to lose weight. He goes through her kitchen and throws out her peanut butter, juice, cream cheese, butter, ice cream and chicken tenders. She is told none of these foods are up to the diet code. When you click on the link to learn what foods she is possibly allowed to eat, up pops nothing.

Access Hollywood offers other resources in a drop down menu, such as the Cabbage Soup diet and the Master Cleanse. Information on the Master Cleanse, courtesy of a “nutritionist” with the Today show and author of a food cures book, describes it as “the quick way to lose weight.” While saying it’s unhealthy, being a liquid starvation diet consisting of only drinking water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper; she still gives the exact recipe for the bogus concoction. JFS readers know that there is no medical support for any fad diet, be it the water diet or lemonade made with maple syrup, as safe and effective weight loss interventions. Even lemon is a weak acid that doesn’t begin to approach the acidity already in our stomachs, so it holds no magical properties.

With such extreme thinness and unsound fad diets promoted on mainstream television, for many young viewers, the lines blur between the pro-anorexia mindsets they learn in media and those on livejournal. And we wonder why our young girls are getting caught up in being thin at all costs.

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