Underground movement among diagnosed anorexics who wish to relabel their disorder as a "lifestyle choice", much like the fat acceptance movement. Pro-ana sites and groups (chiefly on Yahoo!) showcase painfully thin girls, give hints on how to disguise the fact that one is not eating, care for one's skinny self, how to deal with well-meaning family members and therapists, etc. Labelled by Oprah Winfrey and others as "the new danger of the Internet", calling for increased parental surveillance of Internet use, etc. In other words, call in the usual suspects.

With all due respect to the dangers of starving one's self, the movement seems to have been caused by the very therapy that sought to cure the disorder in the first place. Fasting, or at least eating very little, is a pleasurable experience for some, and being told that no, you're going to have to start eating again is just as unpleasant as being told to diet (and I'm fat). The name refers to the fact that non-eating girls are often told to write letters to "Ana", the voice in their heads that tells them not to eat, to make friends with it, etc. Young folk being who/what they are, it's no great stretch to imagine that they might rebel, and turn a mere bad habit into a wicked vice. From reading these sites, it seems clear that no amount of preaching about body acceptance is going to deter them -- they simply want to not eat, and be as thin as they possibly can be, much as a bodybuilder wishes for a certain type of musculature. It's simply not true that these women hate themselves -- instead, they feel proud of their gauntness, and spend a great deal of time exercising (keeping toned is a high priority, as is getting at least minimal nutrients) and preening.

While it's, again, a dangerous habit, my feeling is that this will go the way of most "extreme" Net fads: the most damaging sites will be taken off/death sentenced/banned, the most popular will refocus on risk reduction, and, a year or so down the line, it will join the mainstream. At which point, someone will have discovered that teenagers are subjecting themselves to some other lethal habit, perhaps Skee-ball. So be it!

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