Letter to Moms and Dads

Something has been brought to my attention, again. I thought I might bring it to yours. Not so long ago, right after I had my first baby girl, I was on Live Journal. If you don’t know what it is, it is a journal community. Similar but different to all the journal communities out there. One could make communities for anything they were passionate about. We had spinners and knitters communities galore. But there were other darker communities of course.

One such genre of community really got to me. It was the pro-ana communities. Pro-ana = yay-eating disorder. It was all communities filled with girls that hated their bodies. I don’t mean hated like all teens do in a way. I mean hated in a way that led them to the eating disorders. Hated in a way that kinda chokes me up a little to think that little girls do this. The communities were there to help support one another in the hate. Things were bandied about like “Look at yourself in a mirror, think about how much you hate your body, think about all the changes you want to make. DON’T EAT – you’ll never change all that flab if you eat”. Lots of photos as well:

The pro-ana communities are not helpful and its worrisome if your daughter is in those communities and believing the hate your body messages. Boys can fall into it to but the eating disorders are mostly a girls domain. I fought in those communities. I went in and I yelled at them. I told them how wrong they were…..sigh. It really wasn’t so productive. These girls were sick and holding on their illness as if it were a life raft that I was trying to throw them off of.

I don’t know what it would take to help those girls.

Lately on Pinterest there has been a bunch of Pro-ana things popping up. I had been largely ignoring them because of past experience, I knew there was nothing I could to help the Pro-ana community at large. Then I read THIS ONE and it got to me. It was that same statement as what I mentioned above. So I made my response to it as a photo and put it up in Flickr.
Clickable so you can read it.

And now as I see offensive pro-ana stuff I’ve been posting my responses as I’m inspired. I am under no delusion that pro-ana sites like Starved Down would ever go away but I thought maybe if I helped Moms and Dads know what’s out there, just maybe I could help a little. I worry that when I’m dieting and exercising that my daughters might misconstrue that into something else. Every time my 10 year old asks me if I think her thighs are fat, I cringe. I try to be careful to not talk about fat and thin in such ways that may sway them. I try to stress healthy. HEALTHY. Not fat or thin. We want healthy. HEALTHY. It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or if you’re thin. It matters if you’re healthy. Put good food in and good will come out.


Here’s what I’m doing. For the time being, when I see this pro-ana stuff and something strikes me, I’m going to put up an “anti-ana/pro-healthy” ad onto my flickr. If you want to borrow it, you are absolutely welcome to it. Maybe in the end all I’ll be doing is making my ads to make myself feel better and to remind myself of one of the dangers that lay in the minds of little (and big) girls everywhere. That’s enough for me.

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37 Responses to Letter to Moms and Dads

  1. cauchy09 says:

    You are my hero! The mainstream media has always seemed pro-ana to me and so these extreme images are doubly stunning. Thanks for fighting back!

  2. Jennifer says:

    I have heard of these groups, but didn’t realize how pervasive they were becoming. And they do concern me. I too struggle with being healthy, and worry about the example I set for my daughter.

    Thanks for doing this, and bringing it forward.

  3. Beverly says:

    I love, love, love that you are doing this! Bravo! You are an awesome example of how to make a difference!

  4. aprill says:

    way to make me all teary on a monday morning.
    i so appreciate that you are doing this. i grew up very affected by my mom’s eating disorder and vowed at a young age to never go there. loving yourself and your body is a real challenge when our entire (mainstream at least) culture tells us to hate ourselves. thank you for fighting that pervasiveness. those pro-ana groups make me hug my daughters a little tighter.

  5. liz says:

    Your caring & touching response to pro-ana sites is wonderful. Carry on!

  6. Pumpkinmama says:

    I think this is a great way to respond. Those sites are so disturbing and heartbreaking.

  7. Hannahbelle says:

    this is awesome, Amy. I hope that it touches a few people and they re-pin your altered originals <3

  8. Spiderlady says:

    I am on it, being overweight myself but healthy and always always hearing I was fat from my mom when I wasn’t. I grew up with a warped
    sense of body image. What a shame.

  9. kate says:

    you’re awesome.

  10. Janice in GA says:

    Wow, that’s awesome. I was unaware of these groups (too old, no daughters). I applaud you for taking an alternate message to them. :)

  11. Yarnpr0n says:

    THANK YOU!! I saw that first item you mentioned on Pinterest last week and was really angered by it. I get so sad thinking about these Pro-Ana groups.
    It’s beyond chasing an unattainable dream, it’s suicide. I can’t imagine how much these girls and boys must hate themselves so much as to participate in these groups.
    It’s so frustrating to think that the ones who actually manage to survive this abuse on their own bodies will grow up with health issues and emotional issues that they will carry with them the rest of their lives.

    I love what you are doing here, and I love that you are moved to do something about it! I will be sure to pass it on via pinterest, twitter, whatever I can.

  12. Marie says:

    Thank you! It might not feel like you are making a difference but even if your images can get one girl to rethink her pro-ana ideals you have won. I worry about my baby girls growing up and having to deal with this. I plan to take a page from your book and stress healthy is beautiful not matter what the size or shape.

  13. kellie says:

    You just added a new word to my vocabulary. I have 2 teenage daughters and had no idea such sites and on-line communities exsisted. Thank-you for the education.

  14. Helen says:

    I’m glad you’ve posted this information, thank you xx

  15. misa says:

    So scary how to internet can feed this horrible illness. Thank you for fighting back.

  16. Ce says:

    I love it. Will link back.

  17. Manise says:

    Totally awesome Amy! A super way to respond to this. Those sites are really scary.

  18. Phoe says:

    As a former member of these communities, I thank you. It’s a hard recovery and sanity helps.

  19. Lynn says:

    And you wonder why I’m so supportive of you! Good job, you!

  20. random Cindy says:

    Wow, how sad, I had no idea. I applaud your creative, positive responses.

  21. Gale says:

    You go girl!!!

  22. Holly says:

    Thank you.

  23. Annalea says:

    Oh man. Pro-ana on Pinterest? That’s got to stop. I don’t know how, but there’s no way I’ll support a site that aids groups like that.

    Keep up the good work, Amy. You’re awesome. You’re so unabashedly yourself . . . and seem like one of the most self-confident and down-to-earth ladies I’ve ever “known”. Thanks for doing this, as it’s so very needed.

  24. Annalea says:

    One more note: here are the pinning rules:

    Pin thoughtfully.

    Pinterest is for curating and showcasing the things that you love. There are no ‘right’ pins or ‘wrong’ pins, but try to keep the community interesting and beautiful. Don’t be a blatant self-promoter, don’t spam, and don’t pin nudity or images that you think other people will find offensive.

    There’s a small “report” link beneath the “Like” “Tweet” “Embed” “Email” buttons to the right of images. If anyone sees this kind of stuff, please click on the “report” link so the image can be flagged. Maybe the Pinterest guys can do something to help block the sites where this kind of stuff comes from.

    Hope this helps . . .

  25. melissa says:

    I had no idea these groups even existed! How sad that young people can hate themselves so much and seek out “support” to further their sickness. I applaud your efforts and if just one person can realize their mistake, it was all worth it.

  26. tiffaney says:

    Those pro-ana communities on LJ make me so sick. They’re just so unbelievable to me. I love that you’re out there, being the lone voice of reason. I’m going to put these on my flickr so that you’ve got one more voice chiming in.

  27. Elizabeth says:

    I think an important thing to remember that we can set a good example to our sons and daughters and other young women and men in our lives by feeling good about our healthy, female bodies. Bodies that show where we’ve been, what we’ve done, who we’ve loved. A woman’s body has its shape for a natural purpose, and that should be celebrated and enjoyed!

  28. samknits says:

    Love this. You are awesome Amy!

  29. Mags says:

    I think, I like, love you. Although I’m sitting here not eating that sandwich on my plate, and my jeans are sagging off my butt, I do love you, because I know I’m sick and I’m trying not to be.

  30. Heather says:

    Amy, Thanks for doing this. I saw some of what you were creating on FLICKR this weekend. It is such an important message that needs to be heard.

  31. Ezara says:

    LOVE (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000)

  32. Annie says:

    WOW! I didn’t know about this phenomenon. What you wrote in your replies made me cry!! Being overweight since having my children I tend to beat up on myself once an awhile, and this was some really excellent food for thought.
    It is a very, very sad thing to read these pro-ana girls self-hate rhetoric. Woman really need to ban together and Amy is an awesome example of a positive way to be heard. I think I will join some of these sites to see if I can try and send positive messages as well. Way to go Amy-and thank you for shedding light on this problem.

  33. tiffany says:

    Do you have a printable version of your “Be Healthy” response? I have struggled with bulimia since I was a teenager and I find your response to be very inspirational. I would like to print it so I can see it every day.

  34. jenn says:

    your response is beautiful — thank you!

    i struggle with why women are so self destructive. why is it that we choose to harm ourselves physically, psychologically, emotionally?

    just pick up any magazine found in a grocery store line up — full of distortion and mistruth.

    thank you for promoting health!

    moms and dads out there: please take your daughter hiking, play outside, ride bikes, cook together, share family meals, fix things, build stuff! please teach your daughters that they are worth so much more than their sexual appeal!!!

  35. Hi, I know I’m coming late to the conversation. But hearty thanks to you, Madame Boogie, for being a role model and a *compassionate* voice of reason. Just saying, “Don’t do that! Eeek!” won’t work; saying such self-loving things as you do may work.

    @misa — it’s important to remember that although the internet *can* feed these problems, it can *equally* provide help and support for people struggling with them. The internet is vast! :)

    @jenn — I love what you wrote just above me, with such a strong message to parents. I’d add one little thing, and I don’t even know how to word it, so here goes: Of *course* “our” (I just borrow kids) daughters are worth so much more than their sex appeal — but it’s *not* an either/or thing — being healthy should almost certainly make them *more* attractive (I hate to say sexy about teens!). I’ve generally been at least somewhat well-padded, and I’ve never had any trouble in that aspect of life. I feel like if I had a teenaged girl, I’d respond to, “Oh no! I don’t fit in my size 4 jeans anymore!” with “That’s great! You’re growing up — and you’re too awesome for those little girl jeans, anyway; let’s get you some that fit!” etc, and so forth.

    Anyway, Late night babbling. Yay for Amy, and yay for all the lovely commenters. Yay for the internet in general!

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