Pro-bulimia or "pro-mia" websites are an increasingly popular tool for young people, mostly teenage girls, to gain support and alliance with others who have bulimia. But instead of portraying eating disorders as an illness, these websites, generally written by young women with anorexia or bulimia, depict them as a "lifestyle choice"-something to be proud of. Pro-mia websites offer tips and tricks for purging and hiding this from friends and family, advice for protecting tooth enamel from erosion, and so on. Many such sites glamorize eating disorders with photo galleries of emaciated actresses and models-"thinspirations." Some promote solidarity in the form of beaded bracelets-blue for bulimia.
While pro-mia websites cannot be blamed for the development of eating disorders in teens, they can draw those who have experimented with purging more deeply into this behavior by offering a sense of belonging and community and portraying bulimia as a desirable choice for controlling weight.
How can parents guard against a teen's venturing into pro-mia websites? While it is virtually impossible to do this, you can combat the power of such information in these ways:
- Stay informed. Educate yourself about pro-mia websites and then educate your teen about some of the erroneous information on these sites. If you can't sort out fact from fiction, ask your family physician for help.
- Look for reputable websites on eating disorders to share with your child.
- Be a role model for healthy eating. Spend time as a family cooking together and eating together.