Most parents of children with an eating disorder are aware of the pro-ana, pro mia, and thinspiration blogs and websites that encourage eating disorders. These blogs are undoubtedly a negative influence and their content is quite shocking. For this reason, parents of children in Walden’s Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) often talk about ways to prevent their children from accessing these sites.
From my experience working with adolescents with eating disorders I can safely say, when it comes to teens and pre-teens, where there is a will, there is a way. Meaning, if someone is determined to find something on the internet, then they are likely to succeed. Creating barriers to access at home will only drive adolescents to seek out sites in other locations like at school or a friend’s house.
Don’t get me wrong, like most parents with children in IOP; I have spent many hours thinking of ways to ban pro-ana and pro-mia sites from cyberspace. Recently, however, I began to view the internet in a different way, after consistently hearing clients talk about sites they have started or joined to find eating disorder support and doing a little internet searching myself to see if supportive eating disorder blogs exactly exist.
I was pleasantly surprised by the options I found. I discovered blogs from real people who are living in recovery, who talk about the day-to-day struggles they are faced with. The writers talk about their feelings and challenges in an honest way and admit when they are having hard days — they do not try to make recovery look simple or easy.
I found a great blog called ED Bites that is about the trials and tribulations one person goes through during their recovery from anorexia. One post on this blog I found extremely helpful is about having an eating disorder and making it through the holidays, which is a big stressor for all our clients in treatment. Another blog called The Unglamorous World of Eating Disorders is also written by a person recovering from an eating disorder. The posts are honest, informative, helpful, and straightforward. And although parents may worry that neither of these blogs are written by teens, I have found that age doesn’t seem to play a role in the type of support provided by blogs.
Other Supportive Eating Disorder Blogs I Discovered Include:
- Laura’s Soap Box
- The Spirit Within
- Boys and Anorexia
- Eating Disorder Hope
- My Bulimia Recovery Blog
Adolescents I work with tell me that group treatment is effective because they finally feel like they are not alone and that someone out there really understands what they are going through. After reading several motivational eating disorder blogs and websites I can understand how online communities can provide the same type of peer support.
While there is often an immediate negative reaction to stop the conversation and deem it “inappropriate” when you hear someone talk about eating disorder internet searches, I encourage parents to engage in the conversation and ask what sites their kids are going on and what they are finding. Having an open discussion about the internet and encouraging a search for helpful sites will prove to be more beneficial than reacting negatively and taking away computers, iPhones, and iPods. Asking your child what they are finding is also a good way to help him or her check the facts about what they are reading and seeing.
The moral of the story is if we don’t ask about what they are reading, we don’t know what message they are receiving. More often than not, I have been surprised by how open kids are about what they see on the internet and the fact that they are willing to talk about how it triggered them or gave them unhealthy suggestions. Our best first line of defense appears to be open communication and encouragement to use the helpful/supportive sites.
About the author:
Michelle Felton is the lead clinician of the Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program for Walden Behavioral Care in Waltham, MA. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Keene State College and her master’s degree in Community Mental Health from Argosy University in Phoenix, AZ. Michelle’s professional interest include the treatment of eating disorders in adolescents, athletes, and families.