Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What is thinspo and why is it so dangerous

In my older post, Eat Right and Exercise... whatever that means, I put in this "This is a No Thinspo Zone" image. A few weeks later I was chatting with friends on facebook, because several of their Pintest accounts had been hacked and were displaying some pins I called out as thinspo. Then somebody asked me what thinspo is and it dawned on me that this might be a good subject for my blog. So here we go: What is Thinspo and why is it EVIL...

Thinspo is short for "thinspiriation" (thin + inspiration) and encompasses many pictures and sayings that are meant to encourage people in their weight loss pursuits. Of the face of it that doesn't necessarily sound entirely evil. Weight loss can be good when done in the right way and for the right reasons, and if there's some saying or picture that helps with that healthy goal, what's the harm, right? Well, that's not really what thinspo is all about. Thinspo is the tool of pro-anorexics (aka pro-ana) to not only encourage their own self-destructive behavior, but with the nature of the internet and social networks it also helps to spread the destructive idea that thinner is always better.

Pro-ana thinspo is filled with images of women with sallow cheeks, bones protruding so far it almost looks painful, images of thinness that reek of self-starvation. These pictures are often accompanied by words of "encouragement" and pro-ana slogans (such as "time wasting is never time wasted" - which is the only example I will give because it's the one that sounds the stupidest and hopefully isn't too triggering). And if your mind is healthy it's scary, it's disturbing, it's sad. But if you're suffering from your own body dismorphia it can be enticing, exciting, and very, very addictive.

And it's so easy to find. You could goole-search it (although I don't recommend it) and you'd find tons of sites, image repositories, message boards, and online communities all dedicated to thinspo and pro-anna encouragement. If you lurk on these sites (again, really, don't) you will find all that I've described and more. It's a disturbingly thriving community filled with women and girls (and some men/boys although not nearly as many, in my experience) who are desperate to look like Kate Moss, or Twiggy, or some even thinner ideal. They talk to each other, communicate their struggles, and urge each other on. They brag about not eating, or lament a pound not shed. The berate themselves publicly over their own "failures" and congratulate others on their "successes". They form pairs and groups and swear pacts to not eat. Just writing about it makes me sick to my stomach.

How do I know all of this? Because I've been there. I've spent time (often when I should have been eating lunch) pouring over pro-ana sites, saving my favorite images or memorizing little quotes to repeat back at myself later. And I used some of the worst of it to convince myself I didn't have a problem. Those girls were looking at thinner models, those girls were eating less, therefore what I was doing was fine. But guess what? It wasn't. And it still isn't. Even though I've stopped the destructive behavior, the thoughts and impulses are there. The Though Monkey still tells me I'm fat, gross, that people are talking about it, and that I should be ashamed, that I don't deserve to eat. And any hint of thinspo brings that voice to the surface (even the silly Medifast or JennyCraig commercials can get to me on a bad day).

So that, in a nutshell, is thinspo. I wish we could, collectively as a society, stop posting images or "tips" that focus on weightless above all, but I know that's not going to happen. I know I won't be able to completely avoid all the images and talk that smacks of thinspo. But I can stop from looking for it, I can avoid it where I can, and I can call it out when I see it. And I guess that's what I'm doing right now.

21 comments:

  1. I think you're supposed to report those sites, most forums will take them down.

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  2. Love this. As a recovered bulimic, the ThinSpo craze makes me sick, too, and makes me doubly sick when thinking about my daughter growing into this culture that has such warped ideas of female beauty. On the other side of the token, I have hope thanks to the Crossfit community that we have joined. Though it does have crazies and people who take it far too seriously, it provided me with the healthier mindset of loving my body for what it is capable of, not for what it looks like, and THAT is the model I am trying to embody for my children.

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    1. I agree, one of the scariest things is thinking about my daughter's encountering these harmful things.

      I'm really glad i have hockey and that hasn't been spoiled by body image issues. I'm still trying to enjoy going to the gym while fighting thoughts about calories burned or looking for results on my waistline. It's a journey.

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  3. I've been informed by someone close to me who has struggled with bulimia that the voice is named ED (short for Eating Disorder). Also the voice never goes away. You learn to ignore it or cover it with healthier thoughts but it's always waiting for that time when you'll listen. I haven't actually had an eating disorder but I can understand it and the allure. I do try to avoid the images and posts and hope I am raising children to look at food in a healthy happy way.

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    1. I attribute all the evil things my brain says to the Thought Monkey. And he is an evil bastard.

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  4. Fascinating.....thanks for sharing....

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  5. Thanks for writing about this. It seems like there is so much I don't know that I have to learn before my daughter gets a little bit older.

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    1. Thanks. Yeah, it's depressing to learn about but good to be aware of...

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  6. Thinspo is dangerous. Often times it's couched in this idea that thin = good health. A lot of the methods discussed in those forums, however, is pretty much the exact opposite of healthy.

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    1. exactly. I hate the notion that skinnier = healthier that is hammered into us every time we turn on the TV or open a magazine...

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  7. I've never heard the term thinspo before, but wow. It makes sense. I go through phases still where I'm uncomfortable with my body, but I'm also at an age (my 20 year hs reunion is next month) that I don't obsess about it anymore. I'm too busy with family, work and kids to put that much effort into any of it. Thanks for writing about his and bringing it out there...

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    1. I hope I can feel that way in 20 years. Unfortunately my grandmother has suffered with body issues in to her 90s (maybe 80s?) so I know some aren't so lucky, but at least being aware of it as a problem can be helpful.

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  8. I adore this post! I believe that is one of the things I love about you the the majority. You were the very first blog I sponsored...and I think I had like 45 followers then. You were so syrupy and didn't treat me like I was an idiot because my blog was new and little :) And you are so right..it's hard being so private sometimes and then when I get a comment that is just simple mean it hurts...it every now and then even makes me want to throw in the towel.
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  9. hopelessness is a horrible illness. It takes a very brave someone to do what you do. Thanks for sharing. I have seen misery cripple people physically. Message Boards

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  10. Excellent post. I struggled with childlessness for years and tried any and everything I possibly will. I aspiration you lots of love and support on your expedition. Red Clover and Nettles are excellent choices designed for herbal support fruitfulness prop up. Thanks for sharing on Wild crafting Wednesdays! I hope you'll join us another time and contribute to more of your breathtaking posts in the future. Message Boards

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  11. Your post is so inspiring and I admire your honesty. We need to spread awareness about these pages and acknowledge that they are harmful and accelerate a vicious cycle whereby young girls are not only hurting themselves they're encouraging each other at the same time. These pages promote an unhealthy and like you said destructive way of young girls percieving and treating themselves.

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