SPECIAL REPORT: Eating Disorders and the Internet - Part One

SPECIAL REPORT: Eating Disorders and the Internet - Part One

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

There's no doubt social media has taken off in the last few years but a disturbing trend is popping up in more places online, thanks to social media websites.

Women all over the world are posting tips that encourage unhealthy eating habits and it has professionals concerned.

Do you want hip bones or pizza? A gap between your thighs or cake? These words are destructive to somebody battling an eating disorder and they're all at the click of a mouse.

"We live in a very image obsessed culture and alot of the things we see are very unhealthy representations of beauty," Kimberly Crisp, a licensed professional counselor at Healing Through Hope, said.

It's called thinspiration and it's a term that's leaving a disturbing mark in social media.

Get online and it's not hard to find. A thinspiration search on the popular web site Pinterest found hundreds of images of celebrities, models and messages.

Some promote physical fitness but others take it one step further.

Messages read, "Once on the lips, forever on the hips" and "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."

Some even resort to shaming.

"It's kind of making thin be the ultimate goal, like if you're not thin, you're nothing," Crisp said.

Crisp sees several clients with eating disorders and says this trend on social media can be damaging.

"That's what this thinspiration is," she said. "It's saying 'Well yeah maybe this is unhealthy or maybe it's bad but we'll do it anyway.'"

But it doesn't stop there. Pages promoting unhealthy eating habits are also becoming more widespread.

These are called pro-ana websites, which is short for pro-anorexia. They're easily accessible on social media web sites like Tumblr and personal blogs.

"The goal behind that is to encourage eating disorder behavior, create a community where it's socially accepted," Crisp said.

A pro-ana search brings even more disturbing finds.

Women from around the country, even around the world, are asking for help on how to lose weight fast. It even offers tips on how to avoid eating without getting caught.

Users share their feelings, praise their peers on having amazing bodies and encourage others to keep at it.

"This is not something that needs to be encouraged and supported, it's a disorder," Crisp said.

Crisp said eating disorders are more common than you might think.

"A lot of individuals with eating disorders are extremely high achieving, do very well in school, very social," she said. "Eating disorders can affect anyone from any demographic background but a lot of times it is wealthier families."

Crisp said the majority of her clients who suffer from eating disorders deal with self-esteem issues.

One website, "Daily Dose of Thinspiration," tells readers if they give up they'll look fat in pictures, become a slave to food and battle more depression.

Something these blogs and web sites leave out? The dangers of eating disorders.

Crisp knows these all too well. She's been in recovery for nine years now.

"Some of the young women that I was there with are no longer living," Crisp said. "Being thin isn't worth your life."

But Pinterest is keeping an eye out for their users. A banner pops up on the top of the page when thinspiration is searched.

But for so many people, the thinspiration is hard to leave behind.

"I say I'm not gonna do it, I wake up and I say I'm not gonna do it," Isabel, a local woman who suffers from bulimia, said. "I'm just so scared to gain weight and I hate it."

Crisp is working on getting an eating disorder support group started in the near future.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact Healing Through Hope at 432-238-1239 or on their website at www.healingthruhope.com.

In part two of this special report, Isabel will share her story of struggle with an eating disorder.