The Psychology Behind Thinspiration

By: Abbey Lyn Clark, Regular Contributor



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Last semester I took an intro course in Abnormal Psychology. The class was listed as a required class for my major, and since I love my major, I went into the class knowing that I would enjoy it. However, I never thought I’d get so much out of it. Even though I wish to work with children and young adults after I graduate, we studied all facets of the human adult mind too. Besides leaving the class with my own brain chocked full of information about almost every mental illness listed in the DSM, I left the class more empathetic for those struggling with mental illness and increasingly more aware of the stigma that surrounds them. I’d like to think that what I got out of the class was far more valuable than the dry, memorized information that I’d probably forget come the following September. Nearly three months later, after taking my professor’s final exam, one lecture in particular has haunted me and taken up a permanent residence in the back of my mind.  

Our modern popular culture praises the stick thin model figure and bends over backwards to endorse liquid diets that starve the normal human body of necessary nutrients. It doesn’t matter how pretty you are on the inside, we are naturally drawn to people that are more attractive; it’s how our brain operates because of socialization. On average, pretty people get better jobs, better pay, and more attention. Our class on eating disorders left me speechless. It was fully comprehensive: We watched a documentary on real women struggling with anorexia in treatment facilities trying to be healthy again, we studied all the different types of eating disorders and subtypes of each, and we studied how eating disorders not only affect the person’s body, they affect almost every aspect of the person’s life including their support systems. Most interestingly, we studied a new movement and trend that is quickly gaining momentum online: Pro-Ana blogs and Thinspiration blogs. While I’ve stumbled upon some Thinspiration blogs in the past, I always thought that they were just a way to provide the blogger with motivation to exercise and eat healthy. Wrong. While I’m sure some Thinspiration blogs are to motivate and fuel healthy lifestyles, some are what we in the blogging world know as “Pro-Ana.” That’s right, Pro-Anorexic. The computer has become some people’s support system. If you don’t believe me, Google “Pro-Ana.” Pictures, message board forums, and informational websites will pop up on your browser. Search for “Pro-Ana blogs,” you’ll be shocked by how many are actually floating out there in cyber space.

After taking a class in Abnormal Psychology, I find myself feeling sorry for the people who believe in the “Pro-Ana” philosophy. Most of all, I’m deeply offended. I find the blogs disturbing and insulting to people who struggle with eating disorders and body image issues. As an advocate of healthy lifestyle choices, I am not immune to the pressure to be thin. I believe that people who believe in the “Pro-Ana” lifestyle are hiding behind masks. They pretend to be proud of their eating disorder and their destructive lifestyle choices, but in reality, they are insecure, hurt, and in need of professional help. I just can’t understand why people that are “Pro-Ana” pretend that it’s a noble lifestyle choice to be rail thin, when they are actually struggling with an eating disorder. The truth is: Eating disorders are real. People who struggle with eating disorders want help, all of them.

My dream is to block every Pro-Ana website that is in existence from every teenage girl’s web browser. This dream will most likely never come true. However, as a future professional, I have the choice to endorse healthy media and real beauty. While Pro-Ana folk may cover up their suffering mental health with a label, I know that I have a choice to dispel myths about eating disorders and advocate for positive mental health. I have the choice to rise above society, rise above unhealthy media, and stand up for teenage girls that feel insecure and uncomfortable in their own skin. The most beautiful part about this choice is that you don’t even have to be a psychology major to make it.  

About Abbey: Abbey Clark is a rising senior majoring in English and Human Development at Boston College. Along with being the I AM THAT GIRL local chapter leader at BC, she is also a yoga instructor and the co-president of her all female a cappella group: The BC Sharps. She loves spending time with her friends & family, baking, and traveling. She is an advocate of healthy living, real beauty, and is so proud to be part of such a beautiful organization that is changing the world for women and girls!



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