Durkin: Don’t be fooled by ‘thinspiration’

By Mollie Durkin

Being unhealthily thin isn’t just mentally and physically harmful — it’s also out of… Being unhealthily thin isn’t just mentally and physically harmful — it’s also out of style.

Last week, Vogue Italia — the Italian version of Vogue magazine that was featured on last season’s “America’s Next Top Model” — launched a campaign against pro-eating-disorder blogs. These sites are all over the Internet, and they feature waifish bodies that glamorize starvation and jutting bones that serve as a source of inspiration, or “thinspiration.”

The magazine has teamed up with the National Eating Disorders Association in the United States to fight these blogs, which might include instructions on how to become anorexic and contain catalogs of miniscule caloric intake and food diaries.

Vogue Italia Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani said on her blog on Friday, “Fashion has been always blamed as one of the culprits of anorexia, and our commitment is the proof that fashion is ready to get on the frontline and struggle against the disorder.”

The magazine published a petition last week on its website, vogue.it, which has so far garnered 4,145 online signatures. The petition includes a comment section, which is littered with many different languages, but the same message: support.

At first, it seems counterintuitive that a major fashion outlet is speaking out against a problem that pervades a modeling industry which prizes thinness, but it’s necessary to cut the cancer at the source to enact change.

Before I tell you to click on over to the website and sign the petition, I suggest you check out a “thinspiration” blog yourself.

Simply typing the term “thinspiration blog” into Google does the trick: What_a_girl_eats.webs.com is a self-described pro-anorexia blog. Upon entering, there is a disclaimer warning that the blog “is only a place where sufferers from anorexia, bulimia, or any other eating disorder can come for support. We know what we are doing. We know it hurts us. We want to believe we are beautiful.” At the top of the site is a link to a page that keeps food diaries with devastatingly small diets. A week of food intake fluctuates from 227 to 515 calories a day, with as much as 1,085 calories listed as being burned in one day. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, women aged 19-30 should take in between 1,800 and 2,400 calories a day, depending on their physical activity levels.”

Forming a support community can be a very healthy project, but glorifying the disease with photos and calling it “beautiful” can cause a recovering anorexic to regress — something the site itself admits — and discourages current sufferers from seeking additional help.

Some websites have links or sidebars that feature certain body parts, like ribs, pelvic bones, breastbones and cheekbones. They break men and women down into little bony compartments, analyze them and idolize them. It’s almost scientific and inhuman. Those featured seem unhappy, unsatisfied and on the verge of sickness or even death. But they’re divine to an entire community of bloggers.

Aside from the widespread disgust that “thinspiration” blogs have spawned, other responses have been more constructive. First, “fitspiration” blogs feature toned, healthy bodies as inspiration for necessary weight loss. This is an admirable community, existing to help people looking for a supportive and inspirational group of friends to keep pushing on to be healthy. These blogs feature athletes, celebrities and the progress of average people who have achieved healthy weight loss.

Even yet, there is another blog-based movement — my personal favorite — on the rise known as “curvespiration.” The movement encourages the love of one’s body just the way it is, featuring plus-size models like Crystal Renn, vintage vixens like Jayne Mansfield and user-submitted photos.

When choosing which blogs to follow, keep in mind your own well-being. Which will actually make you feel good about yourself? Think about it.

According to one study from the National Association of Eating Disorders that polled 1,002 college students, 20 percent admitted to suffering from eating disorders at some point in their lives. Of those, only 75 percent said they received treatment. But those struggling with eating disorders don’t have to suffer in silence.

Recovering can be a daunting process. It can make one feel embarrassed, or even fat once one is climbing back up to a healthy weight. But there are so many students who are likely struggling with eating disorders and need treatment. This is where Pitt can help.

At the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC — which is conveniently located near the Petersen Events Center — there is a service specifically dedicated to help those with eating disorders. The Center for Overcoming Problem Eating, appropriately referred to as COPE, caters to those with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and other eating disorders.

If you or someone you know might have an eating disorder, get help now. To get in touch with COPE or make a referral, call 412-647-9329. And take a cue from Vogue Italia: Being unhealthy is so not in.

Write Mollie at [email protected].