Image from the pro-ana blog Fairydust
The French parliament is currently debating a law banning all blogs and websites that encourage or defend anorexia. The white paper refers specifically to "pro-ana" blogs, where the illness is considered extremely fashionable. Young anorexics react to the proposed law and tell us about the pro-ana movement.
Pro-ana bloggers deny encouraging anorexia. But their personal pages are plastered with pictures of skinny stars like Nicole Richie and Mary-Kate, and they're more than happy to discuss the latest weight-losing techniques.
Sarah, 23, has been anorexic for five years. She hasn't left the house for three months and has created a Facebook group about anorexia.
Justine doesn't understand the blog phenomenon because she got out [see her account below]. Me, I understand that anorexic people need to find each other, on blogs. I use them regularly. Both to see photos of super skinny stars, because I find them beautiful, but also to swap slimming tips. You have to remember that people can be really mean to girls like us. I get loads of insulting comments on my Facebook page.
However, I'd have to say I don't think I'm part of the majority of these girls. They ask questions like "How do you become anorexic?" That doesn't make sense. It's not something you choose, it just happens to you.
I'm well aware that my situation is ironic. I like thinness and I'd like to stay at my current weight. But at the same time, I'm aware that anorexia is an illness and that I have to suffer for it. I'm losing my nails and my hair just like the others. But the worst thing is, I feel completely cut off from the world. My friends have given up on me, I don't have any kind of real relationship and I can't even work anymore (I worked in a nightclub but they don't want me anymore).
Banning these pro-ana blogs doesn't worry me. I was anorexic before they existed and I won't stop because they disappear. Plus, I think they encourage girls to get ill. Just because they want to be as thin as the stars.
As for me, I know what I say doesn't fit - I do want to get out of this. I'm going to try to see a psychiatrist. But not yet. I don't feel ready to leave the house."
Justine ran a blog when she was anorexic. She then made a book out of the entries, called "This morning I decided to stop eating". She's since managed to escape the diet.
There were a lot of reasons I fell into anorexia. From a personal side, I had a younger sister, so I had to leave her my room to sleep in a smaller one downstairs. I felt like I was in a coffin. Plus, I was in love with my dad. He called me a "fat cow". From a social side, I wanted to be perfect, pretty...I was brilliant at school, I worked hard and was already in an international school at 16. But I had the impression that there was something missing- and that thing was beauty.
I started avoiding food. Within two years, I'd lost 36 kilos (30 in the first year). But at some point there was a moment of realisation. I was watching the Tour de France - I'm a cycling fan, like my dad. And I decided I wanted to become a sports journalist. For that, I'd have to stop making myself sick.
It was my sister who came up with the idea to start a blog. I'd quit school. I stayed at home and did nothing but slept. I didn't speak to my parents...so I'd empty my mind on my blog. I quickly got hooked; I needed outside contact. Plus, I was getting returns. About 100 visits a day [today, while she doesn't write the blog, it gets around 800 or 900 visitors per day]. The blog let me de-dramatise the situation. You could see that I was suffering in the photos I put online, but I always managed to stay on top in my writing.
Among the people who commented on my blog there were people trying to help me and others encouraging me to continue my battle. I thought I was an isolated case, it did me a lot of good to realise that I wasn't.
Anorexia is not a game. You fall into it, but you don't want to- like the pro-anas seem to think. That movement is about insanity. It doesn't have anything to do with anorexia."