Pro Bulimia: What is Pro Mia?
The pro bulimia movement, which is often known as pro-mia or just mia, is part of a movement that claims bulimia is a lifestyle choice and not a mental illness. Pro bulimia proponents seek to promote acceptance of bulimia and they often offer encouragement to bulimics. These pro bulimia or pro-mia individuals deny the horrifying physical consequences of the disease and its ability to kill if left untreated.
Who Would Want To Be Pro Mia?
The movement likely stems from our human nature to form social groups. We all want to feel accepted and part of the norm of a group of people. This might result in social cliques, like in high school, clubs, interest groups or support groups. While many of these groups have a positive impact on their members, the pro bulimia movement mostly skews reality so that members feel better about not seeking recovery from bulimia.
Unbeknownst to many parents, the movement has grown in popularity in recent years due to the unrealistic images of women found in Western society. These images suggest that being thin is beautiful and desirable, while being fat is not. Our culture and media are telling women to be thin and pro-mia advocates take this message to mean that bulimia can be a normal lifestyle choice and this will lead to becoming desirable.
Pro Bulimia Individuals Misguided
Pro bulimia groups often join with pro-anorexia (or pro anna, or simply referred to as Anna) groups. While some pro bulimia organizations claim to support bulimics both through the eating disorder and recovery, many simply want others to accept bulimia as a lifestyle choice. These groups often want doctors and others to respect their decision to be bulimic.
Those who are pro-mia feel that the eating disorder is a positive part of their identity and an accomplishment of self-control.
Pro bulimia groups also tend to:1
- Share pro-mia tips and techniques on crash dieting
- Help each other find socially-acceptable ways to decline food
- Compete with each other in weight loss or fasting
- Commiserate with each other after binge eating
- Give pro bulimia tips on how to vomit, use enemas and laxatives
- Give pro-mia tips on hiding weight loss
- Post their weight, body measurements, details of their dietary regime and pictures of themselves to gain pro-mia acceptance
- Be hostile towards the non-eating disordered community
Pro bulimia and pro anorexia web sites are on the rise with a 470% increase found from 2006 to 2007. A similar increase was found in 2008. Pro mia blogs continue to be created and their traffic is increasing.
Thinspiration is used in both pro anorexia and pro bulimia movements and is a blanket term for images and quotes designed to inspire those with an eating disorder to gain or maintain their thin figure. The images depict thin people, often models and actresses, who fit within the super-thin category. A thinspiration quote may be as follows2:
"One day I will be thin enough. Just the bones, no disfiguring flesh. Just the pure clear shape of me, bones. That is what we all are, what we're made up of and everything else is just storage, deposit, waste. Strip it away, use it up."
There is also a pro bulimia tip known as reverse thinspiration where images of obese women and fatty foods are used to induce disgust and further motivate weight loss.
Potential Impact of Pro Bulimia
The pro bulimia movement could negatively affect those vulnerable to developing an eating disorder or those who are already bulimic. The pro bulimia tips offered by pro-mia individuals make it easier and seem more acceptable to be bulimic and not seek bulimia treatment or recovery.
While being part of a social group is normal, the pro-mia groups can potentially be harmful for everyone. Seriously ill bulimics can die, due to their illness being driven by a distorted image of their body and the world around them. On the other hand, as everyone has a right to self-expression and a feeling of belonging, how can the pro-mia movement be stopped without impacting these basic human rights?
Are Pro Mia Tips and Websites Hurting Our Youth?
The simple existence of pro bulimia sites isn't harming by itself, but unrestricted access to them without the counterbalance of medical information is dangerous. What's more, these websites are very efficient at delivering pro-mia tips and tricks as illustrated by a Stanford Medical School study showing:
- 96.0% learned new weight loss or purging methods while visiting pro-ana or pro-mia sites
- 46.4% of viewers of pro-recovery sites learned new techniques
In the best case scenario, pro-mia websites are browsed simply out of curiosity and are not visited again. In the worst case scenario, they can spark an interest in developing or continuing with bulimic eating patterns. Research bears out the idea that those who view a pro-eating disorder website only once experience lower self-esteem and are more likely to become preoccupied with exercise and weight loss.
Fighting the Pro Bulimia Impact on Our Youth
The number one weapon against the pro bulimia movement is education. It is important for parents to educate their children on eating disorders, their effects, proper nutrition, and health. Parents should acknowledge that pro-mia and pro bulimia tips and tricks exist, but that these are from people in the throes of mental illness and should be considered products of their eating disorder and not reasonable advice. Taking responsibility for a teen's education about, and access to, the internet is another way to help them deal with pro bulimia information when they find it online.
Tracy, N. (2011, November 4). Pro Bulimia: What is Pro Mia?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, June 6 from https://www.healthyplace.com/eating-disorders/bulimia-nervosa/pro-bulimia-what-is-pro-mia