Posted: May 20, 2014 7:00 AM
Do you know what Pro-Ana is? How about Thinspo? You may not be familiar with these terms, but your teen probably is. The internet is ripe with sites that not only encourage anorexia and bulimia but also provide step-by-step instructions on how to get there.
Photo credit: Monkey Business Images/ Vetta/ Getty Images

When you need information, the internet is always there to help. It's particularly useful for our children, who turn to the web for homework help, song lyrics, viral videos and more. Unfortunately, the net is also a source of info on topics we'd rather our kids not have access to — like how to develop an eating disorder.

So, just for fun, let's pretend that you're a teen who wants to be really skinny. Jump on the internet (feel free to use a laptop, tablet, phone, whatever you have on hand), and you're just three steps away from developing a bonafide eating disorder.

Step  1^ Get (th)inspired

Online communities of people — male and female alike — come together to celebrate thinness. Out here, they can share extreme weight loss tips and success stories. They support and encourage one another to be as skinny as they can possibly be.

See it for yourself. Google terms such as thinspo, pro-ana, pro-mia and ed (which stand for thinspiratoin, pro-anorexia, pro-bulimia and eating disorder), and you'll discover countless photos of crazy-skinny people posing proudly in selfies.

Beyond the photos is everything you need to know to become just as skinny. Extreme diet and exercise tips promise fast results, and endless thinspirational quotations help keep you focused on your "goals:"

Fat lasts longer than flavor.
The skinnier the better.
Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
Leave the curves and love your bones.
Be strong and get skinny.
Make them regret the day they dared call you fat.

What more do you need to get motivated?

Step  2^Find advice

Now that you've been thinspired, you can get down to the business of shedding a ridiculous amount of weight. Not sure how to get started? These websites lay out super-helpful tips to make sure you're losing weight at a dangerously rapid rate in a way that seriously harms your body.

Kim's daughter struggled with severe bulimia throughout her teen years. "The eating disorder sites 'support' and teach girls how to hide their disorder, how to lose weight, how to purge and restrict food," says Kim. "I believe the internet fueled her disorder more than anything else."

On the Skinny Warriors blog, you can find 127 Pro Ana Tips & Tricks "to distract yourself from cravings or giving in to binging, exercise tips, how to burn calories faster, etc." Despite the blogger's claim that she is "not promoting anorexia," the tips speak for themselves:

  • Pick one food for the day. You can eat something like an apple. Cut it into four quarters. Eat one part for breakfast, one for lunch, one for dinner and you've got one left over for a snack.
  • Watch other people eat. Sometimes people eating looks so gross.
  • Stay away from food and the kitchen (unless your parents are around, then pretend like you just finished getting a snack).
  • Pinch all your fat if you want to eat and see how disgusting it is and then you'll think that if you eat you'll just add more to it and you don't want that.
  • When you get the urge to eat, chew sugar-free gum. Just make sure you keep track of how much you have. Most kinds have five calories a piece.
  • Eat in front of the mirror. Hell, eat in front of the mirror naked and see how much you want to eat then.
  • Keep a thinspiration book. Get a really nice journal or something and print pictures of skinny models, tips, quotes or workouts, and glue it in there. Look through it whenever you want to binge.

Need more tips? There are thousands and thousands more where they came from...

Step  3^Take control

It all boils down to taking control. "It is not about the food," says recovered bulimic Kayla. "It is always about some kind of issue like stress, school, control... something the person can't handle in her life that causes her to do this. It is a coping mechanism."

When Barb began to suspect that her 17-year-old daughter was developing an eating disorder, she snooped. "I went through her computer history and read her journal," Barb says. "I found links to horrible photos of skeletal girls and really skinny celebrities, and what I read in her journal scared me to death."

Barb's daughter wrote about herself in the most derogatory manner. Her self-loathing was heartbreaking. "She was taking laxatives — laxatives that I had bought for what I thought was a stomach problem — and beating herself up for eating one Hershey's Kiss. She got on the treadmill for two hours to punish herself for 50 calories." It was her way of controlling her life.

Barb's daughter was both anorexic and bulimic. She restricted her food intake, and she also purged via the laxatives and exercise. "I thought bulimics vomited to get rid of calories, but I found out that they'll use pretty much any means possible to get the calories out."

She admitted that she was just curious at first, and then she started following some of the advice.

When Barb finally confronted her daughter, she discovered the power of those internet sites. "She admitted that she was just curious at first, and then she started following some of the advice." It took on a life of its own, which is why many refer to their eating disorders as "Ed" or "Eddy" — an entirely separate entity.

With professional help, Barb's daughter got the developing disorder under control before it was able to damage her heart, kidneys, teeth, stomach, throat, reproductive organs... Sadly, Barb believes that her daughter will spend the rest of her life walking the fine line between healthy and disordered.

So there you have it: three easy steps to ruining your body.

More on weight loss extremes

Why the bikini bridge should be burned
How your body image affects your teen's body image
The fine line between inspiration and thinspiration