Pinterest isn’t the only high tech enabler for the pro-ana community. According to The Fix, smartphone aps that allow users to count calories taken in and calories burned give ED sufferers instant access to numbers over which they can newly obsess. One therapist lamented that the digital age has given her patients more opportunities than ever to access information that can help them live disordered lifestyles more efficiently.
THIS is the point that seems so hard to get across when talking about thinspo/Pro-Ana. When you’re dealing with a kind of disordered behavior that seizes the opportunity to count, to log, to imagine everything in relation to food and exercise and weight, every sort of recording or computational technology is enabling. Just like how an addictive personality can develop an addiction to the most benign substances or habits, someone with an eating disorder can find a subtle way to abuse nearly everything.
My friend found boxes of her great-aunt’s calorie counting notebooks in her house when she died, dating back to the Kennedy administration. I knew a bulimic woman who had two shelves of cookbooks in her tiny studio apartment. I knew a girl who had devised a diet that consisted only of potato chips who never showed up anywhere without some sort of food that required intensive preparation (homemade pasta, intricately decorated cakes), and never ate a bite of any of it. The sort of disordered eater who relies on thinspo is in a visible minority. If you know people with eating disorders, Thinspo and Pro-Ana types are kind of hilarious caricatures, on a continuum of calorie logging, step-counting, obsessive picture-taking of food, recipe pinning, cupcake-making-but-not-eating.
The big wave of personal health technology is all about enabling “healthy” lifestyles vis a vis technology. But there’s not really an acknowledgment of that really fine line between being conscious and being obsessive, nor is there a feminist understanding about performance.