What is "thinspiration," and what should I know about it?

Pressure to live up to narrow beauty standards has contributed to a growing number of online communities dedicated to promoting unhealthy behavior. Thinspiration -- or "thinspo" -- websites feature photos, blog posts, diet and exercise instructions, and inspirational messages devoted to the pursuit of thinness. Also called "pro ana" (for pro-anorexia) sites, these communities draw kids who want to achieve the thin body ideal often praised in our culture. Clearly, they promote unhealthy ideals and activities, and kids should avoid them. It's not only teens who are affected; younger girls and boys are becoming more body-conscious, too.

Talk about the health consequences of eating disorders. Your kids may know of someone with anorexia or bulimia. Ask them about their reactions. Point out that these are illnesses, not defects, and that their friends need help. If your child has one of these disorders, it could be a life-threatening illness, and you should consult a medical professional immediately.

Don't bug kids about their weight -- emphasize health and fitness instead. Be an active family. Get your child up and moving by taking a walk, doing a sport, or taking a class at the gym together.

Set a good example. Don't speak critically about how you look when you're around your kids. Avoid saying that you've been "bad" for eating something or even calling certain foods "good" or "bad." Instead, model making healthy decisions and appreciating your body for all the wonderful things it can do.

Praise skills and talents. Make sure you're praising kids -- especially girls -- for the things they do, not their looks. Girls get a lot of attention for how they look, and it can make them focus more on their appearance than is healthy.

Watch out for signs of unhealthy eating. Fixating on appearance, dieting, and overeating all can be signs of a problem. Eating disorders are very serious and can even be life-threatening. The good news is that they're easier to treat the earlier they're caught, so make sure you know the signs, and don't be afraid to consult a medical professional if you're worried.

The Child Mind Institute contributed to this article. Learn more at childmind.org.

Ask Our Experts
Was this answer helpful?
Sign in or sign up to share your thoughts

Comments

Kid, 11 years old

Teach your kids to not care about what others think, but to stay in good physical shape. Not too be too fat, not too skinny, just right. Anorexia is a horrible thing and I pray that no one has to go through it. Tell your kids that if someone insults them on their weight, they shouldn't stop eating. Teach your kids about proper dieting, and to eat the right stuff. Good luck.
Teen, 17 years old written by Joer'ct D.

Anorexia is not something easy to deal with and can be coverd up or passed as a symptom of Major Depression Disorder. I know, because I AM anorexic and Ive been treated for depression with no improvement to the anorexia whatsoever. PARENTS, LISTEN TO ME, its not just overeating you should worry about. Its also the LACK OF EATING OR LACK OF THE DESIRE TO EAT, EVEN IF THE KID KNOWS THEY SHOULD. Also keep track of what they do during these times, and insist on them weighing themselves every so often. I currently weight 160 lbs AND DROPPING because I HATE EATING and instead of eating I walk around town for hours on end. AND I DID ALL THIS WITHOUT THINSPO. Dont let your teens take antidepressants, those will alao mess them up
Adult written by Carolineowl

“Thinspo” photos do not cause eating disorders, collecting them may be a symptom of an eating disorder but they are not the cause of them. Anorexia has social, emotional and genetic components. Anorexia is also a lifetime disease it can go into remission but you’re never cured anorexia is also a lifetime disease it can go into remission but you’re never cured, and it would Exist without Thinspo or not. Thinspo collecting is just a visible symptom of obsessive weight related thoughts. Going on a crash diet and thinking you looked worse after losing weight is not anorexia Especially if you think your problem was caused by photos of other people. If someone has Collections of these photos though it is a major red flag and the earlier someone gets treatment for an eating disorder the more likely they will have a chance at sustained recovery.
Teen, 14 years old written by nadiathoughts

thinspiration will kill you first on the inside and then on the out. i went through anorexia and lost over thirty pounds all due to bs like thinspiration. I passed out and fainted and went through severe anxiety because of my unhealthy weight loss. TELL YOUR KID THIS. I LITERALLY LOOKED 20X MORE GROSS AFTER I LOST WEIGHT
Teen, 15 years old written by Yer Boi

Thinspiration is a problem I find with this generation. Anorexia is a medical disorder that has led to the unnecessary deaths of many young men and women. Talk to your child that the best way to lose weight is with a proper diet and exercise. Eat when you are hungry, and make sure you are getting enough of each nutrient your body needs, and exercise. Exercise doesn't need to be heavy, just go on a walk or take some groceries in. But also remember to tell them that if they are at a healthy weight or something of the sort, they shouldn't be worrying too much.
Teen, 13 years old written by mavrc31027

Thinspiratinon is why this generation is slowly declining. It's sad to see kids my age killing themselves just so they can meet the media's standards of beauty. Media poisons the minds of today's youth and it's disgusting.
Kid, 10 years old

Exactly!! What a shame this is happening... D: ... Yes, of course i want to be thin, but NATURALLY!! I would prefer to be fitter.