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Box 22: Pro-anorexia websites

'Pro-ana' refers to a concept or community that promotes or supports anorexia as a choice, rather than an eating disorder. 'Pro-ana' groups are common on the internet, and share advice through message boards and online communities. Doctors view the sites as supporting patients in their illnesses. A 2006 Stanford University study found that 61% of the visitors to these sites used them to obtain tips on weight loss and purging techniques, as well as on how to hide their food-avoidance tactics from friends and family members. Beat (formally called the Eating Disorder Association) states that the real danger of 'pro-ana' sites comes when 'a visitor affected by an eating disorder has at last found someone who really understands the way they feel about themselves'.

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