Pro-anorexia, weight-loss drugs and the internet: an ‘anti-recovery’ explanatory model of anorexia


Address for correspondence: N. J. Fox, ScHARR, University of Sheffield, Regent Court, 30 Regent Street, Sheffield S1 4DA


This paper explores the online ‘pro-anorexia’ underground, a movement that supports those with anorexia and adopts an ‘anti-recovery’ perspective on the disease. While encouraging a ‘healthy’ diet to sustain an anorexic way-of-life, the movement also recommends the radical use of weight-loss pharmaceuticals to pursue and maintain low body weight, in contrast to their conventional use to treat obesity. Using ethnographic and interview data collected from participants in the ‘Anagrrl’ website and online forum, we analyse the pro-anorexia (or ‘pro-ana’) movement in terms of its underlying ‘explanatory model’ of the disease, and contrast it with medical, psychosocial, sociocultural and feminist models that encourage a ‘normalisation’ of body shape and weight. We suggest that for participants in pro-ana, anorexia represents stability and control, and Anagrrl offers support and guidance for those who wish to remain in this ‘sanctuary’. We discuss the pro-anorexia movement's use of the internet to facilitate resistance to medical and social theories of disease, and its subversion of pharmaceutical technologies.