The British royal family has long had a following among young woman, but the newly crowned princess is attracting an unexpected subset of women: those with eating disorders. Kate, who once sported a curvaceous size 8-10 has dramatically slimmed down since being thrust into the public eye. Concerns about her health, and whether she is following in the footsteps of her famous mother-in-law Princess Di, who struggled with disordered eating, abound. Although those close to the royal family deny that Kate has an eating disorder, her size 0 figure has been featured on numerous pro-anorexia websites.
Pro-ana (and pro-mia) websites are the linchpin of an alarming online community that promote the idea that it is positive to lose weight through harmful practices, such as restricting, using laxatives or purging. A common feature of pro-ana sites are “thinspiration pictures,” which often feature dangerously thin celebrities, and are used as models by young women who strive to be as thin as the celebs. A recent search of these sites found Princess Kate touted as “what inspires us to be thin.”
In addition to pro-ana websites, the social networking site Facebook also has groups that promote disordered eating. Facebook came under scrutiny in February of this year after an Israeli study found that time spent on Facebook heightens the risk for girls ages 12 to 18 to develop anorexia or bulimia. Facebook quickly responded by discouraging “status, posts and comments that … could serve as triggers for eating disorders.” A search of Facebook, however, yields plenty of such negative groups, a sad commentary on Facebook’s inability to police such practices.
Friends of the princess told British newspapers that Kate would be horrified to find that she is an inspiration for eating disorders. Perhaps this knowledge will allow her to refocus on herself and appropriate self-care.
It is important for parents to be aware of Internet influences as well as warning signs of eating disorders. These include dramatic weight loss in a relatively short period of time, wearing big baggy clothes or dressing in layers to hide body shape and/or weight loss, obsession with weight and complaining of weight problems, and obsession with calories and fat content of foods.
Some recovery-supportive Facebook pages include:
Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA)
Eating Disorder Hope
Eating Disorders Anonymous
Stop Eating Disorders
A Voice In Recovery
Philadelphia eating disorder programs: