Pro Mia and Bulimia: What parents should know
As though it was not enough for parents to worry about eating disorders like bulimia nervosa, parents have to be wary of “pro mia” groups and information as well.
Bulimia is both an eating disorder and a mental health disorder, which involves binge eating, followed by systematic purging.
The typical objective of the affected person is to control their weight, or avoid getting fat.
Pro mia is an abbreviation for pro-bulimia – just as “pro ana” is an abbreviation for pro-anorexia. The concept is to provide support for, “empower,” and encourage those with eating disorders in their chosen “lifestyle.”
The purpose of pro mia
Parents should be aware that pro mia websites and groups are not there to help bulimics recover. Their purpose is to distort the view of bulimia as an illness or disorder, and promote it as a viable lifestyle alternative. The target group is usually those already affected by the disorder – not recovering bulimics or those who are not yet affected.
Bulimia affects young women predominantly
It is true that anyone can develop an eating disorder, but women are far more likely to develop the disorder than men are. Girls in their late teens are particularly sensitive to how they look and are perceived, making them the most susceptible group. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, about 8% of women have been affected by bulimia at some stage in their lives.
Bulimia involves abnormal responses to food
Essentially, bulimia is a great contradiction. The typical bulimic eats excessive amounts of food and – motivated by guilt – purges this soon after, by using laxatives or inducing vomiting. In some cases, the bulimic uses diuretic or excessive exercise to counteract the bingeing.
These behaviors are typically clandestine acts that are often difficult to detect. Pro mia websites and groups encourage this abnormal behavior by providing “useful” information – such as bulimia tips, “how to make yourself throw up,” and “how to protect tooth enamel from erosion.”
How to spot a bulimic
Since bulimia is a well-kept secret, detection often occurs long after it starts. Still, there are some revealing signs of bulimia that parents can look out for. These include, but are not limited to:
- Regular overeating
- Low self-esteem
- Isolation or withdrawal
- Visiting the bathroom soon after meals
- Preoccupation with body weight and image
- Overdosing with laxatives
- Excessive exercise
Those signs can be difficult to detect without keen observation. However, those practices take a toll on the body, leading to the more advanced warning signs below.
- Dental erosion/ decay
- Inflammation and swelling
- Irregular periods
If you find that you child has bulimia nervosa, remember that it is a psycho-physiological condition. It is imperative that your bulimic child see a doctor or dentist to treat the physical effects. After this, psychological recovery is necessary. It is important to get therapy for the affected person, preferably from someone who specializes in eating disorders.
Parents must be particularly wary of pro mia groups that make bulimia seem like a lifestyle choice. Bulimia nervosa affects the mind first before the practice affects the body. The vigilance of those around susceptible persons (particularly young women) is critical in ensuring early treatment of the disorder.