There's a woman at my gym who walks on the treadmill at an incline of 15. This really bugs me. It isn't that she's holding on with a white-knuckled grip, struggling to keep the pace. It isn't that I can't possibly walk at an incline of 15 without flying off and causing myself (and others) serious damage. It's because this woman is the size of a broomstick. And no one seems to care.
Every bone in her back protrudes from sallow skin. Stick legs harsh and a face pinched tight. Her slack mouth gasps for air, eyes roll backwards, and I worry she's about to go into cardiac arrest. Whenever she is around I am on edge. I have to force myself to not make a scene. The floor is a refrigerator, my feet are the magnets. Week by week I watch her determination and that incline of 15 killing her.
It gets worse when other gym-goers talk with admiration. 'I wish I had such a small waist,' or 'I wonder how she got arms that thin?' She's been placed on a creepy pedestal and used as thinspiration. I must have a screw lose. They see beauty. I see serious mental issues. And someone crying out for help.
With my increasing worry for treadmill woman (and my need to understand) I found myself researching thinspiration. Hundreds of websites talk lovingly, promoting their best friend Ana. I soon realised who 'Ana' was. How naively clever of them. No one will realise you're Anorexic with such masterful disguise.
A recent article on Fox news.com has suggested that these Pro-Ana websites do not encourage Anorexia because the disorder is biologically based. Furthermore, the idea that websites, blogs and images supposedly encourage eating disorders is not supported by either Science or research. I'm not convinced. Just because a handful of studies haven't found evidence, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
The Pro-Ana message doesn't mean anything to me. It doesn't dwindle my senses or blur my focus on reality. But what about those easily influenced; highly impressionable people who think their hips are too big or their stomachs aren't toned enough? What about the women gazing up at that pedestal in my gym? Ana's message- 'the only thing that matters is being thin'- might mean something to them. And worryingly, it just might get through.
Reader, what do you think?