"Thinspiration" Trend - A Self-Medicating Danger Zone

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Social networks are proving to have a sinister use when weightloss is taken to the extreme. This "thinspiration" trend has doctors worried, according to CBS News (http://cbsloc.al/MbVmW4) and therapist Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil wants people to recognize that something as seemingly innocent as posting inspirational pictures can have a detrimental effect.

"Thinspiration" images have been banned on sites like Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest (Business Insider, July 26th: http://read.bi/OJlzQb) and doctors are concerned that people - especially young women - are finding camaraderie and support for behavior that could be part of an eating disorder (CBS News: http://cbsloc.al/MbVmW4). Therapist Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil agrees that this can be a sinister side of social networking sites, and especially damaging to teenagers who may face eating disorders.

"These sites have a huge upside - they can provide support for people to make healthy changes in their lives," points out Dr. Bonnie, "but the downside is that people exhibiting negative behavior also can find a community to encourage their behavior." People who exhibit this behavior need to be careful about how they view their bodies, and their friends - whether in "real life" or on social networking sites - should be tuned in to what types of images they're posting and the behavior they're exhibiting.

To understand the issue underlying "thinspiration," Dr. Bonnie says it stems from stress, separation, and loss. This causes people to self-medicate, and often the only thing they feel they can control is how they look, so they turn to unhealthy images and/or behaviors, she explains.

Another contributing factor is that many women feel inadequate: "The images they post may make them feel in control for a while because they feel like they can do something about their body," says Dr. Bonnie, "but it leads to more feelings of stress, loss, and depression when their self-image doesn't match up with their fantasy."

Dr. Bonnie says this is a hold over from prior to the women's lib movement, when women didn't feel they had intrinsic value and self-worth was correlated to their attractiveness and youth. Society has not caught up with women she says: "Our society and the media continues to emphasize beauty and youthful looks - in magazines, ads, on TV. We know it's important to look on the inside, not the outside, but people are prejudiced toward beauty."

Dr. Bonnie encourages women who may be inspired by "thinspiration" images to address the underlying issues and assess how they may be using this type of social networking to self-mediate. Women need to learn to re-map the patterns in their brain that lead to negative self-talk. If that is a long time coming," suggests Dr. Bonnie, "I encourage women to 'fake it till they make it.' Believe the best about themselves, even if they really don't. Eventually that will start to be true." To this end, she has patients write a mantra and hang it up on their mirror, saying something like: "I AM thin enough, I AM beautiful enough, I AM good enough, I AM lovable enough."

For further help on this, check out Dr. Bonnie's book Make Up Don't Break Up - she encourages people struggling with their weight to make up with their self image, not break up with it! To see Dr. Bonnie talk about healthful habits, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLKtNoHd0yw&list=UUMtSY71kjJVxaBnDjDdt2oQ&index=8&feature=plcp.

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