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The Pro-Recovery Movement: Its Usefulness as a Tool for Eating Disorder Professionals

Article contributed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC and Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC

As an eating disorder professional and advocate for recovery, you have likely encountered the various obstacles your patients/clients have faced in their own recovery journey.  The opposition towards recovery can take many forms, including internal and external forces alike that fuel the eating disorder nature.  Individuals fighting for their lives and seeking freedom from an eating disorder will face many unexpected challenges.  As an eating disorder specialist, understanding what these challenges involve can better prepare you in your professional interactions, improving the effectiveness of the support and tools offered to your patient in their recovery.

One of the strongest opposing forces to eating disorder recovery comes from the internet and “pro-eating disorder” communities.  Otherwise known as “pro-ana” (pro-anorexia) and “pro-mia” ( pro-bulimia), these movements have proliferated rapidly in cyberspace, appearing in various blogs, website, forums, and more with a 470% increase in pro-ana/pro-mia sites from 2006 to 2007 [1].  The potential damage of these dangerous movements to eating disorder recovery should not be underestimated.  Research has demonstrated that women who view pro-ana sites experience an increase in negative influence and decrease in self-esteem, perceived attractiveness, and appearance [2].  With greater accessibility to the internet and widespread use of social media sites, individuals are constantly exposed to a wide variety of material that is counter-productive to eating disorder recovery.

In response to this force of darkness that so negatively influences eating disorder sufferers, Eating Disorder Hope has created the Pro-Recovery Movement.  As an effort to promote online health, hope and healing in the eating disorder community, the Pro-Recovery movement is designed to be a light of inspiration to eating disorder sufferers at all levels with kind words, compassion, acceptance and understanding.  In contrast to the Pro-Ana communities that embolden the stronghold of an eating disorder, the Pro-Recovery Movement empowers individuals in their recovery by encouraging self-acceptance, positive body image and healing connections with others.

With eating disorder sufferers today facing increased online opposition to recovery, having resources that reinforce and sustain their efforts towards healing is essential.  Contributing to a supportive community can create a positive impact for individuals recovering from an eating disorder, especially as eating disorders thrive in isolation and shame.  As an eating disorder professional, you have the ability to suggest eating disorder recovery tools and resources that will encourage your patient to flourish and overcome the many obstacles they might face in their journey.  The Pro-Recovery Movement can serve as an important aspect of an individual’s recovery, as they are encouraged to become part of a group who celebrate life, hope, and healing and commits to promoting these values in their social media posts.  The opposition against recovery may run rampant, but the hope that is recovery outshines any hindering darkness.


[1]: 2008 International Internet Trends Study, Optenet, 2008-09-24, retrieved 2013-12-18

[2]:  Bardone-Cone, A M; Cass, K M (2007), “What does viewing a pro-anorexia website do? An experimental examination of website exposure and moderating effects”, International Journal of Eating Disorders 40 (6): 537–548, doi:10.1002/eat.20396

Page last updated and reviewed: By Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on

December 30, 2013
Published on, Treatment and Information for Eating Disorders

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