1. This is a pro-anorexia bracelet.
According to its makers, “the pro-ana bracelet is worn as a reminder of staying true to your diet, and also to meet other [sic] Ana’s.
2. Perhaps most disturbing: The bracelets are actually out of stock.
3. Pro-ana and pro-bulimia communities have proliferated online, where users can anonymously trade tips and support one another in their desire to lose weight.
As Dr. Alexander Yellowlees, Medical Director at the Priory Hospital explained it, “It’s like having a drinking club for alcoholics where you can learn how to drink more effectively. They are encouraging anorexia and seem to be trying to make money from the illness, like having a happy hour for alcoholics.”
4. There seems to be some confusion around the symbolic meaning of the red bracelets.
According to one woman selling them on Etsy, the bracelets were initially intended as a subtle sign of solidarity among eating disorder survivors. “This bracelet is not intended to be used as “pro-ana” paraphernalia, but as a reminder that one is not ailing or hurting alone,” she explained. “To my knowledge, this was the original idea of the red bracelet, but misuse and negative media attention has warped into it a self-destructive accessory.”
5. But since then, pro-ana groups have perverted the original meaning.
6. Anti-eating disorder advocates are not happy about the bracelets.
“I think it’s appalling,” Lynn Grefe, the CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association told Buzzfeed. “Is someone making pro-cancer or pro-heart disease necklaces? Replace the word ‘ana’ with ‘cancer’ and you realize how absurd and how sick this is, to be encouraging people through jewelry to stay sick. I find it unforgivable.”
7. Grefe encourages people to understand eating disorders as a mental illness, not a lifestyle choice.
“And we have the highest death rate of any mental illness,” she said.
8. Instead of buying a pro-ana bracelet or visiting pro-ana sites, Grefe hopes people will take pause.
“I really encourage people to take a step back and ask if they want to promote a life threatening illness and promote death,” she says. “The longer people are visiting those sites, the longer they’re not getting treatment.”