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Dublin: 3°C Friday 4 December 2020

TD calls for debate on blocking eating disorder websites

Sites featuring images of underweight models and ‘The Thin Commandments’ are putting vulnerable people in danger, Mary Mitchell O’Connor said.

Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston, who suffered from anorexia and died in 2006
Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston, who suffered from anorexia and died in 2006
Image: Eugenio Savio/AP/Press Association Images

THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD examine the possibility of blocking access to websites which promote eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor said the sites in question prey on vulnerable people and encourage teenagers to aim for weights that are unhealthy. Anorexia in particular can be fatal to sufferers.

“Websites which promote anorexia, bulimia and aspirations to be thin in general, prey on and exploit the vulnerabilities of people whose ability to reason logically is impaired when it comes to their bodies,” O’Connor said.

Citing a Belgian study in which 12.6 per cent of girls and 5.9 per cent of boys between 15 and 17 had viewed pro-anorexia or pro-bulimia sites, O’Connor said that the rates of eating disorders in Ireland are not being documented.

But she said the sites encourage dangerous behaviour. “These websites contain shocking images of thin people who are termed ‘thinspirations’,” she said.

Lists of commandments, describe as ‘The Thin Commandments’ can also be found which instruct suffers that being thin is more important than being healthy, that the individual can never be too thin and that being thin and not eating are signs of true willpower and success.

America, France and the UK have already made efforts to block such sites, O’Connor said, adding that she believed Ireland should look at similar options. “We need to open up the debate and examine the best way forward in tackling this horrendous issue,” she said.

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Michael Freeman

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