How eating disorders are glorified on the InternetThinspiration, Hunger Groups & Lean Coaches

Ever heard of "thinspiration" or "bonespiration"? Under these hashtags, eating disorders and anorexia are glorified on the Internet. This is particularly dangerous for people who are already ill and feel confirmed in their negative self-image. In addition, however, there are also regular contact exchanges for networking. There you can find hunger groups in messengers, "buddies" and "twins" for starving together, or even self-appointed "coaches." We explain what this means and where sufferers and their relatives can find help.

Pro-bulimia and pro-anorexia in social media.

The Internet and social media are full of content glorifying eating disorders and anorexia. With knowledge of the terms typical of the scene, such as "thinspiration," this content can be found easily. What they have in common is that they deny or downplay the negative psychological and physical consequences of anorexia and bulimia. On the contrary, the disease is presented as a desirable lifestyle. Often, the contributions and posts also include pictures on which emaciated bodies are glorified as the ideal of beauty. Without knowing the right search terms, the probability of coming into contact with this content is rather low. However, it is problematic that the transitions are fluid, especially to the "fitness" area. Here, there are some prominent influencers who do not yet preach anorexia, but glorify a lifestyle characterized by sports and controlled food intake. There are also challenges in the social media that have an affinity for young people and make emaciated bodies seem desirable.

The confirmation of one's own world view - hunger groups, buddies, twins and coaches

Many sufferers notice that they do not achieve the goals they have set for themselves. Normal eating behavior is seen as a "relapse," and not being able to motivate themselves to go to the gym every day is seen as a weakness of will. In this case, motivation by others affected is supposed to help. This can be found, for example, in hunger groups with several like-minded participants. Or with a so-called "buddy" or "twin", i.e. a person with whom one regularly exchanges ideas and motivates each other to continue losing weight. It is particularly problematic here that people with a distorted self-image confirm each other in this. Through networking with and regular contact with people who have no insight into their illness, one's own anorexia and eating disorder can manifest itself further and increasingly appear to those affected as normal and unproblematic.

Self-appointed "coaches" are a special case here. In contrast to hunger groups, buddies and twins, they are people who do not want to lose weight themselves, but merely want to motivate other people to do so. There are now numerous reports that these coaches specifically seek out individuals in need of help in order to force and torment them under their control. A typical approach is to demand intimate photos or videos as a way of "taking stock" or as punishment for not achieving goals. Once these images or videos are in the coach's possession, they are used to extort further images through sextortion. Perpetrators also specifically search for minors on the Internet - this is cybergrooming. If possible, perpetrators should be reported to the police.

Where to find help?

If you are threatened, harassed or blackmailed, you can go to the police and file a complaint. Several contact points offer advice and help on the subject of eating disorders: