Words to Watch Out For: Pro-Ana & Pro-Mia

The words used by K-12 students evolve rapidly and constantly, and technology only compounds how quickly language and trends change.

Teachers, counselors, administrators and parents can hardly keep up with the ebb and flow of student vocabulary. While much of what kids say is harmless, some words have good reason to give pause. This debut post in our new “Words to Watch Out For” series focuses on two similar words: Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia.

What they mean:

Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia are shorthand for pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia, the encouragement or promotion of adopting eating disorders to lose weight. Especially on sites like Tumblr, various bloggers provide recommendations and tips on how to adopt eating disorders as part of a routine lifestyle and how to do so without the knowledge of family and friends.

How they’re used:

Ana and Mia are used in numerous variations and forms, but most usually as proper pronouns:

  • “I’m doing this Ana’s way.”
  • “Remember to do it for Mia.”
  • “My friend, Ana, is helping me become beautiful.”

Their resemblance to abbreviated female names can disarm the listener or reader and betray their serious and dangerous nature.

Why they’re dangerous:

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are dangerous eating disorders and biologically-based forms of mental illness. Many young men and women today (although women are 2.5 times more common) proactively adopt a lifestyle defined by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

Words to Watch For: Pro-Ana & Pro-Mia Click To Tweet