Eating Disorder Website Starts Small – Goes International Fast.

Scarlet Hemkes was researching online help for teens when she discovered pro-ana websites.  Pro-ana is a movement that actually encourages and promotes anorexia.

Scarlet was appalled. At that time she was in recovery after a ten-year struggle with both anorexia and bulimia.

Horrified, she began a campaign against pro-ana websites. She first created a page on a Dutch social network.  Her intention was to warn teens about the dangers of pro-ana sites.  The page took off and Scarlet found herself inundated with young people asking her for help.

The help requests grew so numerous that Scarlet became overwhelmed. She realized there was a dire need for a modern website that could reliably assist teenagers with disordered eating.

By luck Scarlet found herself appearing on a television show with Dr. Eric Van Furth of Riverduinen, a mental health organization in the Netherlands. This chance encounter led Scarlet to launch http://proud2bme.nl/.  Within a year proud2beme.nl became the most visited help website in the Netherlands.

Proud2beme is a colorful, easy to navigate website with a casual contemporary feel and design.  Multiple helpful features are offered.  The site is updated daily with new blogs and articles.  Teens are actively encouraged to make their voices heard by sharing their stories and advice.

An important theme of proud2beme is body image.  It’s a category unto itself on the site but is mentioned and dealt with throughout the pages, forums, columns and blogs.  

Questions about body image are answered by well-known experts in the field of eating disorder psychology.  Articles that deal with body positivity feature prominently as well.

Proud2beme says that they are “building a nation where confidence rules”.  

The idea of self-acceptance weaves influentially through the entire website.  They believe that accepting yourself and your body works in tandem with their body positivity modality.

After becoming one of the most visited websites in The Netherlands Proud2beme.nl caught the eye of the huge US-based nonprofit The National Eating Disorders Association after Dr. van Furth spoke at a conference. NEDA then licensed the site and brought it to America as Proud2beme.org.

Proud2beme.nl was reborn in the US as Proud2beme.org and still encourages activism both on their website and out in society.  They accept blogs, stories, and opinions to be shared on the site.  Members are also asked to call out “praise or protest worthy” ads in the media.  Actual full-fledged campaigns have arisen from media watchdog members.

Because eating disorders are increasing among college students, proud2beme has recently launched Proud2beme on Campus (http://proud2bme.org/content/oncampus). This program is designed to meet the growing need to educate, screen, refer and treat college students who struggle with disordered eating.

The website also promotes a Body Project Program (http://proud2bme.org/content/body-project-0). The Body Project aims to give young women the skills needed to deal with unrealistic beauty standards.  The program engages high school and college aged girls in the development of healthy body image.

The Body Project has been very successful. An active Facebook group and sessions with trained facilitators are a big component of this program.  Many young women have reported a reduction in body dissatisfaction along with mood improvement and healthier eating.

The website enjoys putting its members front and center.  They feature interviews with people who they call their “proud2beme rock stars”.  Rock stars are individuals who have overcome their own struggles and work to raise awareness of body image and eating disorders. Their writings are positive and inspirational.

Proud2beme has effectively designed their website with teens in mind. A vibrant lifestyle section includes such topics as Food and Cooking, Entertainment, and Celebrities, Athletics and Style and Size.  Knowledgeable writers share their take on topics of interest to teens with a special emphasis on how these subjects relate to disordered eating recovery.

Of course, no online recovery website exists without community forums.  Membership is free and includes access to their forums.  The forums are especially teen friendly and very active. Like the entire site, both sites really, the forums have an exceptional energy about them. It’s the energy that comes with supportive members and well educated compassionate moderators.

Although many topics are discussed in these forums, it is first and foremost a place where everyone must feel safe.  Moderators are especially adept at keeping the site a shame – free zone.  No cyber bullying, shaming, snarkiness or “fat talk” is allowed.

Members can join anonymously and then feel free to ask hard questions and reveal details they might not to someone in person.

Proud2beme is a welcoming web community that is continuing to expand globally.

Scarlet Hemkes believes that social media has the ability to empower people while spreading messages of hope and body positivity.  Her site(s) will always be a safe recovery space for those struggling with disordered eating.

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