June 15, 2015 by Castlewood Treatment Center in Body Image, Eating Disorder Treatment Eating disorders come with a stereotype, and that is the image of a young white girl. A primary reason why eating disorders appeared to be restricted to white women seems to be that white women were the only people participating in the studies. The landscape of eating disorders is changing as more minorities are being studied and the common misperception that minority women have a cultural immunity to developing eating disorders is dispelled.
African American women struggle with eating disorders. Patricia, a 26-year-old student, struggles with daily binging followed by vomiting and laxative abuse. She is not unique. “Nearly 8 percent of the women we see in our clinic are African-American,” says Marion Fitzgibbon, a Psychologist at Northwestern University. “Our clinical observations show that African-American women are just as likely to abuse laxatives as white women are.” Data from a recent large, community-based study give more reason for concern. The results indicate that more African-American women than white women report using laxatives, diuretics, and fasting to avoid weight gain.
Research suggests that white and Latina women have similar attitudes about dieting and weight control. As with African-Americans, it appears that eating disorders among Latinas may be related to acculturation. As Latina women attempt to conform to the majority culture, their values change to incorporate an emphasis on thinness, which places them at higher risk for bingiing, purging, and overly restrictive dieting.
While her mother and father continue to speak Spanish at home and place a high value on maintaining their Mexican traditions, Gabriella wants nothing more than to fit in with her friends at school. "Yeah, sure, I want to fit in with mainstream America," she says, "but I hate what this binging is doing to my life."
Yet as the stories of Patricia and Gabriella reveal, minority women with eating disorders experience the same feelings of shame, isolation, pain, and struggle as their white counterparts. Sadly, disordered eating behavior among minority women often goes unnoticed until it reaches dangerous levels.
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Regardless of skin color, the pain and suffering of an eating disorder is real. Help is available.Keep the conversation going by commenting here, and then sharing your personal affirmations on Instagram using hashtag #NoFilter. Your affirmation may be what someone else is seeking as a guide in their own recovery!