Society has long believed that cultural identity shields women of color from media portrayals of eating disorders. Indeed, a study by the National Eating Disorder Association suggests minorities who are more in tune with their culture are less likely to develop negative attitudes toward eating. But as our melting pot continues to bubble, standards of beauty among minority groups are changing. And there are multiple studies that suggest that women of color are becoming increasingly susceptible to developing eating disorders.
According to two studies by PR firm Robison Et Al, young Latina and African American women are just as likely, if not more, to develop disordered eating attitudes as their white and Asian counterparts.
Eating disorders stem from a variety of environmental, genetic, and sociocultural factors that affect minorities and whites alike. It’s difficult to say whether such studies reflect an increase in eating disorders among women of color or an increase in awareness of the matter. Due to misconceptions, incidences have often been unreported or misdiagnosed. There is little past information to compare with what we now know
But the pressure to assimilate or inhabit two different cultural groups is unique to minorities and may put them at greater risk. And, according to researchers at the University of Richmond and Duke University, eating disorders are common among people who are marginalized or oppressed.
Furthermore, we know that people with eating disorders use food to manage their emotions. As emotions vary, so do eating habits and weight. A woman of color may look fine according to the standards of her culture while still suffering from an eating disorder.
This increased awareness is matched by increased efforts to help. Doctors and researchers are devising treatment methods that are inclusive of all people. Regardless of your background, you are not alone in the struggle against your eating disorder. The support you need is out there and recovery is possible.