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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Eating Disorders Do Not Discriminate -- It's NOT Just A White Girls' Illness!

Black woman on scale

Eating disorders do not discriminate. A study done in 2000 of black women and eating disorders showed that black women were just as likely as white women to have eating disorders, and black women are actually more likely to use laxatives or diuretics in their eating disorder behavior.

What is an eating disorder?

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, eating disorders can take different directions.
  • Anorexia nervosa - a form of self-starvation
  • Bulimia nervosa - when individuals engage in repetitive cycles of binge-eating and self-induced vomiting or starvation
  • Binge-eating - a rapid consumption of food where eating is out of control

Eating disorders do not discriminate

Eating disorders can occur in any age group and among any race. It affects mostly women; only one in ten people with an eating disorder is male. Studies have shown that black girls tend to not only not want to talk about their eating disorder, but they also favor a specific type of eating disorder. A study done in 2009 showed that African-American girls were 50 percent more likely than white girls to be bulimic. This goes along with the fact that they tend to keep it private, and using laxatives and diuretics helps hide the disease better than vomiting.

Eating disorders also affect poor girls

The same study also showed that girls both black and white from low income families were 153 percent more likely to experience bulimia than girls from wealthy families. Interestingly, the study indicated that bulimia behavior is more associated with low self-esteem and trauma than it is with wanting to be thin. In addition, because black girls do not fit the profile, many doctors fail to recognize the symptoms and diagnose the problem.

The bottom line is that education efforts among all groups must increase in order for people to get past the shame and the stereotyping that eating disorders only occur among white girls. It's simply not true.

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