Mental health is a very touchy subject, and often most people don’t know that eating disorder is related to mental health. Binge eating, anorexia, and bulimia are often undetected and untreated. Anorexia nervosa is actually one of the world’s deadliest mental illness. We will get into each of these in the next chapter/part.
But first, let’s get the misconception out of the way. Mental illness can’t be mediated if issues like eating disorders aren’t seen for the danger they are.
Eating disorders have historically been associated with whites especially females. Probably this is because, in the black setting, curvy is considered more attractive than a slim figure. In reality, eating disorders affect people of all ethnicities.
But it’s not just about anorexia. Binge eating occurs at higher rates in the black populations than white ones. Over the last 35 years, black women have reported rates of obesity prevalence at twice the rate of white women, and black and white males.
People of color are significantly less likely to receive help for their eating issues because it is not considered as something that requires professional help, but more or less a choice. The clinicians were also less likely to recommend that the Black woman should receive professional help (Gordon, Brattole, Wingate, & Joiner, 2006).
In Africa for instance, and in this context Kenya where I am more familiar with, if you start losing weight tremendously or seem to be eating little or refusing to eat at all, you will get the “Are you trying to be a model?” comments or “are you watching your weight?” and left at that. It’s never a major concern to say the least.
Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binging and purging (Goeree, Sovinsky, & Iorio, 2011).
In a study of adolescents, researchers found that Hispanics were significantly more likely to suffer from bulimia nervosa than their non-Hispanic peers.
Asian, Black, Hispanic and Caucasian youth all reported attempting to lose weight at similar rates, while among Native American adolescents, 48.1% were attempting weight loss (Kilpatrick, Ohannessian, & Bartholomew, 1999).
People of color with self-acknowledged eating and weight concerns were significantly less likely than white participants to have been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms, despite similar rates of eating disorder symptoms across ethnic groups. (Becker, 2003).
It has been identified that eating disorders in women of color may be, in part, a response to environmental stress such as abuse.
“I didn’t know how to deal with stress, but I did know how to deal with my appearance. In my family, like most families, making jokes about people’s appearances is as natural as breathing ― an inhaling and exhaling my thighs couldn’t escape.” Stephanie Covington Armstrong, a playwright, screenwriter