Eating Disorders Aren’t Just a White Girl Thing

In June of 2014, I had just turned 15 when my doctor started asking about my sudden weight loss. My mom told her that I wanted to fit into my quinceañera dress, I told her that the exercise I got walking to and from school helped. That summer, I started eating about once a day because I woke up late enough for one meal to cover both breakfast and lunch, or because I just “forgot”.  School started again and by then I was too busy with homework during my lunch period and after school to eat more than the dinner my mom basically shoved down my throat.

Throughout that fall my mom told me I looked okay, I just needed to tighten up the area around my stomach.

In February of 2015, my  ]doctor told me that losing 30 pounds in less than a year was not okay, and my parents did everything they could to get me to eat, small portions of food that I chose, sent me to school with breakfast and lunch, they made me keep a food diary. I was lucky, I had parents who supported me, who spoke English, who could stay home to make sure I ate.

Other Latinx people aren’t as lucky. Eating disorders affect 10% of the population across all ethnicities, but they are often painted as an white, upper-middle class struggle due to the poor health curriculum across the USA, I mean, my high school still shows a movie about a white girl throwing up in jars then hiding them in her closet and driving to the next town over to binge, a movie that people laugh at for weeks to come, a movie that trivializes eating disorders. We usually only learn about anorexia and bulimia as the end all, be all of eating disorders, but there are way more. It’s been found that Latinx communities are more likely to suffer from bulimia than any other group, but have lower chances for anorexia, due to the cultural significance of food. To reject food is disrespectful, but mainstream USAmerican culture puts pressure on women to be model thin, so you have to love food while also staying skinny.

Latinx people are less likely to get treatment due to gender roles and societal views on mental health. Machismo reigns in Latinx community, so women are expected to keep quiet and not create problems and men are not supposed to be “weak”. Mental health isn’t talked about either, Latinx communities treat eating disorders as a physical problem, rather than mental. Language also creates barriers to treatments, as bilingual children are able to translate only what they want known to their parents. The Latinx community needs to do better, it’s time we talked about mental health and eating disorders.

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Martha Escobedo
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Martha is a senior at a Chicago public high school. She likes social justice, math, food, and memes.

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