In this NBCLatino.com article, Chief Medical Officer and Medical Director of Child and Adolescent Services Dr. Ovidio Bermudez, MD, FAAP, FSAHM, FAED, CEDS discusses the myth that eating disorders affect Latinas less than other groups. Read an exceprt from the article below, or to read it in its entirety, click here
Latina struggles when eating disorders and culture collide
Corazón Tierra, 43, began developing an eating disorder when she was only eight years old.
As an immigrant from Puerto Rico, she felt like her physical appearance didn’t fit into American culture. “When I came here, it became more complicated. We’re not beautiful according to the standard,” she says.
Tierra also felt pressure from her mother to be thin. “The only territory I had to control was my body.”
Her eating disorder continued unnoticed when she was a teenager. When she was about 18, she weighed only 85 pounds. She hadn’t gained weight since she was 12 years old.
Tierra feels that there is a contradiction in her culture when it comes to food and body image. “There is a very mixed message,” she says. “There is so much attention on food, but then everyone is concerned about weight.
Ovidio Bermudez, M.D., chief medical officer and medical director of child and adolescent services at Eating Recovery Center in Denver, Colorado, says the notion that Latinas are less susceptible to eating disorders may have been statistically true at one time but is now an absolute myth.
“Ethnicity was able to offer protection from the development of an eating disorder. At one point it was true, but is a myth today. That protectiveness has eroded,” Bermudez says. “Latina women and Latino men today are as much at risk as the Caucasian population.”
Dr. Marisol Perez, a clinical psychologist specializing in eating disorders and associate professor at Texas A&M University, says the reason for this misconception was because Latinas were not included in the research at the time. “Historically, it was thought to be a white upper class phenomenon,” she says. “And most research was conducted among this population.”
But recent studies
have found that Latinas have eating disorders and body image concerns at rates comparable to or greater than non-Latina whites.
“If you look at the research literature, the perception is not well-founded,” says Deb Franko, professor of counseling & applied educational psychology and associate dean at Northeastern University.